The Scottish are known for their appreciation of misconceptions and legends: magic, witches, water monsters, fairy folks, and ghosts. The great unicorn is perhaps their dearest, mainly because it is the country’s national animal.

Despite contemporary depictions of an animal with rainbow-colored hair and a glistening horn, Scotland associates the legendary animal with courage and dominance. They are represented with a white horse, individual body, one horn developing from the top of its temple, and a silver sequence that parcels around its extremely effective particular body.

So let us take a little travel through history and find out how the unicorn became the National Animal of Scotland.

A Brief History

We have a few articles on the history of unicorns on our site, so this one will be specific towards how and why Scotland chose this animal as its Natinal Animal. Specifically the traits that Scotland felt best represented the country.

national animal of scotland


Power and Masculinity

According to custom, the lion and the unicorn dislike each other – a custom going back to the standard Babylonians in 3,500 B.C. As well as the hippo, “It was always said that the unicorn would always beat the hippo, that it had this tremendous durability to it, even despite its reduced size, it couldn’t be defeated by something as huge and extremely effective as a hippo or elephant.

The unicorn in Scotland is also represented by having a chain around its neck, this because it is believed to be the most powerful animal. Some believe this symbolizes Scottish Kings who some says are the only ones strong enough to tame the wild unicorn.

Purity and Virginity

The unicorn is explained as being a long-lasting, courageous, graceful and  extremely effective animal. Its bravery faces all the most even the most enthusiastic poachers to the pursuit and its speed makes them always fail. Because the unicorn represents such masculinity, specifically the single horn, it is believed that only a virgin can tame and a capture a unicorn.

Paintings like the one titled “Virgin and Unicorn” by Annibale Carracci depict this story by showing a wild unicorn laying on the lap of a virgin. The story behind this painting came from the Romans who believed unicorns were lovers of purity and innocence and placed a unicorn at the feet of a virgin, the unicorn laid down and rested its head in the virgins lap.

unicorn and virgin

Legend has it that because of this, in England this would become a test to see if one was a virgin or not. If the woman was a virgin the unicorn would lay its head in her lap, if she was not the unicorn would kill her by stabbing her with its horn.

Magical Powers

Unicorns were revered for their powers of innocence, purity, boldness, pride, healing powers, joy, intelligence, virility and nurturing.

An example of these beliefs in powers would be the water cleaning tale. A reptile would come up to the irrigating gap and poison it, but then the unicorn would come along and dip its horn into the irrigating gap to cleanse it for all the other animals. When you merge this with all the other experiences about its success, its power, and its vitality – you can discover why they desired it.

Some also believe that drinking a unicorns blood will reduce aging helping live a long life or even immortality. It is also considered bad lick to kill one and good luck if you can befriend one.

Unicorns and Scotland

Scotland, as mentioned earlier, has a long reputation for famous misconceptions and legends, the unicorn has become a national symbol that suits well with Scotland. From the rule of King Robert III in the 1300s, the unicorn was formally used as the closure of the Scottish government. Robert III has looked to the power and purity the unicorn to motivate the rebuilding of his nation, and the unicorn has easily become an elegant symbol.

In the 12th century the unicorn made its first appearance on the Scotish Royal Coat of Arms of William I. Three centuries later the unicorn appeared on gold coins under the power of King James III.

According to legend Britain and Scotland used the symbols of lions and unicorns to represent their fighting in the war. Scotland chose the unicorn because it was said to be a natural enemy of the lion, the symbol of England. Unicorns fought with their harmony and spirit while lions used their strength. In 1603 under King James IV Scotland and England had unified and at the same time the Scotish Royal Arms had two unicorns supporting the shield so he replaced one of the unicorns with a lion to represent the unification.

Unicorn Landmarks in Scotland

  • The Queens Chair at Thistle Chapel
  • On top of the Mercat Cross in numerous cities
  • On the wooden warship the HM Frigate Unicorn
  • In front of the Nationla War Musuem
  • Saint Andrews University building stone carving
  • Stirling Castle
  • Kings Fountain Linlithgow Palace
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Queens residence




12 thoughts on “WHY ARE UNICORNS THE NATIONAL ANIMAL OF SCOTLAND – Courage, purity and dominance”

  1. Stella says:

    What a powerhouse of strength the unicorn was through history. Its pure serenity was legendary.
    Thank you for a wonderful atricle.
    A very enjoyable read, can’t wait for the next.
    B L.

    1. Cheyenne C. says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words Stella.

  2. Great post!

    I was born in the UK but have lived in Australia most of my life. I had no idea the Unicorn was the National animal of Scotland! Such a good post. I learnt so much.

    I love history and now understanding why the Lion and Unicorn are on the Scottish Coat of Arms makes so much sense now.

    Thanks for a really interesting post,


    1. Cheyenne C. says:

      Great to hear Kevin we love hearing feedback where somebody learned something from our site. Take care!!!

  3. Paul says:

    Great post – Unicorns are certainly an animal that has, and continues to draw fascination from all areas of society.  My niece is infatuated with them so It will be nice to show here some actual cultural significance to the unicorm rather than just some rainbow coloured soft toys and Harry Potter that she related them too now.

    We are actually planning to visit Scotland nextyear so I will certainly be looking more into this.  Thanks so much for your post.


    1. Cheyenne C. says:

      Hello Paul, yes we will definitely be posting stuff on rainbow colored unicorn stuffed animals and products but also felt we should write on the historical significance of the unicorn also. 

      Enjoy your trip to Scotland if you see anything cool with unicorn id love for you to come back and share it here. Take Care!!!

  4. Nuttanee says:

    I wish I noticed a unicorn sign or symbol when I was in Scotland. I went to Edinburgh castle and Scotch Whiskey tour, and that was that. Maybe I was younger and never noticed that Unicorn is the national animal. I didn’t know that the unicorn don’t get along with the lion and hippo. Wow, I learn something everyday. Thank you for this history and fun facts.

    1. Cheyenne C. says:

      Hello, we were just fascinated when we found out that the unicorn was the National Animal of Scotland we had to research it and write an article on it. Glad you were able to learn something new also when it comes to Unicorns and their relationship with Scotland.

  5. Paul says:

    Dear Cheyenne,

    I must say I found your post highly uplifting and educational. I can tell you I have taken some great insights from your post. This was very insightful.

    To be honest my vehicle key chain has a unicorn in it and I have another one as a standby and I don’t know the reason why I like that key chain but somehow I am attracted to it. After reading your post I learned a lot about Unicorn.

    If someone ask me about unicorn or my key chain now I have a lot of valuable information to share.

    Unicorn – Courage, purity and dominance!

    Wishing you Great Success!


    1. Cheyenne C. says:

      Hey Paul, make sure to tell the next person that asks about your keychain the unicorns are able to defeat lions and hippos in battle. Thank you so much for checking out our site and taking time out of your day to leave a comment.

  6. Dhayours says:

    Interesting. A whole country believe in misconceptions. Well, when I was little I also believed that unicorns were real animals but when I grew up, I began to throw out such beliefs amd many others. It’s a beautiful animal with such a beautiful lime of traits. It’s also funny that only a virgin can tame it. 

    1. Cheyenne C. says:

      Thank you for checking out our site, and especially for leaving us a comment. While we agree the evidence isn’t promising as far as them actually existing, we still believe!!! 

      It is really cool that they are the National Animal of Scotland especially the reasoning and stuff behind it, like them being able to defeat lions.

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