Unicorns are such amazing creatures, we always want to know and understand more about them. There are many different types of unicorn. Most of us think of the traditional European unicorn, with a horse’s body, a single horn, and usually a bright white coat. However, across the world and throughout myths and legends, unicorns exist in all sorts of different forms.
When somebody says unicorn to you, do you think of the white, gleaming creature we most commonly see in picture books? Do you think of something from another culture or a different story, or is your unicorn unique to you?
If you want to know more about the different kinds of unicorns that gallop through our world, you’ve come to the right place!
The European Unicorn
This is probably the best-known unicorn type. Often depicted in sleek silver or pure white, these are the ones we tend to associate with the term unicorn today. They are generally close in size to horses, or perhaps a little bigger. They are extremely swift runners, and their single horn has magical properties, bringing good fortune and healing to those around it.
This type of unicorn is the one you’re most likely to have spotted if you live in Europe, perhaps slipping out of sight behind a tree, or rustling deeper into a bush to get away.
Keep your eyes peeled for others; you never know what you might see if you look hard enough!
The Bright European Unicorn
Unlike the species mentioned above, these types of unicorns are usually brightly colored or even rainbow. They can have rainbow manes and tails, or they can be a single shade of pastel. They often carry markings on their coats, perhaps a star on their flank or forehead, and this is said to enhance their power.
It’s possible that they take their colors from their diet; perhaps the blue ones tend to munch on blueberries and blackberries, while the pink favor strawberries and raspberries. Those which take on multi-colors are probably the swiftest runners, able to race to the end of a rainbow and snatch a few nibbles before the sun fades or the rain stops.
Bright European unicorns are very closely related to the white European unicorn and may be descended from it. Their size and shape is similar, but they are often more docile than their wilder cousins and may be easier for humans to spot thanks to their bright coloration.
Eastern European Unicorn
UnicornGlitterPalace mentions this type of unicorn as being similar to the European unicorn, but much smaller. At the size of a pony rather than a large horse, it cannot compete with its European cousin in terms of height, but it’s still nimble and swift. It can squeeze through smaller places, and searches for most of its food at ground-level, snuffling around for fallen berries or tasty greens.
These creatures are extremely cute, and perhaps have inspired modern drawings of unicorns with big, shiny eyes. A little rounder and chubbier than their taller cousins, these are definitely attractive equines!
When we think of unicorns, most of us imagine the familiar creature with the spiraling horn in the center of its forehead. These are, after all, the ones we are most accustomed to seeing, and the spiraling horn looks very similar to a narwhal’s horn, though not quite as long. Its twisting shape is very pleasing to the eye.
As mentioned by LandOfUnicorns, however, there are unicorns which have a straight horn upon their heads. This is rare, and most of these creatures live by the sea, hidden from sight and extremely shy of people. Their horns are longer than many other unicorn horns, and because of their straightness, are very keenly-edged.
It’s best to exercise caution if you happen across one of these creatures. They are not aggressive, but their long horns can be unwieldy, and their sharpness makes them dangerous.
The Qilin – The Chinese Unicorn
The Chinese unicorn, known as the Qilin, is very different to the European one. Rather than having a horse’s body, it takes the shape of a tiger or a deer, but it still has a single horn in the center of its forehead. It also carries many of the same associations as other unicorns, including good luck and powers of healing.
These creatures are, naturally, found in China rather than in other parts of the world. This is their homeland, and the place where they are respected and recognized. They are thought to herald the birth or death of great leaders, according to ThoughtCo, so they are needed in China. Qilins rarely have a cause to stray into the rest of the world, so you’re unlikely to see one unless you visit their native country.
Perhaps the least known, and certainly the least welcome, of the unicorn family is the Nightmare. A creature of darkness and fire, this is not a mythical beast you would like to meet anywhere!
The Nightmare’s mane and tail are made of fire, and it is a truly fearsome equine, often portrayed as solid black, with flaming eyes. ThisUnicornLife tells us that they are extremely fast creatures, moving with supernatural speed. This may be increased by the flames around their hooves.
They rarely play games with their brighter cousins, but their speed would make them formidable opponents if they could ever be persuaded to do so. Perhaps it’s for the best that they are very rare, and extremely wary of people.
Many people say that pegasi are not actually unicorns. They have no horns, and they do have beautiful wings that give them the ability to swoop up into the clouds. They might not be technical “unicorns,” but they are certainly a close cousin, and we’re pretty sure that these beautiful horses spend plenty of time frisking and frolicking together!
Pegasi have the obvious advantage when it comes to playing games with their cousins, however; they can sweep off into the sky, leaving the unicorns to canter below. Most pegasi live up in the clouds, prancing in the sunlight and preening their beautiful wings until they gleam. If you ever see one on the ground, you’re extremely lucky!
Pegasi and unicorns can breed, and the result is usually called either a pegacorn or a unicus. These are among the most beautiful unicorn species on Earth, combining the best traits of both parents. They have spectacular wings and can fly with grace, but also bear the great horn that so many of us recognize as the sign of unicorns.
The High-Flying Unicorn
This is perhaps more of a pun than a serious suggestion about a sub-species of unicorn, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The term “unicorn” has come to describe a specific type of business. According to Forbes, unicorns are tech businesses which manage to reach a billion dollar fundraising valuation.
The choice of the term may seem bizarre, but the idea is that such businesses are as rare as unicorns themselves. It also denotes value; unicorn horns were immensely valuable items at one time, and highly prized. This suggests the business will be fought over by potential investors, and that finding real ones is a challenge, as there are many fakes in the world.
Another connotation which such business owners may hope to draw is that of luck. With the future ahead, they will be full of optimism and excitement, but they’ll need the power, purity, and intelligence of real unicorns if they hope to make their mark on the world! Using the term for this amazing mythical beast tells us a lot about these businesses, what they are, and what they hope to be. Personally, however, I think real unicorns are much more interesting in all their beauty and diversity.
There are so many types of unicorn, it seems incredible that a single creature could be so diverse and take so many different forms. Mythology from around the world has shaped and re-shaped the body and characteristics of the unicorn, and our own imaginations continue to do so today.
This is by no means a definitive list of the different types of unicorn. There are many, many others out there, specialized to their particular environments, all unique as snowflakes. What other types of unicorns do you know of?
Are there any you think should have been included here which got missed? Feel free to let us know!