I remember reading some years back how missionaries in Tibet were told stories of how prevalent in the 1800's the belief that there were unicorns living in the mountains of Tibet!

Do any ancient Tibetan unicorn myths exist?

  • 3
    The Tibetan unicorn myth was inspired by its native chiru, whose horns appears to have been traded. The Tibetans themselves knew chirus weren't unicorns, of course. However, in the bordering region of China an ancient bestiary called the Classic of Mountains and Seas mentions a creature named huān shū which was explicitly described as "shaped like a horse, has one horn".
    – Semaphore
    Feb 21, 2016 at 8:08
  • Curious, how did the chiru inspire legends of a unicorn when it has two easily distinguished horns?
    – cmw
    Feb 21, 2016 at 18:06
  • @C.M.Weimer Perhaps the horns weren't sold in pairs.
    – Semaphore
    Feb 21, 2016 at 21:15
  • @Semaphore Ah, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks.
    – cmw
    Feb 21, 2016 at 21:29
  • The Classic of Mountains and Seas is an ancient Chinese bestiary, which might be a good resource. I seem to recall it includes some unicorn analogues.
    – DukeZhou
    Jul 10, 2021 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


Well, here's one.

The existence of these Eurasian nomads called the Qiang, who were known as the “goat people” and who practised animals ordeals, may help to account for the fact that later in the West there was “a vigorous and widespread belief in a unicorn inhabiting the table-lands of Tibet—a region included with the “India” of Ctesias—(which) can be traced in existing documents as far back as the time of Genghis Khan, and there is good reason for supposing that it is much older still” (Shepard [1930] 1982, 32). The reality which lay behind this notion was the presence in Tibet of an elusive long horned wild “antelope” called the chiru by the Tibetan nomads, or, by the Mongolians, the orongo (colour plate 7).

Source: The Tibetan Unicorn, chinese-unicorn.com

So basically, they thought an antelope was a unicorn. As far as I know, it never did anything. I think it's name was "Serou".


You might find this interesting:

Extinct 'Siberian unicorn' may have lived alongside humans, fossil suggests.

It describes a prehistoric rhino-like animal, Elasmotherium sibiricum or the ‘Siberian unicorn’, with a single long "horn" on its nose, which might have lived alongside humans.

  • 2
    Could you please give some idea of the content of the linked article. Answers that are just links are not helpful and are likely to be deleted.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 30, 2016 at 8:29

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