Unicorns are beautiful mythical creatures we all dreamed of during childhood. As we mature, we learn these magical ponies are purely legends, or are they? In the 17th century, the Magdeburg unicorn left people in awe. Let’s meet the Magdeburg unicorn and learn its funny story.
The Origin of the Magdeburg Unicorn
While many of us would love for unicorns to be real, they only exist in myths, despite the existence of the Magdeburg unicorn. In the mid-1600s, the people of Quedlinburg—an area now part of Germany— came across fossilized bones that they suspected came from a magnificent beast.
Famous scientist Otto von Guericke inspected these bones, stating they were from a unicorn. He came to this conclusion because of the creature’s long legs, head, and horn-shaped bones.
It’s unknown whether scientists of the time ever reconstructed the skeleton, as the model displayed in Magdeburg’s Museum of Natural History is plastic. What we do know is many people at the time of the discovery illustrated what they believed the creature looked like when it lived. Gottfried Leibniz created the illustration of the Magdeburg unicorn that most of us see today.
What Is the Magdeburg Unicorn?
Now that we’ve met the Magdeburg unicorn and learned its funny origin, you may wonder what the creature really was. The most likely answer is that the bones belonged to various prehistoric creatures.
One theory claims that the horn came from a narwhal, the two legs came from a mammoth, and the head belonged to a wooly rhino. The people of the 17th and 18th centuries believed all the bones belonged to a single creature since the fossils we found close together. Although modern scientists have cleared up what the “unicorn” really is, it’s still unknown exactly who discovered the bones or how they ended up in Quedlinburg where a group of explorers found them.
The Truth Behind Other Mythical Beasts
Many mythical creatures we tell stories of come from early civilizations discovering the bones of prehistoric animals. Dragons sit right alongside the Magdeburg unicorn as misidentified creatures—most dragons are based on dinosaur bones. After finding the fossils, people drew their conclusions, which birthed a range of mythical creatures that many of us love hearing stories of today.
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