You may already be aware of the fact that the unicorn is our national animal, but did you know this mythical creature was believed to be the natural enemy of the lion - a symbol of English royalty?

Unicorns were written about by the ancient Persians, Romans, Greeks and ancient Jewish scholars. They all described a horse-like creature whose single horn had magical properties. HeraldScotland:

In Celtic mythology, the unicorn symbolised innocence and purity, healing powers, joy and was also seen as a symbol of masculinity and power.

At the time of King James VI of Scotland’s succession of Elizabeth I of England, and the resulting union of the two countries in 1603, the Scottish Royal Arms featured two unicorns as shield supporters.

In a gesture of unity, King James replaced one with the English lion.

HeraldScotland:

The unicorn is pictured as being chained, because according to folklore a free unicorn was a dangerous beast.

The lion and the unicorn had long been painted as enemies, fighting for the crown of king of beasts, with the unicorn ruling through harmony and the lion by might.

The unicorn was believed to be real for around 2,500 years and was adopted as Scotland’s national animal by King Robert in the late 1300s.

Unicorns can be found in various locations across Scotland, here are just a few:

Doulton Unicorn, Springburn Park, Glasgow

HeraldScotland:

This unicorn marks the remains of a terracotta fountain constructed by the Doulton company in 1912. The fountain originally stood at nearby Balgray Recreation Grounds.

The fountain was dismantled when the Recreation Ground closed around 1970. Only the unicorn and its column survived, and both were relocated to Springburn Park.

The unicorn's horn is made of bronze rather than terracotta.

he Mason's Pillars, The Meadows, Edinburgh

HeraldScotland:

The Masonic Pillars were erected on two sides of The Meadows parkland in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Exhibition of 1886.

A third set at the east end of The Meadows were installed a few years earlier in 1881 as a gift to the city from Nelsons Printers.

HeraldScotland:

There are three pairs of pillars, each topped by a unicorn, save the 1881 pillars at the east entrance to Melville Drive which feature a unicorn and its famous adversary, the lion.

The Mystic Hunt Of The Unicorn tapestry, Stirling Castle

HeraldScotland:

As part of a project to restore the interiors of Stirling Castle in 2001, Historic Scotland was commissioned to recreate a set of tapestries depicting “the historie of the unicorne."

Despite having very little to go by, a team of 18 weavers from across the globe were enlisted to stitch the seven tapestries required to complete the project entitled “The Mystic Hunt Of The Unicorn."

HeraldScotland:

Photo credit: Matthew Bell

The final tapestry was finished in 2015.

HMS Unicorn, Dundee

HeraldScotland:

 HMS Unicorn is a preserved sailing frigate that launched in 1824 that has called Dundee home since 1873.

HMS Unicorn is Scotland's only surviving example of a wooden warship and the sixth oldest ship in the world.

She now serves as a tourist attraction. 

The Mercat Cross unicorn, Aberdeen

HeraldScotland:

A unicorn statue stands proud on top of the Mercat Cross of all seven of Scotland's major cities.

This unicorn is located at Catlegate in Aberdeen.

The Mercat Crosses in the centre of Dunfermline, Jedburgh, Melrose, Culross, Crail and Cupar all feature a unicorn.