Wilkin on Unicorns
A note to Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book III, chapter 23

In his edition of the complete works of Sir Thomas Browne, Wilkin provides the following note on the unicorn (Vol. II, p. 498 of the 1846 edition):

Some information on this much debated subject was obtained by M. Rüppell,1 in Kordofan, where the unicorn was said to be known, and to bear the name of millekma. Persons of various conditions in life agreed to the statement, that the millekma was of a reddish colour, of the size of a small horse, of the slender make of a gazelle, and furnished with a long straight, slender horn in the male, which was wanting in the female. Some added that it had divided hoofs, while others declared it to be single-hoofed. According to these statements it inhabits the deserts of the south of Kordofan, is uncommonly fleet, and comes only occasionally to the Koldagi slave mountain on the borders of Kordofan. Three several Arabs asserted to M. Rüppell that they had themselves seen the animal in question; and one of his slaves from Koldagi, on seeing the antelopes brought from the desert of Korti, gave of his own free motion, a description of the millekma, exactly coincided with the notices afterwars obtained by the traveller.

The unicorn of Scripture, however, which is there spoken of as an animal of great size and strength, is probably one of the species of two-horned rhinoceros. Mr. Burchell has described one in the Bulletin des Sciences, Juin, 1817. In the 15th number of the Missionary Sketches, published by the London Missionary Society, is a description, accompanied by a wood-cut, of a species shot in South Africa-the head of which is preserved in the museum of the society, Old Jewry, London:2 which seems, on account of its great size, strength, and ferocity, and of the extraordinary length of its anterior horn, not unlikely to have been the unicorn of Scripture.



1. [Éduard Rüppell, Reisen in Nubien, Kordofan, und dem Peträischen Arabien, Frankfurt:1829]

2. On this beast, see the last paragraph of the article by Timbs.

This page is by James Eason.

Valid XHTML 1.1