A Voyage to Abyssinia, part 2, ch. 2Edit

Portuguese originalEdit

English translation (Dr. Johnston)Edit

In the province of Agaus, has been seen the unicorn, that beast so much talked of, and so little known: the prodigious swiftness with which this creature runs from one wood into another, has given me no opportunity of examining it particularly, yet I have had so near a sight of it as to be able to give some description of it. The shape is the same with that of a beautiful horse, exact and nicely proportioned, of a bay colour, with a black tail, which in some provinces is long, in others very short: some have long manes hanging to the ground. They are so timorous, that they never feed but surrounded with other beasts that defend them. Deer and other defenceless animals often herd about the elephant, which, contenting himself with roots and leaves, preserves those beasts that place themselves, as it were, under his protection, from the rage and fierceness of others that would devour them.

A Short Relation of the River NileEdit

English translation (Peter Wyche, 1798)Edit

One of these [provinces], and among the biggest, is called Agaos; the inhabitants of the same name, whether these bestowed their name, or took it from the Province. This is divided into diverse Territories, the most famous called Tuncua, deservedly glorious in two respects, being the country of the famous Unicorn (of which I shall speak in this discourse, and only now say it is not the Abbada) rightly taken by Authors for the Rhinoceros, (being in shape, a quite different animal) and having in it the so long found-for Head of Nile, concealed so many ages, discovered by the industrious Portuguese.


Among Beasts we come to the famous Unicorn, of the more credit, because mentioned in holy Scripture, compared to many things, § even to God made man. None of the Authors, who speak of the Unicorn discourse of his birth or country, satisfied with the deserved eulogiums, by which he is celebrated. That secret was reserved for those who travelled and surveyed many countries.

That the Unicorn is not to be confounded with the Abada (commonly contended for) is certain, from the different names, Rhinoceros and Unicorn, not being reasonably to be given to both without distinction, and from the variety of their bodies and parts; as appears in the Abada we know, and in the Unicorn we see painted. This has one great strait horn, of admirable virtue, the Abada or Rhinoceros hath two, a little crooked, not so sovereign, though used against poison. The country of the Unicorn (an African creature, only known there) is the Province of Agaos in the kingdom of Damotes; that it may wander into places more remote is not improbable. This Animal is as large as a handsome horse, of a dark brown colour, with the mane and tail black, both short and thin (though in other places of the same Province they have been observed with them longer and thicker), with a fair beautiful horn, in the forehead, five palms long, as is painted, the colour inclining to white: they live in close woods and thickets, sometimes venture into the Campaign, not often seen, being timorous, are not many, and those concealed in the woods; The most barbarous and savage people the world hath, enjoy them, and probably feed upon them, as upon other beasts.

A Father, my companion, who spent some time in this Province, upon notice that this so famous Animal was there, used all possible diligence to procure one; the natives brought him a very young colt, so tender as in a few days it died. A Portuguese Captain, a person of years and credit, respected by all his acquaintance, and of great esteem with some Princes of that Empire, under whom he had served, gave me this relation of the great ones: He told me, that returning once from the Army (whither he usually went every summer with the Emperor Malac-Segued) with twenty other Portuguese soldiers in company, they one morning rested in a little valley encompassed with thick woods, designing to breakfast, while their horses grazed on the good grass which plentifully grew there: scarce were they sat down, when from the thickest part of the wood, lightly sprang a perfect horse, of the same colour, hair and shape before described; his career was so brisk and wanton, that he took no notice of those new inmates, till engaged amongst them; then as frightened at what he had seen, suddenly started back again, yet left the spectators sufficient time to see and observe at their pleasure. The particular survey of his parts seized them with delight and admiration, one of his singularities was, a beautiful strait horn on his forehead, like that above-mentioned; he appeared to run about with eyes full of fear; our horses seem'd to allow him for one of the same brood curveted and made towards him; the soldiers observing him in less than musket shot, not able to shoot, their muskets being unfixt, endeavoured to encompass him, out of an assurance that that was the famous Unicorn so often spoken of; but he prevented them; for perceiving them, with the same violent career he recovered the wood, leaving the Portuguese satisfied in the truth of such an animal, discontented at the loss of their prize. My knowledge of this captain, makes the truth with me undoubted.

In another place of the same province, (the most remote, craggy, and mountainous part, called Nanina) the same beast hath been often seen, grazing, amongst others of different kinds. This place is in the furthest recess of the province, therefore the ordinary place of banishment for those the Emperor intends to keep securely. It ends in high mountains, which overlook great and vast plains and forests, inhabited by several sorts of wild beasts. To this place of banishment, and tyrannical Emperor, named Adamas Segued, sent without any cause divers Portuguese, who from the top of these mountains, saw the Unicorns grazing in the plains below, the distance not greater than allowed them so distinct an observation, as they knew him, like a beautiful Gennet, with a fair horn in his forehead. These testimonies, particularly that of the good old man John Gabriel, with what the Father my Companion, affirmed of his own knowledge, confirms me that this so celebrated Unicorn is in this province, there foaled, and bred.

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