Athenæum, August 1862Edit

English translationEdit

In search of a unicorn
Bida Núpe, Central Africa, January 15, 1862

Owing to the isolated position in which I have been placed for nearly two years, I only lately received periodicals for the latter part of 1859 and for 1860, so that what is well nigh forgotten among you is still news to me. In the Athenæum, No. 1730, (22nd December, 1860) is a review of Gosse's 'Romance of Natural History,' in which in mentioning a supposed one-horned animal, or unicorn, you advance reasons for not being altogether sceptical of its existence, and you quote Livingstone, Dr. A. Smith, and the A'nasa of Kordofán mentioned by M. D'Abbadie. Writing from countries in which this supposed fabulous creature is believed to inhabit, I may perhaps be allowed to add my testimony.

When I ascended the Niger, now nearly five years ago, I frequently heard allusions to an animal of this nature, but at that time I set it down as a myth. Since then, however, the amount of testimony I have received, and the universal belief of the natives of all the countries which I have hitherto visited, have partly shaken my scepticism, and at present I simply hold that its non-existence is not proven. A skull of this animal is said to be preserved in a town in the country of Bonú, through which I hope to pass in the course of a few weeks, when I shall make every possible inquiry. Two among my informants have repeatedly declared to me that they have seen the Bones of this animal, and each made particular mention of the long, straight, or nearly straight, black horn. In countries to the E. and S.E., as Márgi and Bagirmi, where the one-horned rhinoceros is found, the hunters carefully distinguished between it and the supposed Unicorn, and give them different names. In the vast forests and boundless wastes which occur over Central Africa, especially towards the countries south and east from Lake Tsád, Bórnú, Bagirmi and Adamáwa, are doubtless numerous zoological curiosities as yet unknown to the man of science, and among them possibly may exist this much-talked-of, strange, one-horned animal, even though it may not exactly correspond with our typical English unicorn.

The following is a list of names by which this animal is called in various countries, from Lake Tsád to the Gulf of Guinea:—

Kanúri (Bórnú)Búndiá-ru and Kamárami.
Fulfúlde (Filáni in Sudán)Yílifú and Dákarkúlewal.
A'zbentsi (Tawárek)Tenések.

William Balfour Baikie

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