Have you ever wondered where the concept of a unicorn came from? Unicorns are mythical creatures who are described as white horses with goat beards, long thin tails, cloven feet, and have a single horn coming out of their foreheads. They are wild woodland creatures who symbolize purity and can only be caught by virgins.
In the movie Legend starring Tom Cruise, the unicorns are sacred creatures in the forest and they bring light to the world. In the movie, they are portrayed by large, white Andalusian horses with single horns attached to their head. Their horns can be seen wobbling as the horses are running towards the camera. You can watch clips of the unicorns in this video (you will also see young Tom Cruise with a uni-brow): Legend Unicorns video.
So, where did the concept of the unicorn come from? Well, the description of a unicorn was first written down by a Greek doctor named Ctesias from the 4th-century BC who traveled through Persia with Indian men who told him about the animals back in their homeland. One of these animals was described as a wild donkey as big as a horse with a white body, a red head, bright blue eyes, and a long, single horn extending from its forehead. The Indians also spoke about how the horn had magical properties, and when grounded down and ingested could help with stomach problems, epilepsy, and poison.
Most likely the Indian men were telling Ctesias about the White Rhinoceros who is as big as a horse, has a white body, and a single horn on its head. Sorry to spoil the romance.
It was not until the Medieval period that the unicorn, as we imagine it today, appeared in Christian art and became associated with the Virgin Mary and Christ as being a pure creature that can heal. Unicorns were also believed to rather fight and die than be captured, hence why they were chosen as Scotland's national animal and can be seen in British coats of arms today representing Scotland.
Would you want to own a unicorn? Can you imagine trying to manage a horse that had a long horn coming out of the middle of its forehead? How the heck would it fit inside a horse trailer comfortably? Thoughts?
A topic I will explore in this post comes up in the movie Running Wild. This movie is about a woman who is threatened to have her family's ranch taken away because of unpaid debts. When she finds a herd of starving wild Mustangs on her land, she decides to work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and open her ranch to have convicts come and care for and tame the Mustangs to make them suitable for adoption.
A big problem the BLM faces with wild horses is there is not enough grazing land to sustain large populations. With the lack of predators, horse herds can easily double in size within a few years. The BLM set up a horse adoption program so private citizens could take in these horses, but many people are not interested in adopting unbroken horses. The BLM did not have the resources to hire multiple trainers, so they came up with a solution to have groups of prison inmates train the horses under the guidance of a professional horse trainer. This program is formally called the Wild Horse Inmate Program (Whip.)
The prison inmates are from medium to low security prisons, and sign-up to volunteer to work with the horses. They are brought out to a ranch each day, and they learn to feed, water, and care for the horses. They first have classroom training to learn about horse behaviors and training methods, and then they are put to work. Over the months, the convicts learn patience, gentleness, and compassion to earn the the horses' trust and make them suitable to ride. The program has become very successful in helping to find these horses homes and also helps the inmates as well. The inmates learn life lessons and social skills that they may not have learned before going to prison. Some of the prisoners have gone on to become farriers or work on horse farms after their release.
Here is a great video and article showing real prisoners working with the wild horses. This quote from one of the men really grabbed my heart:
"Learning how to love that horse; I did not not know how to love. That was a big thing for me, too. I did not know what love was."
VIDEO: Rehabilitation Program Pairs Prisoners with Wild Horses
Here are some interesting statistics provided by the BLM.
- 3,735 horses were removed from public lands to control herd populations.
- 2,905 horses were adopted out to private owners
- 1,430 horses were trained by non-profit groups, volunteers, and federal and state prisoners.
I am Amy. I love movies, TV, and horses. I grew up with horses and taught kids how to ride during my summer breaks from school. Now I am a country girl living in a city hoping to someday move back into a rural area and own a horse again.