Carstairs, the hunter, held his breath as he caught his first sight of the fabulous animal. He was upwind, so there was no chance of it scenting him, but he had been told that it had extremely acute hearing and was very timid. This wasn’t to say that it would not charge him if he blocked its escape. He shuddered as he contemplated the damage that menacing horn could inflict. Fascinated, he watched it graze.
The surroundings were not what he had envisaged. This was no misty dell, a glade in an enchanted forest. The harsh sun beat down on the grassy plain as the beast nuzzled amongst the sun-browned tussocks, searching for tasty roots and tubers.
Carstairs had always imagined a unicorn to resemble a horse, a Ladies’ horse with delicate fetlocks, and silver ma/ne- Nothing could be further from the truth. The animal before him was ugly, its huge body suggesting great strength. It raised its head and stared in his direction, then, unalarmed as he froze, it lowered again to continue its feeding.
How on earth had they got it so wrong. He imagined, in years gone by, the traveller spinning his tales of far off places, telling his enthralled audience of the amazing beasts he had seen. The Unicorn, with its single horn, captured their imagination, and the stories grew.
In Africa, its home, it was a different story. There, they knew the Rhinoceros for what it was.
© H.St V.Beechey April 2004