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Monokeros, Pliny's Unicorn

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By Osmatar   |   
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© 2017 - 2020 Osmatar
"[...] a very fierce animal called the monokeros, which has the head of the stag, the feet of the elephant, and the tail of the boar, while the rest of the body is like that of the horse; it makes a deep lowing noise, and has a single black horn, which projects from the middle of its forehead, two cubits in length." -- Pliny the Elder, Natural History (Book VIII, chapter 31)

Some of you may remember my 2005 Pliny's Unicorn from the now-defunct Elfwood gallery. Having learned a whole lot more about perissodactylans since, I've been meaning to redesign the creature, and #junicorn gave me the perfect excuse. (I also wanted to make a unicorn with stripes, which influenced the color scheme).

Monokeros is a late-surviving Southeast Asian hyracodontid, a distant cousin of modern rhinos and a closer relative of the titanic paraceratheriids. Like some taxa in the latter group, its upper lip and nose have fused to form a short trunk that it uses to browse in its native rainforest habitat. Monokeros uses its single horn to defend itself and its calves against predators such as tigers. The red, white and black color scheme was mentioned by several author in the antiquity, though they could not quite agree on the coloration of this "Indian ass". Aelian describes the animal well but calls them tawny, probably referring to a now extinct subspecies.

While rare and cryptic, the Monokeros isn't the last one of its kind. Two other related taxa, Karkadan and Indrik, are known from other parts of Eurasia.

Edit: added the location that I omitted from the original description.
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Comments61
anonymous's avatar
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TatjanasCreations's avatar
TatjanasCreationsProfessional General Artist
I love this!
TheAquariumSlider's avatar
TheAquariumSliderStudent General Artist
Where are the wings?Can it fart skittles?That's just a common ungulate! :D
mynameisnotdave23's avatar
mynameisnotdave23Hobbyist Traditional Artist
''Real unicorns have curves!''
CrimeanDoodler's avatar
This almost fooled me, it looks so convincing. Awesome!
Wasichuwitko's avatar
It looks more like Pliny's description (based on Ctesias) than the rhino they were likely attempting to convey. 

I seem to recall that the color scheme involved just the horn, but I can't recall the ordering of the colors.

(There's a mythical Malaysian creature called Sz [sp?] that resembles an ox.)

Mythical beasts based on the real-life animals the descriptions most resemble is an interesting idea.
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
There are a couple of versions on the colors of the unicorn, I tried to weave a bit of the multi-colored aspect of the horn as described by Ctesias into mine as well. Considering in how many ways the descriptions disagree with each other, I felt I could take some major liberties.
Jioseph-superfan63's avatar
Jioseph-superfan63Hobbyist General Artist
That's a a real unicorn!
And is fluffy!

Great work on this!
I love the description. Very believable and accurate.
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
Thank you!
Jioseph-superfan63's avatar
Jioseph-superfan63Hobbyist General Artist
You're very welcome!

And where does your Monokeros live?
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
In Southeast Asia. I didn't realize I forgot to mention this detail in the description! Too much exposure to the original antique texts makes me forget others don't know all the details. :P
Jioseph-superfan63's avatar
Jioseph-superfan63Hobbyist General Artist
Hey, no prob.

The southeast Asia is really fitting for a mammal like this.
Jakeukalane's avatar
JakeukalaneHobbyist Digital Artist
awesome
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
Thanks!
dolevfab's avatar
dolevfabHobbyist General Artist
very cool animal!
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
Thank you!
PlagueFatherNurgle's avatar
I wonder what pliny was actually describing.
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
The general consensus seems to be it's the Indian rhino, or at least some sort of one-horned rhino.
Evodolka's avatar
EvodolkaHobbyist Traditional Artist
is there a link to where this thing is from?
due to a large amount of people wandering if this is fake or has been proven with fossils
i have also seen this thing like twice now
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
The description by Pliny the Elder is a quote from his Natural History (Naturalis Historia), book 8, chapter 31. I will amend the description to include this information. There are several translations of Natural History online that are easy to find with google, so I doubt a direct link is necessary.
Evodolka's avatar
EvodolkaHobbyist Traditional Artist
ok then thanks for the info :)
TheDerpasaur's avatar
TheDerpasaurHobbyist Traditional Artist
Love it!
Osmatar's avatar
OsmatarProfessional General Artist
Thanks!
TheDerpasaur's avatar
TheDerpasaurHobbyist Traditional Artist
np
Dinosaurlover83's avatar
Dinosaurlover83Student Artist
Love this design! Interesting take on the Unicorn. Truly majestic.
anonymous's avatar
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