Scotland’s Unique Symbol: The Unicorn as the National Animal

In a world where national symbols often include animals like lions, eagles, or bears, Scotland stands out with its choice of a mythical creature as its national animal: the unicorn. This majestic and legendary creature has been a symbol of Scotland for centuries, representing qualities such as purity, strength, and grace. Let’s explore the fascinating history behind Scotland’s adoption of the unicorn as its national animal.

A Symbol of Strength and Purity

The unicorn has long been associated with nobility and purity in European folklore. It was believed that only a virgin could capture a unicorn, symbolizing the creature’s purity. This association made the unicorn a fitting symbol for Scotland, a country with a rich history and a proud, independent spirit.

Historical Roots

The unicorn first appeared as a symbol of Scotland in the 12th century, when it was used on the Scottish royal coat of arms by William I. The unicorn was chosen as a symbol of purity and strength, qualities that the Scottish kings wished to embody. Over the centuries, the unicorn became firmly established as a symbol of Scotland, appearing on various coats of arms, seals, and flags.

The Royal Coat of Arms

The unicorn is prominently featured on the current version of the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, which includes elements representing England, Scotland, and Ireland. The unicorn represents Scotland, while the lion represents England. The two creatures are often depicted in combat, symbolizing the historic rivalry between the two nations.

Modern Symbolism

Today, the unicorn remains a powerful symbol of Scotland’s heritage and identity. It is often used in Scottish heraldry, art, and literature as a symbol of pride and national identity. The unicorn is also a popular motif in modern Scottish design, appearing on everything from souvenirs to clothing.


The choice of the unicorn as Scotland’s national animal is a testament to the country’s unique history and culture. This mythical creature, with its symbolism of purity and strength, perfectly embodies the spirit of Scotland and its people. So, the next time you see a unicorn symbol in Scotland, remember the rich history and symbolism behind this fascinating national animal.

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