Originally the Heraldic Unicorn was comprised of the head, mane and body of a horse, the legs and hoofs of an antelope and the tail of a lion and before the 17th century it was the tail of a horse. The Spiral horn rises from the centre of the fore head and a beard is attached below the chin.
The origin of the unicorn is probably derived from species such as the Antelope or Oryx. The Oryx has a long straight horn which from the side appear as if they are one. The existence of one fold animal was accepted in the ancient World and sometimes depicted in ancient art including an interruption by Aristotle in the 4th century BC.
Although some images of the Unicorn appear in early sacred art it's not until the 12th or 13th century when the Unicorns form becomes more or less crystallised.
The name unicorn is derived from the Latin unicornis, which means one horned. During the mediaeval period the meaning of the unicorn seems to have conveyed the idea of purity, chastity, innocence and the like. It was said to be white and even when bleeding the blood was thought to be white as well. It has been used as the emblem of the Virgin Mary and sometimes the Christ resurrected.
Other attributes given to it are great strength and the love of solitude, connected to the continuance of innocence. This was the way the Unicorn was believed to act.
The well-known unicorn fable, for which there are many versions, tells of the beast alone in the desert wastes as an enemy of man. Although he could never be captured or killed by usual means, because of its strength, it could be easily in snared by a maiden who was pure and virtuous, on whose approach it would become docile and fall asleep, with its head on her lap.
During the mediaeval times it was believed that the horn of the unicorn possessed magical properties of detecting poison and also providing an antidote to this poison.