The Karkadann


The Persian Karkadann is not like the European unicorn. The name translates into “Lord of the Desert”, and was thought to have lived in the grassland around India, Persia and North Africa. It was described in the Kitāb al-Hayawān or the Book of Animals, written by Al-Jāḥiẓ in the 9th century. It was also written about by the Persian scholar Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī in the 10th/11th century. The Karkadann was described as being the size and build of a water buffalo with black scaly skin. The tail is like a lion’s, while it has three yellow hooves on each of the four legs. On the top of the nose is a single horn which curls upwards, while the horn on the top of it’s head was black.

The Karkadann was thought to be very fierce, shaking the ground when it ran and bellowing so loudly it scared other animals away. It was believed that the curved horn was used for self-defence, including against elephants and the straight horn could be an antidote to poisons. The weakness of the Karkadann was the call of the ring-dove, which made them docile.

Ibn Battuta, during his travels through Africa in the 14th century about a Karkadann. However, this was thought to have been a rhinoceros, as the same word of “karkadann” was also used to describe them. The Karkadann also features in the stories of Sinbad the Sailor in One Thousand and One Nights.

It also differs to the Shadhavar, a carnivorous gazelle-like unicorn which would capture people and eat them, using hypnotic music coming from the hollow horn on it’s forehead.
Bibliography
Karkadann– on Unknown Explorers.
Karkadann on Monstropedia.
Eastern Unicorns on Unicorn Lady.
Three kinds of Unicorn by Dale A. Drinnon on Frontiers of Zoology.

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