Tibetan unicorn

The Tibetan "unicorn," also called the Seru, Chero or Tso'po, is an unknown, likely nonexistent, single-horned ungulate that allegedly lived in southeastern Tibet, and possibly Bhutan up until the 19th century.


In 1800, The British soldier Captain Samuel Turner alleged that when he met the then-current Bhutanese Druk Desi ("Dragon's Regent"), Tsulthrim Daba, he claimed to have owned an unknown animal. He described it as a horse-like animal with a single horn growing from the middle of its forehead. Tsulthrim Daba also said he had encountered another "unicorn," but it died.


In 1821, the literary and political periodical, The Quarterly Review, featured an article about a second report from a British soldier. In the article, Major Barré Latter found a Tibetan manuscript featuring the known animals of the area. One of these animals was the "tso'po," a cloven-hooved animal the size of a small pony with a single horn on its head. The tso'po was described as being elusive, fierce, and difficult to catch. Maj. Latter's informant told him of reports of herds of tso'pos in the wastelands of northern Tibet, about a month's journey north of Lhasa. Though he didn't travel there, he succeeded in getting a well-preserved pelt and horn of a tso'po. He sent the remains to Kolkata, India, though they are now lost.


Confusingly, the term "tso'po," as well as "chiru," both currently refer to the known, two-horned Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgesonii). This has led some to theorize whether the "Tibetan unicorn" are misidentified Tibetan antelopes with a missing horn, or perhaps a misunderstanding born from mistranslations. Similarly, British diplomat and orientalist Eric Teichman, claimed that when he picked up a Tibetan antelope's horn and asked the hunter who killed the animal what animal it came from, he answered with "unicorn."