Unicorn Foals
The doe's gestation period is three years, four months, and two weeks to twenty days. Birth seems to take place on the first dark (moon less) night after the 1,229 th day of pregnancy. In the night of the last full moon before the birth of a fawn unicorn, the stag, or stags, of that forest are transformed from generally mild-mannered creatures to animals that seem caught up in a frenzy of rushing, leaping, and rearing about. At the time of birth the unicorn does always conceal themselves in heavy growth. Unicorn births always take place at the moment of daybreak. The stag waits some distance away and when the sun rises and hits the stag's horn, he then calls out celebrating the arrival of the fawn that lays white and wet at its mother's side in a thicket.
Unicorn fawns are born without horns. At the spot from which the horn will sprout, directly in the center of the forehead, is a hard wax like substance about the size of a half dollar. Once a fawn has slid from a doe and she has finished cleaning him, she turns her attention to his forehead. Most fawns seem actually to push their foreheads toward their mother and against her tongue as she licks, which would cause one to believe that the area under the seal must itch, an annoyance that will lessen once the wax has been removed and the horn is allowed to sprout.
When the wax seal is gone, the horn can literally be seen to grow before one's eyes. The horn first appears to be one half to three quarters of an inch long. Since there is no way this growth could be estimated except by the eye and from a distance, the figures may not be exact. Ten minutes after the removal of the wax seal, the horn has sprouted to about one inch from the forehead. Twenty minutes after birth, it is one and a half to two inches long, and when the fawn is half an hour old, the horn is roughly three inches in length.
Growth then slows considerably, so that a week-old fawn will have a horn that is four inches long. At one month the horn will be about six inches in length. The yearling horn is eight inches long, and from then on it grows roughly one inch every fifty years until it reaches its maximum length of eighteen inches. A fawn's beard, the fleeting glimpse of which in some forest hundreds of years ago laid the foundation for what was to become one of the greatest of unicorn misconceptions, that of the caprine unicorn, which sprang from the Physiologus. Seeing a week-old fawn, one can naturally understand how, at some time in history, a surprised person saw such a creature and gave rise to the legend of the mythological unicorn with beard, cloven hooves, and the often offensive goat like appearance that contrasted markedly with the noble equine beast described by Ctesias, Aelian, and Pliny. Even Aristotle reported that unicorns have solid hooves, which can be substantiated by photographs.
The fine, relatively long beard sported by a fawn will be shed by the time he is a year old, at which moment his eyes (in the reversal process of that of the African gray parrot) will go from light to dark. Though he will not be completely weaned from his mother until he is fifty years old, the fawn has already begun to nibble at blackberries. Unicorn fawns are some of the loveliest of baby animals, appearing more like stylized porcelain figurines than creatures of flesh and blood. With its rear hoof, fawns try to scratch at their horns, which must, in this first sprint of rapid development, be growing so fast that high concentrations of blood cause the skin around it to itch. Baby unicorns were constantly observed hoof scratching their horns or rubbing them against willow shoots.
The tiny fawn is extremely well developed and within a few hours is able to stand up and nurse. It has a lovely dappled coat. When it hides in the tall grass at the edge of the woods, it becomes almost completely invisible, and the mother can move some distance away to feed or rest. When she returns, she utters a quiet call, and the fawn quickly leaps to its feet to rejoin her When it is very young, the fawn may nurse several times a day, but after a few weeks the nursing periods become shorter and more widely separated. At night the mother beds down beside her fawn.The speed of this ten day old unicorn is comparable to tha
that of a racehorse. If one is fortunate enough to see a baby unicorn, it will not be while he is galloping full out, a speed that reduces him to a mere blur of white among the green leaves of the forest. Few visual experiences are as satisfying as watching fawns at play. The setting sun appears to hold a special attraction for young unicorns: They can frequently be seen running westbound, suddenly leaping toward the sun with the apparent expectation that their jump would carry them on and on into the sky. Young unicorns were rarely observed in play with members of their own sex. Almost always a pair of fawns male and female would be observed in these running, jumping, and rearing games. Young unicorns spend nearly fifty years with their parents, normally remaining until the next fawn is born. At that time, about a week before the next fawn is due, the mother gently but repeatedly nudges
her offspring away, and soon itmust learn to get along on its own. At that time the horns of the young males are nearly a foot long, and those of the females about six inches As mentioned earlier, the horn continues to grow throughout the animal's life, but because of accidental breakage, particularly from sparring, the total length of the horn varies greatly even among animals of the same age Only rarely is a unicorn able to grow to old age without breaking off part of its horn Yet broken unicorn horns are almost never found by humans, for rodents soon discover them and gnaw them up for the many nutrients they contain.
Like other hoofed animals, unicorns rest and sleep while lying on the ground with their legs folded in against the body, with the body tilted slightly toward one side and the head turned back toward the rear This way, their legs are always almost directly under them, allowing them to leap to their feet in an instant. Not even newborn fawns sleep completely on their sides, or with their legs out from under them. With the slightest sound their ears are turned in the direction of the noise, and their large eyes scan the distance for any danger. When alarmed, resting unicorns utter a small sneeze like sound that alerts other nearby unicorns to possible danger, this is especially true of
mothers guarding their fawns. On hearing such a sneeze, the fawn will lower its head and fold its ears back, so that it becomes almost invisible in the grass, and it remains thus until its hidden mother calls to it. Besides their alarm "sneeze," unicorns have a variety of other calls or signals that they use for communication. Babies have a soft, bleating call with which they answer their mother's "contact call. "This contact call is used by the mother to reassure her fawn and keep it informed of her location. Unicorns rise early in the morning, often before sunrise, and graze until the sun is well up and the insects become annoying. Then, at least on hot summer days, they retire to the densest part of the woods to rest and nap until late afternoon. Then they rise to graze again until dark, or even after dark on moonlit nights, finally going to sleep about midnight. Baby unicorns nurse off and on throughout the day, but especially at dawn and dusk, and often follow these nursing periods with bouts of playful running and jumping, when they resemble lambs gamboling about in the fields. As they grow older, they gradually reduce such periods of play, and young males begin to engage in mock sparring sessions with other youngsters, in anticipation of their later jousting over mates.