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This folio from Walters manuscript W659 depicts the Aras, an animal with one horn.

Shâd'havâr (Arabic: شادهوار) or Âras (آرس), is a legendary creature from medieval Muslim bestiaries resembling a unicorn. Al-Qazwini said that it lives in the country of Rūm (Byzantium) and that it has one horn with 42 hollow branches which, when the wind passes through them, produces a pleasant sound that makes the animals sit around and listen. Horns of those creatures, sometimes gifted to kings, can be played on like flutes. When played on one side, they produce a cheerful sound, and when the other, the music is so sad it makes people cry.

The scholar Al-Damiri stated a larger number of branches to 72 and al-Mustawfi made shadhavar a ferocious carnivore. The change can be explained as a result of merging its description with another creature from Qazwini, the Sirânis (سيرانس), a predator that plays music to lure its victims. G. Jacob pointed out similarities between the Sirânis and the sirens from Greek mythology.


  • Ettinghausen, Richard. The Unicorn: Studies in Muslim Iconography. Freer Gallery of Art. Occasional Papers 1. pp. 64–66.