Pegasus vs. Unicorn (What’s The Difference?)

Although many people mix the two creatures up and many draw one of them when they mean to draw another, there are actually many profound differences between a unicorn and Pegasus, starting with the fact that a unicorn is unable to fly, while Pegasus has wings and is made to fly.

In this article, we will discuss each of these two creatures in detail, so that you can understand where each one came from and why the differences between them matter.

We can start with the fact that unicorns are a species of animal, while the name Pegasus refers to one specific creature, who was a key character in Greek Mythology.

What is a Unicorn? 

The unicorn is a legendary creature that largely resembles either a horse or a goat, except for the large spiraling, pointed horn protruding from its forehead. The unicorn has been described since ancient times, including the ancient Greeks, where unicorns were mentioned in text about natural history.

There is even a description of a unicorn-like creature in the Bible, with the re’em. Many translations of the Bible have chosen to translate re’em as “unicorn” as a form of European folklore.

It was European folklore, in fact, that depicted the unicorn as a whie horse or white goat, with a long horn, cloven hooves, and sometimes, a goat’s beard.

By the time of the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, the unicorn was depicted as a wild woodland creature who symbolized grace and purity.

The horn of a unicorn allegedly had the power to make poisoned water drinkable just by dipping the Unicorn’s horn into it, so there was a lot of trade in animal tusks that were sold as “unicorn horns.”

What is Pegasus?

The Pegasus is a mythical winged stallion that has grown to become one of the most recognized characters in Greek Mythology. He is a child of Poseidon and was foaled by the Gorgon Medusa when she died after being decapitated by Perseus, the Olympian hero.

Over the years, a large number of Greco-Roman poets, including some of the greatest of the time, wrote abut Pegasus’ ascent into heaven after he was born and his quiet deference to Zeus, who was the king of the gods in Greek mythology. Zeus often instructed Pegasus to bring him thunder and lightning from Mount Olympus.

From ancient Greece on, Pegasus has been seen as a symbol of wisdom and fame, and a very rich iconography has built up over a long period of time.

As late as the 19th Century, a great number of poems were written about Pegasus. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance,  Pegasus was used in pottery, sculptures, and paintings.

Why Do People Confuse the Two? 

When if comes to fantasy creatures, it is common to confuse the features of several of them. While every woman seems to want a unicorn, the image of a unicorn is often changed to fit a specific person’s needs.

If a romantic person thinks of a unicorn, they often think of them flying along rainbows, which is why many depictions of unicorns are off. In many cases, people who have only seen the  romantically fantasized version of a unicorn, so they often depict them as looking like Pegasus.

For a very long time, unicorns were considered real creatures who actually lived, just not in the places where they were talked about, apparently. Also, many different cultures have featured their own version of the unicorn. Besides the Greek unicorn, there is a Chinese unicorn (Chi’lin) and the Japanese and Vietnamese unicorns.

On the other hand, Pegasus is not a type or species of creature, but rather the name of a specific character in Greek Mythology. Pegasus was born of Poseidon, the horse lord and Medusa (yes, the one with all the snakes for hair).

Despite that, the name Pegasus has been used often to depict winged horses in general.  

Why Are These Creatures Based on Horses and Ponies? 

One of the reasons both unicorns and Pegasus are based on horses is because horses are seen as noble creatures who are capable of travel. Both creatures have been depicted with a number of enhancements, especially the wings on the Pegasus. 

Pegasus is, above all, an athlete. Based on their movement, Pegasus seems to also have a very active metabolism. This is reminiscent of horses, who have been found useful by many humans as a pack animal, as they can carry a lot of weight over long distances, but also can run short distances very fast.

But most of all, since Pegasus was created to transport Grecian gods long distances, and to transport thunder and lightning from Mount Olympus to be used in battle, Pegasus is obviously trusted as much as the noble steed portrayed in books and movies.

The Difference Between the Asian and the Western Version of a Unicorn

The Western version of the unicorn is quite distinct from the Asian versions.

For one thing, the Western unicorn is depicted as a wild creature, who is also, paradoxically, considered both graceful and pure. In the Western version, a virgin girl was irresistible to the unicorn, which meant she could be used as bait to catch a unicorn.

Meanwhile, in Asia, the unicorn was better known at one time as a Monoceros, which means a creature with  one horn. It was a fantastic, magical animal that was infused wih magic.

The Metamorphosis of Pegasus Over Centuries

Without a doubt, Pegasus is one of the best-known characters in Greek mythology.

Most of the stories written about Pegasus were penned by Greco-Roman poets, but it has been all-but-impossible to reconstruct a timeline for the story of Pegasus because there have been so many works in which the mythical story of Pegasus has been invoked, and many of them are contradictory.

There have been so many stories about Pegasus, beginning as early as the 9th Century BC. Many of them mentioned the birth of Pegasus and Chimera. Ovid also told the story of Pegasus’ birth in the Metamorphosis.

By now, we know that Pegasus has no horn, but that he has wings like a bird. However, since he’s mostly a horse, those wings are extremely large, which means Pegasus would have cut a very imposing figure as they were flying.

The Origins and Modern Vision of Unicorns

The first depictions of unicorns were also fairly common in ancient times. There have been reported depictions and descriptions of Unicorn since 2500-2000 years BC, including some on various seals used in the Indus Valley. 

Over the course of several thousand years, the unicorn has evolved into a cultural phenomenon. After centuries in which unicorns existed in literature about natural history and stories of exploration, in the 21st Century, the unicorn has become a cultural phenomenon, especially on the Internet, which has made unicorns ubiquitous.

Since the 19th Century, there have been numerous depictions of unicorns in popular culture, especially in novels. Among the most famous of them is Peter S. Beagle’as novel, The Last Unicorn, but they are also featured in the novel by Lord Dunsany, The Daughter of the Elf King, and in The Endless Story and the Narnia books.

Even the Harry Potter books mention unicorns, portraying them as magical creatures that are almost impossible to capture. They also suggest that unicorns have silver-colored blood that shines in the moonlight and can be taken by humans to increase their longevity.

To murder a unicorn is an abomination, and someone who does this doesn’t get the benefit of the unicorn’s blood, which usually makes it possible to survive, even if hat person is about to die.

The Origins and Modern Vision of Pegasus

Once again, though many modern resources seem to portray Pegasus as a species of horse, the fact of the matter is, Pegasus refers to a singular character of Greek mythology., with a very specific origin story and specific parentage.

In the modern era, Pegasus has become a key character in in many fantasy stories, in books and movies, as well as role-playing games and video games. Science fiction novelist Anne McCaffrey wrote a trilogy of books called The Flight of Pegasus, in which the reference t Pegasus was purely symbolic.

Likewise, when the Walt Disney Company produced the animated movie Hercules, Pegasus was largely portrayed as a goofball; a dumb winged horse who was given to Hercules by his father, Zeus, which is not something that fits in with the Pegasus created in Greek mythology.

Pegasus is also a popular name and character used in Manga and Anime productions. For example, the creator of the Yu-Gi-Oh card game and animated series named the enemy of the main character Pegasus J. Crawford.

Another popular animated series is My Little Pony, which features a number of characters described as Pegasus (some say Pegusi). Another is called Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus, which is about a punk winged horse named Brietta and her rescue of the Princess.

Which One Is Better (Who Would Win?)

These two creatures have many abilities and magical powers that can be a deciding factor. While they both can transform only the Pegasus has wings and can fly while the Unicorn has a magical horn that can heal itself wounds as well as other creatures.

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