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Shādhavār (شادهوار) or āras (آرس) is a unicorn found in the writings of Muslim scholars such as al-Qazwini or al-Damiri. According to al-Qazwini it lives in the furthest regions of Rûm (Rome), which is the name Arabs gave to the Byzantine Empire and denotes modern Turkey, but can also be extended to Europe. Shadhavar resembles a gazelle that on its head has a single horn with 42 hollow branches. When the wind passes through the holes in those branches, it produces a pleasant sound. Other animals, hearing the music, gather around the shadhavar, intently listening.

Horns of these creatures are sometimes gifted to kings and produce music in the presence of the wind. When the horn is held one way, the melody is happy and uplifting. When put in reverse, it produces a sad dirge that moves the listeners to tears.

The description of this musical animal can first be found in the writings of Jabir ibn Hayyan, an Arab scholar from the 8th century, who calls it aras. According to him, the Greek philosopher Plato had captured an aras and its horn was "up to this day" passed from generation to generation in his family.[1]

Al-Damiri increases the number of branches to 72 (which number has religious significance to Muslims). Al-Mustawfi makes the shadhavar a ferocious carnivore that attacks the animals listening to it. The most likely explanation in this change of disposition is that Mustawfi mixed the description with another animal from Qazwini, directly preceding it in his book, the sīrānis (سيرانس): a wolf-like predator from Kabul and Zabul which has twelve holes in its snout and uses them to lure its victims with music. G. Jacob believes the story is an echo of the sirens from Greek mythology.

Gustave Flaubert has Saint Anthony to be tormented by a black stag called sadhuzag, with the head of a bull and a thicket of 74 white antlers between the ears. When the creature turns them to the south wind, they produce sweet music that charms nearby animals. When it turns to the north wind, they emit a terrible shriek.


The name varies between authors due to the imprecise nature of Arabic alphabet, but also between several copies of the same author, as some copyists add and some remove diacritical marks that significantly alter the resulting word. The Sarre manuscript of al-Qazwini uses the spelling شاذه وار (shādhahvār; dh sounds like th in "that" and h is pronounced) with ha not being connected to waw. Several editions give the spelling شاده وار (shādahvār). The form ساده وار (sādahvār) is found in the Kevorkian manuscript and the Princeton University manuscript.

Al-Damiri uses شادهوار, connecting ha and waw, and in A.S.G. Jayakar's transcription it is rendered as shād-hawār (using Arab pronunciation of waw). Jabir ibn Hayyan uses آرس (āras), probably coming from Greek ὄρυξ (oryx). Wüstenfeld edition of al-Qazwini has ارس ('rs). Kevorkian manuscript has ارش ('rsh).[2]



  1. Kraus, Paul. Jābir ibn Ḥayyān. Contribution à l'histoire des idées scientifiques dans l'Islam. vol 2. pp. 67-68.
  2. Ettinghausen, Richard. The Unicorn: Studies in Muslim Iconography. Freer Gallery of Art. Occasional Papers 1. pp. 64–66.