Think a national animal has to be real? Think again. This list of mythical creatures are steeped in history around the globe.
The United States takes a lot of pride in having a bald eagle as its national animal. But many countries don’t want to go with the status quo. They want to do things differently, and these five nations have some really cool mythical creatures to represent them in some fashion.
1. Unicorn – Scotland
Unicorns aren’t just for stickers to go on your old-school Trapper Keeper. The mythical beast has been a Scottish symbol since William I used it on his coat of arms in the 12th century. While many look it as a cute little pony, local folklore says a free unicorn is actually a dangerous beast. So maybe that one scene in Cabin in the Woods was pretty accurate after all. Want to see a statue of one in Scotland? Check out the Mercat Cross at Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
You’ve no doubt seen dragons used as national symbols in a lot of places, mainly in Asia. But the one that really sticks out is the Druk (“The Thunder Dragon”) of Bhutan. If you were to speak the national language of Bhutan, you’d find out that the country is called Druk-yul, aka Land of Druk. And the leaders of the country? Yeah, they’re called Druk Gyalpo – Dragon Kings. You’ve got to wonder if somewhere in the family tree there’s a Daenerys Targaryen.
3. Turul – Hungary
There’s no shortage of cool mythical birds, but Hungary might have one of the better ones in the Turul. This creature is known as a divine messenger and perches atop the tree of life, but not before delivering some powerful dreams to the Princess Emese that showed she would give birth to a line of great rulers. Another legend has the Turul showing the leader of the Hungarian tribes the path to safety, and putting a beat down on eagles that attacked their horses. Forgive the indelicacy, but this might be the first Angry Bird. And you can see it on many statues around Hungary.
4. Garuda – Indonesia
Indonesia may use the Komodo dragon for a national animal nowadays, but the Garuda is where the country’s roots for a symbol reside. The Garuda is a chimera, which boasts the beak, feet and wings of the golden eagle with the arms and chest of a man. Pretty boss, and shows up on the nation’s coat of arms. Now you can easily see this beast in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, but you’ll not see it in anything as cool as the photo above of Vishnu taking on the Garuda. A statue you can see in Bali.
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5. Chollima – North Korea
North Korea and Scotland have something in common? No, this is not the start of a joke. They both have a mythical animal as its emblem. North Korea’s symbol is the winged horse called Chollima. The nation’s first president, Kim il Sun, wanted his country to rebuild at Chollima speed after the cease-fire agreement was signed with South Korea. The bronze statue you see above stands in Pyongyang, but you probably won’t be seeing it in person anytime soon.
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