Unicorn Mating
The unicorn mating call cannot compared to the amorous beckoning that roll rumble from the throats of most hoofed and horn herbivores. The stag lifts his bead, assuming the attitude of a bellow bull elk; however. his call is more like a low played in unison by a cornet and an oboe, lasting maybe twenty seconds before sliding up to a higher A, at which time it is broken in two or four (never more) short bursts, the duration of each being not more than three seconds. At the age of two to three hundred years forest stags are mature enough for mating, while the does seem slower to develop. The extremely small unicorn population would indicate that forest stags and
(does probably do not mate more than once every fifty years. 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 1,229th day of pregnancy. Each breeding male unicorn establishes a territory of his own, he tries to attract females into it and exclude all other males from it. (He is content with attracting one female at a time. )
Male unicorns will fight if one intrudes into another's territory They do a good deal of spirited sparring with their horns and hooves, but are very careful not to actually spear one another.
During the sparring the horn tips are sometimes broken off. A male whose horn is broken in a fight loses its dominant status and may even give up its entire territory to a longer horned rival. Females are evidently attracted to the males with the longest and most beautiful horns. Whenever a female approaches a male, he raises his head so that the horn extends almost horizontally behind and exhibits his shaggy mane and chin to her view.
The ears are laid back, and the tail is also raised. Then the male walks proudly by the female, who usually walks along at a slow pace. Her ears are held up and her tail down, she appears quite different from the displaying male. If the female approves of the male she flicks her tail occasionally and affectionately nuzzles up against his side. While the human observer is allowed to watch unicorn courtship, actual mating always occurs in thick vegetation or, if in the snow, dunes, or sea, in the black of night. The stag would be attracted to the doe by he perfume of her horn honey, a thick syrupy
liquid that exudes from the horn during estrus. Once a stag locates the doe, to confirm her state of receptiveness he tears a clump of flowers from the earth (often roots included) and tosses the plant, or plants, into the air, usually with a backward, then front ward, horn flip, executed with such force that petals are
shaken from the blossoms. If the doe is at the peak of estrus. the honey is thick and the drifting petals. The stag then moves closer and tenderly begins to lick the horn which the doe has lowered, her eyes half closed in submission. The taste of the honey is so exciting to certain stags that they grip the born in their mouths. The stag then moves to the doe's side and lightly begins rubbing his horn from her shoulder to her flank in a caress. It is at this
moment that both animals glance at the human observer and move off into a section of the forest where vegetation is densest, especially the sort of growth, such as blackberries, that is covered with torturous thorns. Mating lasts for as long as five hours. Mating continues, with one- to two-hour rest intervals, for
about ten days. During this time the doe and stag feed exclusively on the leaves of wild mint and on rose hips, passing the majority of their relaxed moments cooling off in secluded streams or in a pond. but only if it is fed by fast running cold water. During lovemaking, unicorns were never seen bathing in still ponds or lakes. During the last months of gestation, does generally adopt somewhat unusual behavior. Some acquire a sudden urge to eat mushrooms, a plant that most unicorns avoid, in fact, stags have a strict aversion to them. On 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, rushing, leaping, and rearing about. After mating, the female leaves the male's territory and seeks out a secluded area of woods Here she awaits the birth of her fawn. As that time approaches, the female locates a grassy glade in the woods. She chooses an area that is relatively free from danger of wolves or other predators and that has good visibility in all directions. Female unicorns usually give birth to
single offspring. 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 and a nubbin of a horn in the middle of its forehead. 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.