The land where unicorns once roamed
The land where unicorns once roamed
Scott Dunlop

I was born in Scotland. Land of mountains, valleys and men’s knees. You have to admire a country that has a unicorn as its national animal. Then again, England claimed the lion as its national animal (not too many lions to be seen prowling the hills there) and Wales adopted the dragon. My kids find the Scottish unicorn story pretty funny. Even more so when I tried to describe what the national dish, haggis, is made from.

I’ve lived here long enough to be South African, so my children find it odd to hear about kilts, bagpipes and other oddities enjoyed by my relatives. They’ve always lived in Cape Town, the city with the gatsby as its local dish and the squirrel as its animal. Those are only slightly more preposterous than South Africa’s national symbols. I love this country, but in a place which boasts the Big Five, how did we end up with the springbok as the national animal?

While we’re on the topic, just up the road from my house is False Bay, teeming with great white sharks. The entire world is in awe of these, but our modest national fish is the galjoen. Galjoen is a red-listed fish, so it can only be fished recreationally (with a permit) - you can’t even have it on your gatsby. The blue crane is acceptable as the national bird, but personally, I’d have chosen a vulture.

If you want more interesting national animals, birds, fish and flowers, you should probably consult with kids. I reckon that kids would choose huge carnivorous dinosaurs as national beasts, or awesome mythical beings like minotaurs, griffins and centaurs.

Actually, on second thoughts, I think kids would do the opposite, just for laughs, and choose things like sea slugs, caterpillars and pond scum.

Kids can be mean!

It’s Heritage Day soon (in case you’re wondering what this is all about) and I think your kids could come up with some really interesting national animals.

How about you ask them to do that and explain their choices and send those ideas through to us. Email them to and you could win a R250 voucher.

Don’t worry, we won’t drop the springbok just yet, although there may be one or two venison chops on the braai.

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