In Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Firenze and Harry have a conversation whilst he brings him back to Hagrid after saving him. Firenze says that slaying a unicorn is a monstrous thing and that only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime.

If it is such a crime and a monstrous thing, how do witches and wizards collect horns and tail hair? Do they not care if they have slain a unicorn, or can you collect the items without killing it?

  • Unicorns renew their horns time to time. All you need is pick the old horn from ground before it vanishes. As for tail hair, you don't need to kill them for that.
    – user931
    Jan 2, 2015 at 4:49
  • 4
    What is the source for the information on unicorn horn?
    – user13267
    Jan 2, 2015 at 10:05
  • If you want to get ivory legally these days, you get it not from the tusk of elephants, but from that of mammoths conserved under ice in Siberia. Mammoths have been extinct for so long that nobody can accuse you of poaching if you do this. Perhaps there are similar extinct varieties of unicorns in the magical world.
    – b_jonas
    Jan 2, 2015 at 12:52
  • 1
    @b_jonas No way. Mammoths are a way more expensive than elephants. Archeologists would kill you for that.
    – user931
    Jan 3, 2015 at 21:06

4 Answers 4


Regarding the tail hairs:

From Goblet of Fire, during the weighing of the wands Mr. Ollivander said the following of Cedric's wand:

"... nearly gored me with his horn after I plucked his tail." (E-Book page 224)

From Half Blood Prince, after Aragog's funeral, Slughorn sees the unicorn hair in Hagrid's hut. Hagrid says:

"Gets pulled out of their tails, they catch it on branches an' stuff in the forest, yeh know ..." (E-Book page 341)

I recall no canon info regarding how they got the horns.

  • 1
    It's not canonical, in any sense, but there is a theory that the idea of unicorns was sparked by the discovery of narwhal tusks washed up on beach. Maybe unicorn horns are deciduous, they are periodically shed, and you can just pick the discarded horns off the ground. Jan 2, 2015 at 23:18

Tail hair: Likely, the same way you obtain tail hair of a horse. You yank the hair out (See KaOs' excellent answer).

Please note that they let humans (especially witches) near them as we see during lessons with Professor Grubbly-Plank, so the issue of "unicorns are too fast to catch" isn't necessarily important.

Horn: Unknown in canon. No word on that in either the main books, or Beasts, or Pottermore, or interviews.

One can speculate (given the fact that plenty are available - e.g. Harry sees them sold at Apothecary for fairly small amount of money - 20-odd Galleons; and we know they are also being sold to Muggles sometimes), that the horns are likely to be obtainable without killing the animal. But that's a mere speculation.

While Hagrid asked the man behind the counter for a supply of some basic potion ingredients for Harry, Harry himself examined silver unicorn horns at twenty-one Galleons each and minuscule, glittery black beetle eyes (five Knuts a scoop).

  • 2
    Or just hacked off one that died of natural causes.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2, 2015 at 11:24
  • @Richard - I don't recall any mentions of natural cause death from canon Jan 2, 2015 at 12:31
  • 8
    @DVK does that mean Harry et al don't poop either?
    – Moo
    Jan 2, 2015 at 12:34
  • @DVK - Everything dies, eventually.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2, 2015 at 12:35
  • 3
    @DVK There were also dead unicorns in canon - we don't see one die, just as we don't see anyone use the bathroom stalls for their purpose as God intended ;)
    – Moo
    Jan 2, 2015 at 16:34

If Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone GBA game is considered canon (it does follow the book rather closely, but still has to be taken with a grain of salt) unicorns shed their horns, but do this very rarely.

  • Games are generally lower canon than books, but I would say they are still somewhat canon. +1, great find! Dec 14, 2015 at 0:10

Unicorns might shed their horn like deer shed their antlers once a year.

  • 8
    They might do, but do you have any particular reason to suspect that this is the case?
    – Valorum
    Jan 2, 2015 at 11:59
  • 1
    Marmol Caravaial (Marmolius, late 1500s) claimed to have seen unicorns in the region of the Mountains of the moon in Ethiopia. He describes one as as large as a two-year-old colt, and the same shape as a horse. It was ashen coloured and had a beard like a goat. It had a smooth white ivory horn, with grooves running from base to point. According to him, the unicorn sheds its horn like a stag. angelfire.com/bc/Strawberry/legends/unicorn.html
    – Len_D
    Jan 3, 2015 at 2:23

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