A life reconstruction of an aurochs bull, the animal the re'em has been identified with by scholarly consensus
Aurochs in a cave painting in Lascaux, France
Some Christian translations once identified the re'em with the legendary unicorn. Detail of a former floor mosaic dating from year 1213, Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista, Ravenna.

A re'em, also reëm (Hebrew: רֶאֵם), is an animal mentioned nine times in the Hebrew Bible (Job 39:9-10, Deuteronomy 33:17, Numbers 23:22 and 24:8; Psalms 22:21, 29:6 and 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7) and variously translated as a unicorn or a wild ox. It was first identified in modern times with the aurochs by Johann Ulrich Duerst who discovered it was based on the Akkadian cognate rimu, meaning Bos primigenius, the aurochs, progenitor of cattle.[1] This has been generally accepted,[2] as it is today even among religious scholars.[3] It has been translated in some Christian Bible translations as "oryx" and as "unicorn" in the King James Version, possibly referring to a one-horned rhinoceros such as Rhinoceros Unicornis.[4][5] Some Christian creationists believe it to be a Triceratops,[6] while others believe it is a rhinoceros.

The King James Version of the Book of Job followed the Septuagint and Jerome Vulgate in its translation unicorn:

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?

Some Bible translations into English, including the American Standard Version and New American Standard Bible, interpret re'em as "wild ox". Re'em is also speculated to refer to the Arabian Oryx.

In Jewish folklore, the re'em was larger than a mountain and could dam the river Jordan with its dung. To survive during the deluge, Noah had to strap its horns to the side of the Ark so that its nostril could protrude into the Ark allowing the animal to breathe. King David, while still a shepherd, mistook its horn for a mountain and climbed it, then the re'em got up, carrying David up to the heavens. He prayed to God to save him, so a lion passed in front of the re'em. As the re'em bowed down to the king of beasts, David climbed off, but was threatened by the lion. He prayed again and an animal passed by so the lion could chase it and leave David unharmed.[7]


  1. Die Rinder von Babylonien, Assyrien und Ägypten (Berlin, 1899:7-8)
  2. For instance Jonas Salo, "Cattle Raising in Palestine" Agricultural History 26.3 (July 1952), pp. 93-104.
  3. "Was the Assyrian 'Rimu' mistranslated as unicorn?". Christians of Iraq. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  4. "Why Does The Bible Mention Unicorns? | Creation Today". Retrieved 2016-07-09.
  5. "Unicorn [ U'NICORN, n. [L. unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.]1. an animal ... ]  :: Search the 1828 Noah Webster's Dictionary of the English Language (FREE) ::". Retrieved 2016-07-09.
  6. "The Sanilac Petroglyphs, Paleo-cryptozoology, and Controversy". Revolution Against Evolution.
  7. Graves, Robert; Patai, Raphael (2014). "Chapter 7: The Reem and the Ziz". Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis (e-pub ed.). RosettaBooks. ISBN 9780795337154.
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