The Re'em was a formidable animal. Mentioned 9 times in the Bible (Numbers, Psalms, Job, Deuteronomy). According to certain Judeo-Christian sources, Re'em was an aurochs (extinct in 1627, in Jaktorów forest, Poland). However, the oryx, the rhinoceros (Vulgate), and the unicorn (Septuagint) have also been suggested. Single-horned animals appeared in Indus Valley culture, Persia, and Mesopotamia (eg, Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III). Elasmotherium, a huge rhinoceros from the "Elasmoteriinæ" group, has been suggested as the most likely candidate for the biblical Re'em. The "Karkadann" (the Persian name for rhinoceros and unicorn), in Persian legends, is said to be an animal that lived in the grassy plains of India and Persia. Its horn was said to contain poison. In Jewish legends, Og ​​is said to have ridden a unicorn the size of a mountain and survived the flood. Another legend says that Re'em was mistaken for a mountain by King David. Job 39:9-12 says it cannot be tamed and is useless for agricultural work. So what was the animal that the Bible calls Re'em?

  • This doesn't seem so difficult. Does a rhinoceros have one principal horn? Has it been tamed and put to use for agricultural work? Is it very strong? Does the Bible's depiction of the "unicorn" fit the rhinoceros?
    – Biblasia
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 2:03

1 Answer 1


The animal name רְאֵם (re'em) occurs just nine times in the OT: Num 23:22, 24:8, Deut 33:17, Job 39:9, 10, Ps 22:21, 29:6, 92:10, Isa 34:7.

Some older English versions translate the word 'unicorn" including the KJV, Breton Septuagint Translation and Webster's Bible translation. The LXX translates the word μονοκέρωτος = "unicorn". Similarly, the Latin Vulgate renders the word, "unicornis".

Almost all modern versions in English translate according to the BDB meaning, viz, "wild-ox".

BDB's meaning is provided in the appendix below

APPENDIX BDB entry for רְאֵם (re'em)

רְאֵם noun masculineJob 39:10 wild ox (Assyrian rêmu DlHWB 603 (ראם), HoughtonTSBA v (1877). 336 ff., and illustrated before p. 33 SchrKGF 135 ff., 530 HomNS 237 ff., 410, 436 f. DrDeuteronomy 33:17; on strength and ferocity, PlinNH viii. 21; Aramaic רְאֵמָא, רֵימָא, רֵימָנָא (LagBN 58); Arabic is white antelope, antilope leucoryx; ᵐ5 (erroneous) μονοκέρως (Isaiah 34:7 ἅδροι, ᵑ9 unicornis, and (oftener) rhinoceros); — absolute ׳ר Numbers 23:22 +, רְאֵים Psalm 92:11, רֵים Job 39:9,10; plural רְאֵמִים Isaiah 34:7; Psalm 29:6, רֵמִים Psalm 22:22 (see Baer); — wild ox, as fierce and strong Job 39:9,10; simile of strength of Israel, לוֺ ׳כְּתוֺעֲפוֺת ר Numbers 23:22 = Numbers 24:8 (JE), וַתָּרֶם כִּרְאֵם קַרְנִי Psalm 92:11; so figurative of Joseph, קַרְנַיו ׳קַרְנֵי ר Deuteronomy 33:17; figurative of princes of Edom Isaiah 34:7 ( +מָּרִים עִם אַבִּירִים); of powerful foes, מִקַּרְנֵי רֵמִים Psalm 22:22; in simile of skipping, leaping, בֶּןרְֿאֵמִים Psalm 29:6 ("" עֵגֶּל).

  • Unicornis and bicornis were single and double horned rhinoceros(es) in the Latin and their scientific names still exist among the three species today, the second being the white rhino. Diceros bicornis; Ceratotherium simum; Rhinoceros unicornis Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 2:04
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    @NihilSineDeo - yes - that meaning is contained in the BDB entry.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 2:17
  • I'd add that Jewish Encyclopedia says that "aurochs" is the best candidate. " This view is supported by the Assyrian "rimu," which is often used as a metaphor of strength, and is depicted as a powerful, fierce, wild, or mountain bull with large horns." Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 20:25
  • @DanFefferman - good suggestion. However, it is far from a unicorn.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 21:09

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