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The Keresh is the enormous deer of Be-Ila'i, and it has but one horn[1] as black as dye.[2] The hide of the keresh of Be-Ila'i is sixteen cubits long (24 feet).[3] Some of the Sages of the Talmud (Tannaim and Amoraim) identify this creature as the legendary Taḥash.[4] It is associated with the Tigris, the giant lion of the same wild habitat. Be-Ila'i is an unknown forest of this name according to Rashi,[5] also according to Lewysohn.[6] According to Jastrow it refers to the mountains of interior Asia.[7]

The keresh is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi) Shabbos 2:3, in the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) Shabbath 28b, Chullin 59b, Bava Basra 16b, and in the Midrash Koheles Rabbah 1:28. Rashi's commentary on Bava Basra 16b says the keresh has horns black as dye, and while there is no contradiction in saying that the horn of the keresh is as black as dye, some took the construction of this comment in its most mechanical literal sense to mean that it has a single horn. The keresh has been speculatively identified as possibly the giraffe, and also possibly as the rhinoceros. But the keresh is said to be a clean animal, and the rhinoceros is an unclean animal. According to the Septuagint, and according to the rabbinical commentaries of Saadia Gaon, Rabbeinu Yonah and Radak, the giraffe is the וָזָֽמֶר zemer of Deuteronomy 14:5 — chamois, mountain sheep, camelopardalus, wild sheep.[5][8]

An awareness of ancient folklore having roots in prehistoric reality may have reasonably suggested to the Sages the actual existence of the enormous keresh. Possible sightings and capture of what may have been a giant one-horned Eurasian rhinoceros (Elasmotherium), once native to the central Asian and European steppes, have been preserved in legends. The animal has anciently been called a "deer-like" beast with one big horn, a "big bull" with one horn on its head, and a giant "unicorn" with five colors.[9] However, the Elasmotherium was not big enough to be the keresh, measuring only about 10 cubits nose to tail, 15–16 feet, and it is supposed to have become extinct over 10,000 years ago. [10] There is currently no certain consensus on the identity of the Keresh.


  1. See Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli), Seder Kodashim, Tractate Chullin, Folio 59b (Chullin 59b). —scroll down to page 192.
  2. "horns black as dye"—Rashi's commentary on the Babylonian Talmud Tractate, Bava Basra 16b / Bava Bathra 16b. — —scroll down to pages 51–53
    "Keren-Happuch because — so it was explained in the academy of Rabbi Shila — she had a complexion like the horn of a keresh. This explanation was laughed at in the West, [where it was pointed out that a complexion like] the horn of a keresh would be a blemish." page 51.
    The commentary reads: "Because it is blackish" and "This is according to the reading of Rashi, ככורכמא דרשקא. Tosafta, however, reads ככוחלא דרשקא pigment made from saffron’, which had a specially beautifying effect on the skin. In this case the name Keren-Happuch will mean, ‘the gloss of pigment’." page 53.
  3. 16 cubits = 288 inches, 24 feet, 7.3152 meters (one cubit = 18 inches = 0.4572 meters).
  4. Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo'ed, Tractate Shabbath, Folio 28a PARTb (Shab. 28ab) —
    "Since there is the keresh, which is a species of beast, and it has only one horn, one can say that it [the tahash] is a kind of wild beast."
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rashi's commentary on the Talmud Tractate, Bava Basra 16b. See Natan Slifkin's Sacred Monsters: Mysterious and Mythological Creatures of Scripture, Talmud and Midrash Chapter One: Unicorns of Different Colors: "The Keresh"; "Is the Unicorn a Multicorn?"; and "The Rhino-Keres" pp. 69-75
  6. Lewysohn, Yehudi Leib Ludwig (1858) Zoologie des Talmuds, p. 70. —
  7. Jastrow, Marcus (1926) Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Bavli and Midrashic Literature p. 520, column a, top. טגרס טגרוס — —click on letter ט Tet, at top of page image select next page until page 520 appears. —" טגרוס : m (tigris, v. Sm. Ant. s. v.) tiger. "
  8. "According to the Septuagint" —See English and Greek text of Septuagint ΔEϒTEPONOMION Deuteronomy 14:5
    14:5 the stag, and doe, and pygarg, and wild goat, and camelopard.
    14:5 ἔλαφον καὶ δορκάδα καὶ πύγαργον, ὄρυγα καὶ καμηλοπάρδαλιν·
    See Masoretic Hebrew Text of Deuteronomy 14:5 (no vowels)וזמרzemer
    14:5 ה איל וצבי, ויחמור; ואקו ודישן, ותאו וזמר.
  9. Five sources:
    • Russell, James R. (2009). "From Zoroastrian Cosmology and Armenian heresiology to the Russian novel"
    • Allison, Christine; Joristen-Pruschke, Anke; Wendtland, Antje. From Daēnā to Dîn: Religion, Kultur und Sprache in der iranischen Welt; Festschrift für Philip Kezenbroek, zum 60. Geburstag. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. pp. 141–208.
    • Glavin, Terry (2007). The Sixth Extinction (First U.S. ed.) New York: Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin's Press). pp. 129–130.
    • Sinor, Denis (1960) Sur les noms altaiques de la licorne Denis Sinor. Cambridge. Wiener Zeitschrift für der Kunde des Morgenlandes (in French) (56): 168–176. —Rhino Resource Center: The World's Largest Rhino Information Website.
    • Ibn Faḍlān, Ahmad; Frye, Richard N. (October 2005). Ibn Fadlan's Journey to Russia: A Tenth-century Traveller from Baghdad to the Volga River, translated by Richard Nelson Frye, 2005. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-55876-366-1.
  10. Three sources:
    • Titov, V.V., Tesakov, A.S. editors, Quaternary stratigraphy and paleontology of the Southern Russia: connections between Europe, Africa and Asia: Abstracts of the International INQUA-SEQS Conference (June 21–26, 2010) Rostov-on-Don, publisher Russian Academy of Science. Baigusheva, Vera, Titov, Vadim, Pleistocene Large Mammal Associations of the Sea of Azov and Adjacent Regions, (pages 24–27)
    • V.V. Titov, V.V., Tesakov, A.S. editors, Quaternary stratigraphy and paleontology of the Southern Russia: connections between Europe, Africa and Asia: Abstracts of the International INQUA-SEQS Conference (June 21–26, 2010) Rostov-on-Don, publisher Russian Academy of Science. Kosintsev, Pavel Relict Mammal Species of the Middle Pleistocene in Late Pleistocene Fauna of the Western Siberia South, pages 78–79.]
    • Hagstrum, J. T., Firestone, R. B., West, A., article, "Beringian Megafaunal Extinctions at ~37 ka B.P.: Do Micrometeorites Embedded in Fossil Tusks and Skulls Indicate an Extraterrestial Precursor to the Younger Dryas Event?", journal American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2009, abstract #PP31D-1385, 2009, publisher, The Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System, volume 31, pages 1385

Article realized and completed 31 October 2014 20:38 hrs CDT, All Saints Eve +