The Horn and Rings Trick (The Unicorn Trick)

I have written quite a few articles about obscure juggling routines that have vanished from the modern juggler’s repertoire. These include the Birds in the Tree Trick, Cupsticks and Balls, the Whirligig, and many others. Today I want to share another of these tricks, the Horn and Rings Trick, which is also known as the Unicorn Trick.

The props used for this are found in it’s name – a horn, worn on the forehead, and a series of rings, which are tossed high into the air and then caught on the horn. The oldest reference we have to the trick is an illustration of the French juggler Pradier, who appeared to use rings that decreased in circumference as the trick progressed. Below you can see the illustration.

Pradier 1862

The next juggler that we know who performed the Unicorn Trick was Henri Agoust, another Frenchman. While he would go on to found the Agoust Troupe, the most famous of all Restaurant Juggling acts, he was originally a solo juggler and included the Horn and Rings Trick in his repertoire. The following illustration is also from the 1860s and shows Agoust performing the trick.

Henri Agoust

No references to the trick can be found for the next 80 years. Then Finnish juggler Edith Sandor (Edit Kleinbarth) performed the trick. You can see the horn and rings on her prop table in the photo below, from 1949.

Edith Sandor 1949

Edith’s horn and rings are now in the Museum of Juggling History. As you can see below, her rings are all the same size.

I decided to resurrect the Unicorn Trick for my Juggling History Show. You can see video of the trick below.

After seeing me perform the trick in the Juggling History Show, Michigan juggler Chuck Clark decided to add a version to his act, which you can see below. Note that Chuck used progressively smaller rings, similar to how Pradier did the act.

Thom Wall has used the trick as a warm up for street shows. You can see his props for it below. He doesn’t recommend using metal rings, but does note that it builds tension to see if he is going to get whacked in the head by the heavy ring.

Thom Walls’s Unicorn Trick props

Another current performer doing the trick is Gaspard (Jean-Pierre Rappenne). You can see a photo of him performing it below.

Gaspard

Note that the trick is done using what is sometimes known as a UFO throw – spinning the ring so that it stays parallel to the ground the entire time. Most jugglers probably assume that this type of throw is a fairly modern invention, but as you’ve seen, that is not the case.

The Unicorn Trick is fun, fairly easy to do, and has some built in comedy potential. I’m happy to reintroduce it to the world.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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