Unicorn Deer Born

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 11th, 2008

unicorn one

This undated photo provided by the Center of Natural Sciences in Prato, Italy, Wednesday, June 11, 2008, shows a deer with a single “horn” (really an antler) in the center of its head. The one-year-old Roe Deer – nicknamed “Unicorn” – was born in captivity in the research center’s park in the Tuscan town of Prato, near Florence, Gilberto Tozzi, director of the Center of Natural Sciences, said. He is believed to have been born with a genetic flaw; his twin has two antlers. (AP Photo/Center of Natural Sciences)

For more on this breaking story, see here and here.

unicorn b

Thanks to Jacob Covey and Aztec Raptor for the, well, heads up on this one!

This apparently is an European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), which have antlers.

Antlers vs Horns

Antlers are made of bone
Antlers grow each year and then fall off.
Moose, elk, and deer have antlers.
Horns are not bone.
Horns don’t fall off each year.
Bison, sheep, goats, and cows have horns.

~ John Wiessinger, 2001.

BTW, antelopes have horns, as do rhinos.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

17 Responses to “Unicorn Deer Born”

  1. jodzilla responds:


  2. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    Very cool. It makes me wonder if the mythical unicorn was based on a similar instance long ago.

  3. gavinfundyk responds:

    AWESOME. This is the type of story that can go a long way in showing that old (and new) sightings of strange animals shouldn’t immediately be chalked up to made up stories. If persons over the centuries had seen deer with a strange trait such as this one, and they were exceedingly rare, the unicorn legends make a lot of sense.

    I’m not talking about magic powers and flying horses, but it seems logical that this deer is not the first one in the history of man to have a single antler in the middle of its head.

    Though I doubt it, maybe some scientists, naturalists, etc. will listen more closely when someone sees an animal out of the ordinary.

  4. HulkSmashNow responds:

    I remember as a kid, over twenty years ago, when Barnum & Bailey’s Circus were displaying a one-horned goat as a “unicorn” for a while.

  5. Ceroill responds:

    That goat was specially ‘modified’ to be that way, it wasn’t a natural occurrance.

  6. Munnin responds:

    Very interesting. This reminds me of my friend Oberon Zell (author of A Wizard’s Bestiary), and his “Living Unicorns,” one of which was exhibited by Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey circus. These were goats whose horn buds had been transplanted at a very young age, resulting in a single, centrally located horn. That’s a bit different from this instance, but I can’t help thinking of them when I see it.

  7. Munnin responds:

    Doh! How could I have missed the two other comments about the “Living Unicorns.!? Both correct. I gotta get my prescription for eyeglasses re-checked.

  8. MattBille responds:

    In addition to the goats, a domestic bull had this operation done some time ago. Despite rumor and myth, though, I’m not aware of other reliable wild-born reports. I don’t see anything in Burton.

  9. mystery_man responds:

    I think a lot of mythical creatures or even cryptid sightings may have had their start in some sort of genetic flaw such as this or giganticism, strange morphs and color variations, etc. Although through the ages myths and folklore, as well as witness misrepresentation, ignorance, or awe can add a lot of extra details such as incredible characteristics and magical powers to the mix, at the root it’s possible we still have an animal that was out of the ordinary in some way. I don’t even think it would be completely necessary for the genetic abnormality to be widespread or very often seen, just enough to let human curiosity and imagination take hold. Considering that in some societies there are real, known animals that are attributed with characteristics as fantastic as any mythical animal, I don’t think it too far fetched that there are some actual animals behind some of the stories of strange or legendary beasts.

  10. Vigus responds:

    I’m guessing Oberon Zell is a relation to Timothy G. Zell, inventor of Patent No. 4429685? I felt a little weirded out when I first came across this patent to make your own unicorn.

  11. springheeledjack responds:

    And the horse doesn’t have a history of antlers, at least not that I am aware of. But then again, the fossil record is far from complete.

  12. Ceroill responds:

    As I seem to recall, the earliest reports of ‘unicorns’ referred to them as either a kind of wild ass or deer, but with the single horn. The medieval image of the pure white horse with a goat’s beard, deer’s legs with cloven hooves, and the straight spiral horn was created much later. In part it is thought, to match up with the ‘unicorn horns’ being sold that were in truth narwhal tusks.

    Also the earlier versions were reputed to be very fierce and dangerous, rather than pure and virtuous and whatnot.

    One of the most common suppositions is that the original reports were from someone who had seen an Oryx in profile. (I may have that species wrong)

    Of course it’s always possible there was/is some incredibly rare/wily cryptid that more closely matches the early descriptions.

  13. Maine Crypto responds:

    This is great! It makes me think of the cave painting in France. That “Unicorn” looked less like a horse and more like a relative of the deer family…. it really makes me wonder where the legends all came from.

  14. cryptidsrus responds:

    Very nice. Glad to see wonder still in the world…

  15. sschaper responds:

    Neat! Is that antler spiraled? It looks like it on my monitor.
    I think we’d want to be sure that this wasn’t ‘engineered’ surgically.

    Humans are imaginative, so there is that element to mythical bestiaries. But I can also see how we humans, who once had more variation, could come up with tales of little people (the Floresians), dwarfs (Neandertals) elves (moderns as seen by the Neandertals), giants (which do occur occasionally, or even moderns as seen by the Floresians) and so forth. Griffins have been identified as deduced from ceratopsian fossils along the Silk Road, cyclops from mammoth skulls, and so on.

    Add imagination and you get the mythical bestiaries and tales.

  16. Munnin responds:

    Vigus responds:
    June 11th, 2008 at 11:01 pm
    I’m guessing Oberon Zell is a relation to Timothy G. Zell, inventor of Patent No. 4429685?

    One and the same.

  17. Aztec Raptor responds:

    It was an Amazing thing to see on the discovey channel web site.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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