Unicorn Deer found in Italy

on June 14, 2008

A unicorn has been spotted in Italy—“fantasy becoming reality,” says one scientist. So what is the reality?

Seen in an Italian nature preserve, the one-horned deer is literally a “unicorn” (which merely means “one horn”). “This is fantasy becoming reality,” said Gilberto Tozzi, director of the (Italian) Center of Natural Sciences.

The deer ... is believed to have a genetic flaw, although its twin has two horns.

The deer, which was born a year ago in captivity, is believed to have a genetic flaw, although its twin has two horns. Deer missing a horn are “rare but not unheard of,” reports AP, but the positioning of this deer’s single horn in the center of its head is what is notable.

Tozzi added. “This shows that even in past times, there could have been animals with this anomaly. It’s not like [historical figures who wrote about unicorns] dreamed it up.”

Since the Bible mentions unicorns in a few passages (Deuteronomy 33:17; Numbers 23:22, 24:8; Psalm 22:21, 29:6, 92:10; Isaiah 34:7), some may wonder if such uni-horned deer were the “unicorns” of old. That would certainly be possible and may explain the images of unicorns in historic artwork. Like the fire-breathing dragons clearly based on—but also a stretch from—real dinosaurs, perhaps the horse-and-narwhal-like unicorns were based on rare sightings of deer, goats, oryx, or other four-legged animals with similar single, central horn mutations.

The other hypothesis, which seems equally plausible, is that the unicorn refers to the rhinoceros. After all, “unicorn” (as mentioned above) simply means “one horn,” and the rhinoceros is the only known animal to normally have one horn. The rhinoceros would also fit in the Bible passages that mention unicorns without any inconsistencies.

We will likely never know exactly what the historical basis for the unicorn was, but we do know that it’s not an outright “myth”; it has a real origin in real animals. While skeptics enjoy poking fun at “unicorn-believing” creationists (there is a “Unicorn Museum” website that is a satire of our Creation Museum, for instance), it’s actually the skeptics who seem to be standing in the way of the evidence.

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