'Unicorn' found in — where else? — Italy


5-year-old girls, your wildest dreams have come true: Yes, Virgina, there is such a thing as a unicorn.

Sort of.

The much-ballyhooed "unicorn" making its way around the interwebs is actually a Roe deer with a single horn protruding from the center of its head. Interesting, to be sure, but not quite the fabled one-horned horse with a billy-goat's beard, a lion's tail, and cloven hooves that can only be tamed by virgins. The 1-year-old deer was born in captivity on a nature preserve in Prato, Italy; scientists think his single, centered horn is a genetic abnormality since his twin brother developed two normal horns.

Since being spotted Wednesday, the deer hasn't exhibited any of the unicorn's magical healing powers as of yet. But that hasn't stopped the Italian scientists from fulminating about the contributions this discovery makes to unicorn science and history.

"This is fantasy becoming reality," Gilberto Tozzi, director of the Center of Natural Sciences in Prato, told The Associated Press. "The unicorn has always been a mythological animal."

"This shows that even in past times, there could have been animals with this anomaly," he said by telephone. "It's not like they dreamed it up."

Um, I hate to break the news to you, Gil, but the unicorn still is a mythological animal, and ancient naturalists did dream it up. Granted, they had plenty of inspirations, including narwhals, antelopes, and even rhinoceroses, which duped Marco Polo in Java.

The Italian scientists decided to give the unicorn-deer the apt name "Unicorn." We'll keep following the story, just in case Unicorn the unicorn proves us all wrong and starts healing the sick or laying down at the feet of virgins.

— Ted Alvarez

Single-horned 'uncorn' deer is found in Italy (AP)