'Unicorn' deer found in Italy

A deer with a single horn in the centre of its head like the mythical unicorn has been spotted in an Italian nature reserve.

The one-year-old Roe Deer was born in captivity in a research centre’s park in the Tuscan town of Prato, near Florence. He is believed to have been born with a genetic flaw; his twin has two horns.

“This is fantasy becoming reality,” Gilberto Tozzi, director of the Centre of Natural Sciences said.

Mr Tozzi said similar anomalies among deer may have inspired the myth of the unicorn.

The unicorn, a horse-like creature with magical healing powers, has appeared in legends and stories throughout history, from ancient and medieval texts to the adventures of Harry Potter.

“This shows that even in past times, there could have been animals with this anomaly,” said Mr Tozzi. “It’s not like they dreamed it up.”

Single-horned deer are rare but not unheard of – but even more unusual is the central positioning of the horn, experts said.

“Generally, the horn is on one side rather than being at the centre. This looks like a complex case,” said Fulvio Fraticelli, scientific director of Rome’s zoo. He said the position of the horn could also be the result of a trauma early in the animal’s life.

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