June 12, 2008—A young deer nicknamed "Unicorn" is drawing hundreds of curious visitors to a nature preserve in Tuscany, park officials say.
The year-old roe deer was born in captivity with an apparent genetic flaw that gave it a single horn in the center of its head, said Gilberto Tozzi, director of the Center of Natural Sciences in Prato, northwest of Florence (see map).
The deer's twin, by contrast, has two horns.
People are now flocking to the nature preserve hoping to see the rare deer and take its picture. In the past few days about 200 visitors have made the pilgrimage to the 2.5-acre (1-hectare) preserve, Tozzi said.
"We have received so many calls from people, and many are coming to see it," he said. "Sometimes he comes close to the fence, even if he is very shy."
Single-horned deer are rare but not unheard of, although experts say the central positioning of Unicorn's antler is unusual. Tozzi speculated that similar anomalies in the past might have inspired the myth of the unicorn.
The 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.
—Marta Falconi in Rome, Associated Press
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