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Narwhal puppy doesn’t have an extra tail, University of Idaho professor says

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 14, 2019

Mac’s Mission animal rescue founder Rochelle Steffen holds a 10-week-old golden retriever puppy with a small tail growing between his eyes, dubbed “Narwhal”  in Jackson, Mo. (Tyler Graef / Southeast Missourian)
Mac’s Mission animal rescue founder Rochelle Steffen holds a 10-week-old golden retriever puppy with a small tail growing between his eyes, dubbed “Narwhal” in Jackson, Mo. (Tyler Graef / Southeast Missourian)

Fanciful descriptions of “Narwhal the Little Magical Furry Unicorn” – the puppy that appears to have a tail growing from his forehead – are all over social media. But a University of Idaho professor is here to set the record straight: That’s not a tusk, horn or tail.

“I did look at one article and the picture of that puppy and the picture of the X-ray of that puppy and so not to be kind of a downer, but it’s really not a tail, per se,” said Matt Powell, University of Idaho Animal and Veterinary Science associate professor. “A tail specifically is an appendage that has both bone and muscle in it and extends past the bottom end of the spine.”

On Tuesday, Narwhal was brought into Mac’s Mission – a Jackson, Missouri, animal rescue specializing in special needs dogs – and his pictures have gone viral due to his unique appearance, People magazine reported.

Powell said Narwhal’s abnormality is almost certainly a skin tag, albeit an unusual one. Skin tags, which are benign growths, are fairly common for dogs – especially older dogs – but they don’t normally have hair. The skin tag being directly in the middle instead of off to the left or right also is bizarre, as well as its larger size.

Cariann Turbeville, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine clinical assistant professor, said in her 20 years in practice, she’s only seen one abnormality as severe as Narwhal’s.

“As a fetus forms, there are millions of opportunities for mistakes to occur along the way,” Turbeville said. “I’d say most of those mistakes that happen either are so severe that they’re deadly and that a miscarriage occurs, or they’re so minor that you can’t even see them and it doesn’t affect the animal or person at all.”

Turbeville works at Community Practice, a private practice located on WSU’s campus. The practice is a rotation for fourth-year WSU veterinary students. Ten years ago, Turbeville saw a cat with a fifth, nonfunctional leg. The practice had to remove the leg because it was in the way of the cat’s mobility.

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