Fact Check

Is This 'Unicorn Puppy' Real?

We'll decide this one by flipping a coin: tails or ... tails?

Published Nov 14, 2019

A photograph shows a "unicorn puppy" with a tail growing from his forehead.

In mid-November 2019, a photograph supposedly showing a "unicorn puppy" named "Narwhal" with a small tail growing out of its head went viral on social media:

This photograph garnered plenty of ooo's and ahhh's from internet users marveling at this precious pup, but it also stirred questions: Mainly, is this a real photograph? And, if so, is this dog suffering from a dangerous medical condition?

This is indeed a genuine photograph of a real-life puppy named Narwhal. While this 10-week-old golden retriever truly has a small tail growing from its forehead, an X-ray showed that this superfluous tail doesn't appear to be connected to anything. Still, Narwhal's caretakers at Mac’s Mission for pets in Jackson, Missouri, are being cautious. The puppy won't be put up for adoption until they are sure "his unicorn horn is not going to have a growth spurt and become an issue.”

Mac's Mission focuses on "special needs" dogs who may need extra care due to abuse, injury, or birth defects. The Mission received Narwhal in early November after someone found him on the street. On Nov. 8, 2019, the group's Facebook page Mac the Pitbull posted an image of the new rescue:

NEW RESCUE!!! This puppy was just found along with another older dog. This puppy has a TAIL COMING OUT OF HIS FOREHEAD and a foot injury of some sort. We are thankful this baby and his buddy are safe from the freezing cold. We definitely specialize in special.

The Washington Post reported:

Narwhal exemplifies the rescue group’s philosophy that their charges are all the more lovable for their abnormalities, [Rochelle Steffen, who founded the group] said. She’s hopeful their “magical” dog’s splash of attention can do the same for other dogs in need.

“I am super excited for being the poster child for ‘special is awesome,’ ” says a post written in the voice of Narwhal on the Facebook page that propelled the unicorn puppy to fame.

Mac’s Mission took Narwhal in last weekend, Steffen said, after someone told her about the strange creature they’d found on the street. The rest of Narwhal’s litter quickly scattered, and staff are still trying to track them down.

“It’s snowed the last couple of days, so I’m nervous,” Steffen said. But Narwhal and an older dog whom they suspect may be his father are now safe.

The puppy, whom rescue workers believe to be about 10 weeks old, was quickly named after the whale with a single, large tusk that’s sometimes called the “unicorn of the sea.”

The group's Facebook page has posted several additional photographs and videos of Narwhal. The "unicorn" puppy has become a bit of an internet star and has drawn plenty of requests for adoption. Founder Rochelle Steffen said that while she doesn't believe the extra trail will cause any problems, the organization isn't quite ready to put Narwhal up for adoption. Here are a few more photographs the group has posted, including an X-ray of Narwhal's tail:

He was examined by our vet and had x-rays done and he does not believe there are any problems with leaving it there. As we learned with Bumble sometimes there are other genetic factors in cases like these so we are being super cautious and want to ensure he has everything he needs. We will do whatever is best for our little Narwhal.

Here's a video of Narwhal playing with a toy. More videos and photographs can be seen on the Mac The Pitbull Facebook page:


Knowles, Hannah.   "Meet Narwhal, the Rescued ‘Unicorn’ Puppy With a Tail on His Face."     The Washington Post.   13 November 2019.

Kiner, Deb.   "No, the Tail on the Head of the ‘Unicorn Puppy’ Does Not Wag."     Penn Live.   14 November 2019.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.