Letter: Not horned but tusked

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The Independent Online
Sir: In response to Andrew Graham-Dixon's article ('For sale, a piece of medieval magic', 7 June), I would like to dispel the myth furthered by the print of a narwhal showing the 'horn' emanating from the head above the animal's mouth. This was the normal way of fostering the concept of the unicorn of the sea, seen in an almost identical print by G. Kearsly, published in 1801, in which the term 'teeth' is clearly used, although two are considered rare.

The Latin name Monodon (monoceras) translates into single tooth, and correctly describes what is actually an elongated and articulating tooth extending generally from the lower left-hand side of the jaw, more normally referred to as a tusk.

For those of your readers fascinated by this little-known animal, there is a recently published book by F. Breummer devoted to the narwhal.

Yours sincerely,


Narwhal Inuit Art Gallery

London, W4

11 June

(Photograph omitted)