In the 1980s, a Man Surgically Turned Goats Into Unicorns

Andrei Tapalaga
Oberon Zell at the start of the 1980s with his first generation of unicornsPhoto byHistory of Yesterday

Unicorns are legendary creatures that do not exist and have never existed. Certain historians and other specialists in the field, however, would argue otherwise. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a number of professionals attempted to manufacture or, more accurately, grow unicorns, but only one man succeeded: Oberon Zell.

The existence of Unicorn Tapestries is supported by historical records dating back to roughly 1500 CE. These are the very definition of a Unicorn. They have long flowing manes, cloven hooves, elevated tufted tails, and little goatees.

The unicorn rose to prominence during the Middle Ages, but the Deluge occurred at least 6,000 years earlier. Although opinions on unicorns differ, one truth remains: there have been few depictions of unicorns throughout history, and even fewer fossils have been discovered to support their existence. Nonetheless, there are some possible explanations.

Regardless of their history and potential existence, how is this man who was so enthralled with unicorns that he created a surgical patent for generating unicorns?

Oberon Zell's story of making unicorns was widely publicized in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but has since been forgotten. The surgical process he developed was inspired by Dr. Franklin Dove, who also attempted to make unicorns at the time, although medicine was not as advanced.

Dr. W. Franklin Dove, a biologist at the University of Maine, published an article titled The Physiology of Horn Growth in the Journal of Experimental Zoology in January 1935, Volume 69, Number 3, in which he traced various previous attempts at developing a unicorn and documented his own efforts along those lines.

Dr. Dove also wrote an article titled: Artificial Production of the Fantastic Unicorn in the Science Monthly, dated May 1936, Issue 42; Pages 431-436, in which he tracked many attempts to cultivate unicorns, all of which failed.

All unicorns are supposed to have been formed by a surgical technique in which the horn buds of a newly-born animal are relocated from their typical spot to a central position on the front of the animal's skull, according to the surgical paten 4429685, Patented Feb. 7, 1984.

It is not often known that the horn buds are only connected to the epidermis during the first week of growth, with attachment to the skull commencing later. In other words, horns are the result of independent ossifications that fuse to the frontal bones of the head, rather than being outgrowths of the frontal bones of the skull.

To put it simply, goats have been utilized and surgically altered to grow a horn in the center highly of their skull, rather than the two horns that they normally grow. According to Zell's stories, many of the procedures have failed, but as we can see from the images, some have gone extremely successfully.

Zell wanted to show the world that unicorns do exist once his creation was a success, and he did so through a 4-year exhibition lease we arranged with the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus. His narrative was forgotten for many years. Because the patent expired in 2001, it is unlikely that any more unicorns will be developed.

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