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The Narwhal

Updated on September 11, 2014

Monodon Monoceros or The Narwhal

I remember seeing this huge unicorn horn in a museum, when I was a kid. It was about 9 ft long with beautiful spiraled grooves and was really the tusk of a narwhal.

It didn't ruin the illusion finding out it wasn't a unicorn horn, after all a whale with a horn is pretty special too.

I became interested in narwhals after finding an illustration of a unicorn and some narwhals that I wanted to use as a prompt for a piece of fiction. I thought I'd better do a little Narwhal research in case the beasties became more integral to my story.

A Whale By Any Other Name...

The word Narwhal apparently means "corpse whale" in old Norse.

Nice! I wonder why they chose that name?

Maybe the Narwhal glides through the water like a silent wraith. Perhaps the Vikings thought they'd be mince meat if they fell into the water amidst those long spiraling horns. Perhaps it's because they killed so many of them for their "unicorn horns". Perhaps it's the narwhal's pale coloring that inspires the name.

The "official" name for the Narwhal is Monodon monoceros which translates as "one tooth, one horn". Although to get technical, the Narwhal have two teeth and in the males (very very rarely in the females) one of those teeth will burst through the narwhal's face and become a long spiraling horn.

What's the horn for?

Well read on and you just might find out!

Are narwhals the source of the legend behind unicorns?

Maybe.

Although recently I've seen images of animals, like deer, with only one horn.

Off the Wall Toys Narwhalicorn 5" Bendable Action Figure Toy
Off the Wall Toys Narwhalicorn 5" Bendable Action Figure Toy

I'm not sure what was going through the mind of the person who created this but if you love both unicorns and narwhals and weren't sure how you could combine those 2 loves into one item then this may be the toy for you!

 

Which Horned Animal is the Best?

See results

Amongst their many other crimes, Vikings used to sell Narwhal tusks to other Europeans, telling them that they were actually unicorn horns.

Narwhal tusks sold for many times their weight in gold because of the Vikings' silver tongues!

Narwhal Size Comparison

Narwhal size by Chris huh
Narwhal size by Chris huh | Source

As you can see above Narwhals' bodies are approximately two Vikings long.

They usually grow up to about 13 to 20 ft ( that's 4 to 6.1 m for all you metric users) and weigh around 3,500 lbs (1,600 kg).

They're one of the smaller whales and are more closely related to bottle-nose dolphins, belugas, porpoises, and orcas rather than your enormous blue whales.

Three Narwhals I Drew From Life... Honest

Source
The Mountain Narwals Adult T-shirt Blue Medium
The Mountain Narwals Adult T-shirt Blue Medium

Had enough of the Three Wolf Moon t-shirt? Why not get the Narwhal alternative?

This t-shirt sports 4 glorious narwhals and is made out of 100% cotton.

P.S. The reviews on this t-shirt are pretty funny.

 

The Narwhal's Tooth

The Narwhal's horn is actually a tooth which protrudes out of the face, near the mouth, not coming out of the top of his head like a rhino's horn (or the traditional idea of a unicorn).

Narwhals actually have two teeth but only one of them usually grows into a horn, however check out the two teeth below which have both had the opportunity to grow out fully. Check out the length of those horns in comparison to the size of the narwhal's skull!

But what is it for and why has it grown so long?

Well, narwhals aren't expert fencers, although they do occasionally cross swords.

If I ask you to drink a hot drink and then have an ice cream straight afterwards some of you will shudder in horror! That's because teeth are sensitive! Some believe that the narwhal uses its sensitive tooth to detect changes in its environment.

A Double-Horned Narwhal Skull

Narwalschaedel by Nordelch
Narwalschaedel by Nordelch | Source

Want to find a Narwhal?

Well you're going to have to go North.

Narwhals can be found in Arctic coastal waters and rivers. Try looking in the Atlantic and Russian bits of the Arctic.

Maybe you will see one in the north of the Hudson Bay area, the Hudson straight and Baffin Bay.

Perhaps you'll find one of these aquatic unicorns off the east coast of Greenland and between the northern end of Greenland and the east of Russia.

The best places to look are in the fjords and inlets of Norther Canada and western Greenland.

Good luck!

Inuit Legend

According to Inuit legend Narwhals didn't have horns (or tusks) until a woman was dragged into the ocean by a narwhal she'd harpooned.

She turned into a narwhal herself and her long twist of hair became the spiralled horn of the Narwhal.

Tasty!

I don't know about you, but I couldn't eat a whole one.

The Inuit people are legally allowed to hunt narwhals, which is good because they're an important source of vitamin c.

Yummy!

Narwhals are also hunted by polar bears and Killer Whales (Orcas) and walruses!

Although narwhals aren't endangered yet they're considered to be one of the animals most likely to perish during climate change. I imagine this is because they spend all year in colder waters, and their winters under dense ice, using their tusks to break through.

But what do Narwhals eat?

Narwhals eat squid, shrimp, fish (like cod and halibut) and sometimes the occasional rock finds its way into their stomach - maybe that is the Narwhal equivalent on having a balloon fitted!

Share Your Thoughts - Reader Feedback.

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    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Just returning to add a little angel blessing and to let you know that this lens has been added to my animal alphabet lens.

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 

      7 years ago

      Ok, we don't really have a narwhal fetish (seriously) but now we found something else.

      Go here: http://cheeseblarg.blogspot.com/ and scroll down to the May 19th entry.

      Pure awesomeness.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @LabKittyDesign: Aww! Thannks :)

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 

      7 years ago

      Hi Rachel - stumbled across this the other day, thought it should go here:

      http://i.imgur.com/riRWH.jpg

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @ChrisDay LM: Thanks :)

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      7 years ago

      Lovely lens

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @WildFacesGallery: Thanks so much for visiting :D

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 

      7 years ago from Iowa

      What fun. I too am fascinated by Narwhals and more so by unicorns. (there's a surprise eh?) I learned a bunch of goodies about the mystery creatures here. Very nicely done. :)

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @Board-Game-Brooke: Thank you :D

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      7 years ago from US/TN

      Cool lens! Blessed.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @LabKittyDesign: Indeed! Thanks for visiting :D

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 

      7 years ago

      Heh heh - Lowdown on the the Narwhal.

      Unicorn: La, la-la, la-la.

      DRAGON!

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @daoine lm: Thanks for visiting! :D

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 

      7 years ago

      I have heard that unicorns are sometimes compared to narwhals but never really knew what a narwhal was...very interesting lens!

    • daoine lm profile image

      daoine lm 

      7 years ago

      What fascinating creatures! I had heard of narwhals but I didn't know that the horn was really a tooth.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @awakeningwellness: Thanks for visiting :D

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @awakeningwellness: Thanks for visiting :D

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @LizMac60: Thanks :D

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great stuff, very interesting.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @RebeccaE: Thank you :D

    • profile image

      RebeccaE 

      7 years ago

      this is a gift of a lens, and was a wonderful pelasure to read, keep it coming... Love the Inuit legend.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @toriphile81: Thanks for visiting! :D Glad you enjoyed it!

    • toriphile81 profile image

      toriphile81 

      7 years ago

      What a fun lense! Lots of great information and LOVED the videos, some were quite hilarious!

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      @GonnaFly: I did too! Thank you for visiting :)

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 

      8 years ago from Australia

      Excellent lens. I didn't realise that the horn was really a tooth. I thought it was like the rhino's horn.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      @LisaMarieGabriel: Me too! THanks for visiting, sorry for the later reply :)

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      @Addy Bell: Thanks :D Sorry for the late reply!

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      @MikLint: Thanks :D

    • profile image

      MikLint 

      8 years ago

      I had never heard of the Narwhal. Very interesting lens and beautiful artwork!

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 

      8 years ago

      LOVE IT. Especially your film. I'll be featuring this on my lens on narwhals when I get it published.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Super lens. I still want to believe in Unicorns, but narwhals are fascinating creatures 5*

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