If you’ve ever met me, or read this blog before, then it should be utterly nsurprising to you that I am obsessed with taxidermy. There’s just something about taxidermied animals that is so fascinating to me – they’re very uncanny in the sense that a well-mounted specimen can appear to be incredibly lifelike. It’s kind of spooky, so obviously, because of who I am as a person, I love it. Now, of course, as with so many things that we tend to see in museums, there are ethical issues with taxidermy, because it requires the taxidermied animal to be dead which is obviously not super great for the animal.
BUT, that being said, I didn’t start this post to talk about the ethics of taxidermy (short version: killing animals [for the sole purpose of stuffing them and putting them on display] is bad), I started it because I wanted to share with you my FAVOURITE TAXIDERMY-RELATED THING: Bad taxidermy. I just spent the weekend in Banff, Alberta, where usually I would go hiking and do outdoorsy things, but since my husband’s leg is still in a cast, and I was also fairly sick with a wicked sore throat, we did indoor things instead, one of which was visiting the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site. This little museum is, apparently, Western Canada’s oldest natural history museum, and it’s essentially just a giant collection of taxidermied animals, collected in the late 19th & early 20th centuries by local naturalists and park wardens, and probably also the local dentist, hairdresser, B&B hostess, and various small children, because people had way more intense hobbies in the days before electricity was a thing.
Most of the collection is fantastic, both in terms of the artistry and the preservation. The oldest specimen on display is from 1860 and it still looks really good! I’m actually very interested in how they preserved their specimens at that time, so I will probably research it at some point for a future post, partly because I’m thinking of making Taxidermy Tuesday a (semi) regular occurence*, but also partly because there was a sign that said not to touch any of the specimens because the preservatives they used back then were toxic, which naturally piqued my interest. Now, I said most of the collection is fantastic because of the artistry and preservation, which is true; the remainder of the collection is also fantastic, but in a different way. To my undending disappointment, I am not a taxidermist myself, so I probably shouldn’t judge the work of others, but honestly, I am just really tickled by poorly taxidermied animals, those poor, unfortunate, eternally wonky beasts, so I’m going to share them with you:
So, you could make a reasonable argument here that taxidermy-ing small animals is difficult, and it’s probably tough to get their faces straight, which is probably true! So then what was going on with this bear, I wonder?
And what about this guy??
Just kidding, that’s King Frederick I of Sweden’s lion, mounted by his taxidermist who had only ever seen drawings of lions because it was 1730, so he just tried to figure it out fom the skin and bones, with zoologically improbable results.
*This unfortunate lion is my favourite piece of awful taxidermy, but if you have a favourite, or you just come across some terrible taxidermy in the wild, send it to me on Twitter @Mumbleduck, and maybe if I collect enough I’ll make it a regular feature!