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    Auction Finds

    A $3,750 giraffe head/neck & a whole lot more

    There was something a bit discomforting about the giant animal carcasses grouped together in a far corner of the auction house. I was used to seeing smaller animals mounted on the walls waiting to be auctioned. But these were your bigger species: water buffalo, moose, giraffe, elk.

    I still can’t get over this strange allure of mounted animals, but like most everyone else, I was immediately drawn to them. Every time I looked in their direction, someone was always around, looking them over. “All of this stuff is nice,” I heard one male auction-goer say to another. That’s not exactly the way I’d describe them.

    Later, a man accompanied by a female auction-goer was trying to figure out the best way to show off a display of whitetail deer fawns in a contrived natural setting inside a wooden cabinet. “Isn’t that beautiful,” he said, bending a little to take a closer look. “You can raise it up.” His companion was admiring the heads on the wall. “I have nowhere to put those things. They’re so big,” she said.

    Mounted African Cape buffalo.

    A mounted African Cape buffalo on wooden stand.

    I have written about mounted animals a couple times, because every now and then they have appeared mounted on auction walls and placed on auction tables as decorative wares. Taxidermy is considered an art and its practitioners, artisans. They don’t stuff animals, as I always thought they did, they mount them.

    Roy Rogers’ Trigger was mounted after the horse died in 1965. A plaster replica was made of the animal and its hide stretched over it. In other cases, an animal’s tissue is recreated with man-made materials and its original hide provides the covering, while some mounted animals are composed wholly of man-made materials.

    I assumed that these animals at auction had been part of someone’s collection. The owner had preserved them in all kinds of ways – as heads for mounting on a wall, full bodies or specimens for standing on the floor, and figurines for setting on a table. In another room, I found several animals as full figures, including an Alaskan gray wolf, an albino fawn and what the auction house described as a “rare Australian black possum.”

    mounted animal heads

    An array of animal heads, from elk to caribou to deer, hung on the wall at the auction house. Tucked near them is an advertising tin for a Twinkle soft drink.

    The most unnerving were the table-top items, which consisted of hoofs fashioned into footstools, lamps, an umbrella stand and a tantalus (a rack with crystal decanters to hold liquor). Giraffe hoofs had been made into ashtrays and table lamps. A caribou hoof table lamp even sported a shade with the figure of the animal. Drained African ostrich eggs had been painted with designs of giraffes, and stylized African hunter and antelope.

    Here are photos of some of the items that sold, with prices ranging from $50 to $3,750:

    Hoof lamps, ashtray, ostrich eggs


    Photo at left: a pair of giraffe hoof table lamps (sold for $225), a caribou hoof table lamp with blue shade ($60), giraffe hoof ashtrays ($225), Amazon parrot ($225) and ostrich eggs ($150). Photo at right, deer hoofs table lamp ($100).

     

    Elephant hoof stands

    Left photo, an elephant hoof umbrella stand ($350). Center photo: Elephant footstool with zebra skin seat ($325) and deer hoof stool with fringe leather top ($100). Left photo: elephant foot tantalus with green bottles ($600).

     

    mounted giraffe and sheep

    An up-close look at the face of a giraffe with head and neck on a base ($1,600). A 10-foot-5-inch African bull giraffe head and neck sold for $3,750. At left, the face of a Bighorn Stone sheep ($700).

     

    Australian black possum

    At left, a “rare” Australian black possum ($425). Center: albino whitetail deer fawn ($250). Right: Alaskan gray wolf ($325).

     

    white tail deer fawns in cabinet

    Four whitetail deer fawns in a natural setting in a wooden furniture case that lights up. It is signed by the artist, and the buyer needs a permit to own it, according to the description ($500).

     

    mounted buffalo

    A full view of the African Cape buffalo on its wooden cabinet base with zebra-skin panels ($550).

     

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