The Top 5 Strangest Examples of Taxidermy

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Taxidermy is a unique blend of art and science. The latter comes into play with the chemicals, treatments and processes required to properly preserve the animal being prepared – or “mounted” – to ensure that it will not decompose. The artistic side of this more than slightly macabre practice comes in bringing a sense of life and vitality to the husk of a dead creature. The ideal example of taxidermy is one in which the prepared animal looks as though it is merely still, and not in fact stuffed. And then we get to these “exhibits”…

5 Roosevelt’s Elephant

There is nothing inherently strange about the group of lumbering yet regal elephants forever frozen in time in the Hall of African Mammals in New York’s Natural History Museum. Indeed, the eight pachyderms of the group are well preserved and dramatically mounted. The interesting thing about this group is that one of the elephants on display was shot dead by none other than President Theodore Roosevelt. To our knowledge, this represents the only example of public presidential taxidermy to be found.

4 The Martini Drinking Flying Monkey

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Ask yourself this simple question: What is better than an awful-faced, martini-drinking, winged stuffed monkey? The obvious answer is an awful-faced, martini-drinking, winged stuffed monkey wearing a fez! This odd, wonderful little creature comes from taxidermy impresario Sarina Brewer, who we think we can fairly say sees life from her very own perspective.

3 The Lion of Gripsholm Castle

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Never before has the fearsome king of the jungle been so lowered as he was by the taxidermy lion on display at Gripsholm Castle in Sweden. The story goes that the taxidermist charged with mounting the specimen had never seen a lion before, this being the mid-18th century. So he did the best he could with the pelt and bones he was given, and ended up creating a creature that looks like a cross between a lion, a Muppet and a smiling Gene Simmons.

2 Damien Hirst’s Shark

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OK, strap on your anti-pretension helmets. The name of one of artist Damien Hirst’s most famous works is “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.” It consists of a tiger shark, which has been completely gutted and stretched over an artificial shark mold, floating in a tank filled with formaldehyde. Perhaps the strangest thing about this piece of “art” is that it sold for such a high price that Hirst went on to make several other versions.

1 The Fiji Mermaid

Image Credit: Wikimedia

This strange “creature” made the rounds at many circus freak shows during the 19th century, the most famous examples being shown by none other than P.T. Barnum. The mermaid was actually the head, arms and torso of a young monkey with the tail of a fish stitched onto it. The sideshow hucksters claimed to be exhibiting a strange species caught in distant seas, but most people could tell it was just a damn monkey with a fish sewn onto its butt.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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