Stuffed Dogs

intro.gif   No animal comes close to challenging dogs for the title of quintessential pet.  As man’s best

A Victorian stuffed spaniel puppy.
Image from Top Hat Taxidermy

friend and working companion, dogs are thoroughly entwined with human history.  They have accompanied us on hunts, defended our territory, herded our cattle and sheep, and, more recently, squeezed into our city apartments and Gucci handbags.  But this love affair with dogs is hardly surprising since, quite simply, dogs would not exist without our creative influence in their breeding.  Perhaps the most genetically malleable creatures on earth, dogs, unlike parrots or monkeys or even cats, have been tailored-made to fulfill our every desire.  You want a fast dog, a waddling dog, a spotty dog, a dog with a flat snout or feathery ears, a dog to fit in a teacup, a (god forbid) hypoallergenic dog?  No problem.  Dogs are our perfect companions because we made them that way.






Doggie Heaven?

I have to thank my friend Morgan Mavis of the Contemporary Zoological Conservancy for this one.  Take a peak at these dogs!  The collection of 51 stuffed dogs are at the Castle Bitov in the Czech Republic.

The castle’s last owner, the ever-so-slightly eccentric Baron Georg Haas, was an animal lover – to say the least. He was the proud owner of thousands of animals – including a lioness called Mietzi-Mausi, with whom it is said he enjoyed sharing lunch every day.

But his favourite style of four-legged friend was the humble canine, and he eventually had more than 200 in the castle grounds. It means the castle might well have been the hardest building to sneak into in the 1940s – certainly the hardest to walk around without looking down.

Read more online at the Daily Mail:


Whisky the one and only

The BBC has a fascinating project called The History of the World told in 100 objects.  Now, Whisky isn't one of those 100 superlatively fascinatingly locquacious things, but you can find him on the project's website.  He is from the Abergavenny Museum in Wales. 

The Abergavenny Museum is committed to collecting objects of local significance and preserving them for future generations. Whisky the Turnspit dog.  This is the only example of an extinct breed. Dogs like Whiskey were used to turn the spits in the kitchens of big houses. Whiskey came from a house in Skenfrith.


Where's Chloe?

Ok ... more old stuff.  I've just come across this piece from 1994 by Nina Katchadourian.  As you can see, it involves a stuffed lapdog on a pillow, but the story of the piece is what counts.

"A group of artists were invited to make sited works at the San Diego Museum of Natural History as part of inSITE '94. I kept coming back to the animal dioramas as my primary point of interest, because they seemed so full of paradoxes: the animals were shown "in the natural habitat," but the viewer always came unnaturally close to them; they were made of their real skins, but at the same time, they seemed dead and artificial. To me, pets have always presented interesting questions around the natural and the unnatural, I found myself wondering if people ever preserved domestic animals this way. It turned out that people did, and I found a taxidermist in the San Diego area who sometimes stuffed people's pets. Through her, I arranged to borrow Chloe, a Papillion lap dog, who belonged from an older woman who lived in Palm Springs (Chloe was at the taxidermist's for some cleaning and touch up). I interviewed Chloe's owner on the phone about Chloe's natural habitat: a house with a cream-colored carpet, a special pillow, and a peach-colored towel that Chloe slept on. I proposed setting up Chloe in the same manner as the other animals in the Natural History Museum: presented in a vitrine, with signage indicating Latin name, habitat, etc. The museum, however, refused to exhibit the piece, stating that it was offensive, and that people would find the situation confusing and that children might get upset. I pointed out that Chloe was genetically very much like the Coyote who lived in a nearby diorama, and that the Coyote didn't seem to upset or confuse anyone too much, but to no avail. The piece was booted out of the show. I was allowed to place the vitrine in the museum, sans, Chloe, and Chloe was displayed at a local gallery instead with the anecdote of how she came to be there."

And here's the picture of the display sans Chloe -- the vitrine in the middle with a bio on the pillow rather than Chloe. For more visit:


Dog Collection at Tring

A collection of dog breeds first made for the Natural History Museum, London in the early decades of the twentieth century and moved to Tring Museum in Hertfordshire in 1968. Some of the dog date back a hundred years. The 'stars' of the collection are three famous greyhounds displayed on the top shelves in the image above: Fullerton, Mick the Miller, and Ballyregan Bob.

The collection was established by English zoologist R. Lydekker.  He obtained dogs from many of the top breeders of his day and together the collection represents a unique display of taxidermied domesticated species and the ways animals are intimately bound with human social history.  It must always be remembered that dogs are not naturally occurring - they have been selectively bred to achieve desired qualities in shape, size, ability, and aptitude. Despite the stunning variety of dogs, from tea-cup poodles to bull mastiffs, from a whippet’s speed to a bloodhound’s nose, all dogs belong to the one species, Canis familiaris, they can all interbred, and are believed to be all descended from a single species: the Asian grey wolf.  In short, what is on display at Tring is our human ability to mould and engineer parts of nature so successfully that all traces of human interference become transparent – the ultimate achievement of any creator.

Image of a Russian Lap Dog (right) and Mexican Lap Dog (left). The Mexican Lap dog was acquired by the British Museum in 1843, making it one of the oldest dogs in the collection.

A Papillon named Wendy. She was born on October 15th, 1942 and died in 1954.

 A Black and Tan Spaniel named Nina Advocate. Died in 1980.

If you're interested in knowing more about this strange and unique collection, a fascinating history was published in 1988, Dogs of the Last Hundred Yeras at the British Museum (Natural History),researched and written by Kim Dennis-Bryan and Juliet Clutton-Brock.  The book includes images of nearly every dog, a brief history of the breed, and often the pedigree record of the animal on display. Click BOOKS TO BUY to purchase a copy.  All images from the Natural History Museum, London's picture library:



Dogs in Space

The first creature to be lauched into space in spaceship Sputnik 2 was Laika (Barker in Russian), a stray Siberian husky nicknamed Muttnik by the American media.  Two Russian dogs had previously achieved sub-orbital flight, but Laika was the first earthly creature to go into orbit and prove that life was indeed sustainable outside our atmosphere if, that is, various life-support systems are in place. Sadly, the batteries of Laika's system ran out a few days into her journey. 

Strelka_spacedog.jpgMore Russian spacedogs followed Laika including Strelka and Belka whose bodies are preserved at the Memorial Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. Sputnik 5, was launched on August 19, 1960. On board were the dogs Belka ( Russian for Squirrel) and Strelka (Russian for Little Arrow). Also on board were a grey rabbit, 40 mice, 2 rats, flies and a number of plants and fungi.  After a day in orbit, the spacecraft's retrorocket was fired and the landing capsule returned to earth with all passengers alive and well. Strelka went on to have six puppies, one of whom named Pushinka (Fluffy), was sent to President John F. Kennedy's child Caroline by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev as a present. Pushinka's descendants are still living today.

Other interesting facts include Strelka and Belka's stuffed world tour.  The image above shows Strelka in Australia in 1991.  As a friend remarked: "Posthumous fame is one thing, but posthumous touring..."

for more information on dogs, monkeys and oher animals in space: