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Main | Botched Nature »

Walter Potter's Botched Animals

Although the English taxidermist Walter Potter (1835 - 1918) has become famous for his anthropomorphic taxidermy - kittens drinking tea, fencing squirrels, his Museum of Curiosities also contained numerous monstrous births such as those displayed below. The animals were donated by local farmers.  Some died shortly after birth; some lived for several years, dying of causes unrelated to their deformities.

image: the chicken (on the right) was apparently full grown and was known to have laid several eggs. It was reared by Mr. S. Earl, a butcher who lived in Steyning in 1908, and unfortunately died after entangling itself in wire netting. It was presented to the museum in 1909. The duckling (on the left) had four legs, four wings, two tails and three eyes.

image: the lamb had four eyes, two noses, and two mouth but only two ears. It was born on Beeding Downs, and brought to Walter Potter by Mr. Bailey, the shepherd.


image: the kitten had four eyes and two mouths. It was born at Broadwater, Worthing and lived for several days.

Potter's museum also contained a duck with four legs that lived for thirteen years at Portslade-by-Sea. During its life it appeared to have three legs and four feet, but when it was preserved, it was discovered the duck had four distinct legs and feet. It laid one small egg during its life. Potter also preserved another duck with three legs which was reared at Thames Haven, Essex. As a duckling it had run of the owner's garden since it was slow moving and ostracised by the rest of the ducks. It was killed by a hailstone when it was about a year old, and as far as known, it laid no eggs during its life. Potter's museum also contained a stuffed young pig with three legs, two pigs joined like Siamese twins down the length of their bodies, and several other kittens with various extra parts.

The information on Potter's monstrous births was taken from the 8th ediction of the Guide Book and History of Potter's Museum and Exhibition from about 1958 while the museum was still housed in Bramber, Sussex. Read more on Potter. If you have any further information about these creatures or know about the whereabouts of either the original postcards or the creatures themselves - please contact me!

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