The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips: Taxidermy

Stuffed and mounted animals may have their place in museums, but they're kind of creepy

By Gerald E. McLeod, September 2, 2016, Columns

Taxidermy may be a scientific art form, but to me there's something creepy about looking into the glassy eyes of the eternally still animal.

That doesn't mean that I don't see the value of an opportunity to appreciate creatures up close that I might never meet without zoo bars. After all, conservationists such as Theodore Roosevelt and John J. Audubon were noted taxidermists. Natural history museums around the world display mounted animals, and so do small museums around Texas.

A large taxidermy collection resides at the Longhorn Museum in the small town of Pleasanton. Collected by a local rancher, there is an entire room dedicated to stuffed bears, moose, elk, primates, and even a longhorn. Another longhorn forever on display is "Geronimo" encased in a glass box on the Live Oak County Courthouse lawn in George West.

Near the ornate ball gowns housed in the Willacy County Historical Museum in Raymondville is a small collection of animals. Looking a bit out of place among the stuffed caribou and ducks is the head and neck of a giraffe. No explanation was available for how the display arrived at the museum.

The prize for most unusual preserved animals has to go to the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera. Along with a menagerie of items collected by John Marvin Hunter, the former owner of Frontier Times magazine, is a stuffed two-headed lamb and a shrunken human head. Now that really creeps me out.

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