(page 3)

Skin Specimens:

    The 5th revision of the ITSD (2013) notes that there are 78 thylacine skins preserved in 21 institutional and 4 private collections.  Of this total, 50 are complete and 28 incomplete, missing either the head, limbs, or tail.  There are 64 adult, 12 juvenile, and 2 pouch young skins, of which 38 [49%] are sexed (20 M & 18 F).

    Skins, excluding those used in taxidermy, are traditionally prepared and stored in one of three ways; flat, rolled, or partially stuffed as study skins.

Rolled skin CZM A6 7.13. Courtesy: Cambridge University Zoological Museum. Study skin C5745. Courtesy: Museum Victoria. Flat skin USNM 155408. Courtesy: Smithsonian Institute.  Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013).  Place your pointer over the above thumbnails to view the full size images.
    The largest single collection of thylacine skins in any institution are those of Museum Victoria in Melbourne, with a total of 14.  Other significant collections with 5 or more skins are: the British Museum of Natural History (London), the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC), Cambridge University Zoological Museum, the Australian Museum (Sydney) and the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (Hobart).
Skins [number and % total by region]
Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013)
 Tasmania 15 19.23
 Mainland Australia 27 34.62
 North America 13 16.67
Asia 1 1.28
 Europe 7 8.97
 UK and Eire 15 19.23
 Total 78

    An early historical reference to the preservation of a thylacine skin can be found in the Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter dated 6th December 1817 (p. 2):

    "Last week a male animal of the same species of that which some time ago destroyed a number of sheep on the premises of E. LORD, Esq., at Orielton Park, made its appearance among the flock of Mr. G. W. EVANS, Deputy Surveyor General; at Bagdad; it had at different times within a week killed thirty sheep.  It was attacked by seven dogs, and made a stout resistance, till at length it was killed with an axe by the stock-keeper.  This quadruped is of the same dimensions as that killed at
Orielton Park, strong limbed, of light grey colour, and has a mouth nearly resembling that of a fox, with black stripes across its back and is known in this Colony by the name of the dog-tiger.  The skin has been preserved by Mr. Evans".

    Another reference to a skin being prepared for taxidermy is given in the Launceston Advertiser of the 23rd May 1844 (p. 2):

    "A beautiful specimen of the native hyena was caught a few days since on the bank of the Tamar in a snare.  It has since been lying for inspection at the watch-house for some days.  The skin is about to be preserved and stuffed".

  There are degrees of colour variation apparent between thylacine skins.  It has been suggested that this variation is related to the locality of the thylacine's home range (highland or lowland), but this supposition is yet to be proven.  The colour differences seen in the skins may simply be the result of preservation and storage methods, rather than the occurrence of different colour types.

thylacine carriage rug (circa 1903)
Thylacine carriage rug (circa 1903).  Courtesy: Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery.

     Several skins conceal evidence of scarring primarily confined to the head and leg areas.  This appears to be related to the method of dispatch [clubbing] or method of capture [snaring].  Bullet holes can also be seen on a number of skins.  Dogs were commonly used to hunt thylacines and puncture wounds suggestive of dog bites or claw marks are evident on the rump of some skins.
thylacine hearth rug (circa 1900-1910)
Curator of the Thylacine Museum with a thylacine skin hearth rug (circa 1900-1910).  Private Collection.  Photo: Cameron R. Campbell.
    One of the most important surviving thylacine skin products is a hand stitched buggy or carriage rug, produced from the skins of eight juveniles, and now jointly held by the two Tasmanian Museums.  Each skin panel measures 64 by 30 centimetres (25 by 12 inches), with the total rug measuring 1.1 metres by 1.2 metres (43 by 47 inches).  The rug has a woollen cloth backing with a hand scalloped decorative border and dates from around 1903. 

    A story published in The Mercury newspaper of the 26th December 1904 (p. 6) entitled "Christmastide 1904", describes the various seasonal attractions for shoppers in Hobart, including "tiger" rugs displayed in the window of a furrier in Elizabeth Street:

    "The hot wind which prevailed on Saturday was not calculated to make one long for more clothes than was absolutely required but it was none the less interesting to give a passing glance at the curious things in the furriers windows - the Tasmanian porcupine or the Tasmanian kangaroo or at the instances of the furriers art - necklets and stoles of Tasmanian opossum or Australian fox, rugs of native tiger which is really the Tasmanian wolf and rarest of all, of the Tasmanian platypus showing the natural skull".

    The photograph to the left shows a rare, privately owned thylacine skin hearth rug with a decorative scalloped edge, dating from between 1900-1910.  The rug is one of only two known surviving examples. 

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