placed on the internal
aspect of the limbs and the belly in order that they should not be readily
visible on the completed mount. The skin is then preserved with chemicals
or converted into leather (tanned). A manikin or model of the animal
is then constructed using a wooden armature and fillers to form the structure
or framework of the mount over which the prepared skin will eventually
be placed. The natural skull is often used as an integral part of
the manikin, either in its complete form or in part. Muscle detail
is then added to the mount in either clay or paper mâché.
Glass eyes are
Taxidermy mounts are primarily created for display. The 5th revision
of the ITSD notes that there are 101 known thylacine taxidermy mounts held
within 72 collections of which 76 are sexed [53M & 23F]. Seven
of the specimens are juveniles. Taxidermy mounts, although impressive as
museum exhibits, are expensive to prepare, difficult to store, and easily
damaged when compared to traditional study skins.
It is not within the confines of this section to discuss the intricacies
of the taxidermy process, but an elementary understanding of the art is
justified. The skin is first removed from the animal with the incisions
mounts [region by number]
International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013)
Australia and NZ
matched and inserted into the skull. The prepared skin is then stretched
and glued over the manikin and adjusted to appear lifelike. The incisions
on the skin are sewn closed, and the fur groomed to completely camouflage
the suture lines. The head of the taxidermy, particularly the ears,
eyes, nose and mouth require special attention, with waxes and paints being
utilised to produce a life-like result. Finally the mount is set
aside to slowly dry.
the film icon above to view a short excerpt about preparing thylacine taxidermies
from a January 1996 interview with Alison Reid (daughter of Arthur
Reid, the curator of Beaumaris Zoo [QD]).
(2013) notes that the two largest collections of taxidermy mounts are those
in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide (arguably the finest), and the
Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Launceston [Tasmania], with
a total of 5 mounts each.
and almost impenetrable
glens of the mountainous parts of that country: it is the largest carnivorous
animal yet discovered in New Holland, measuring from the nose to the end
of the tail five feet three inches; it is said to be extremely voracious,
which will scarcely be doubted, when it is known that the one described
in the ninth volume of the Linnaean Transactions, p. 179, had in its stomach
the partly digested remains of the Porcupine Ant-eater; it is said to have
a short guttural cry, and appeared exceedingly inactive and stupid".
Frank Tose working on a thylacine manikin at the Queen Victoria Museum
(Launceston). Source: Examiner, 7th Aug 1937 (p. 7).
The earliest known thylacine taxidermy to be displayed in any museum was
that acquired by William
Bullock, a noted nineteenth century traveller, naturalist and antiquarian.
The specimen was of an immature male, and was on display at the Bullock
Museum in London from 1812 until 1819, when the collection was disposed
of by auction.
In the "Companion to the London Museum" dated 1813, the Zebra Opossum
(D. Cynocephala) is listed on pages 130-131, under the heading quadrupeds,
as item 14:
"14. Zebra Opossum (Didelphis Cynocephala). This animal, which is
the only one known in any collection, is a native of Van Diemen's Land,
where it inhabits among the caverns and rocks in the high
The ITSD (2013) notes that the specimen is absent from the companion to
Bullock's Liverpool Museum of 1808, so it must have been acquired at some
point after 1808, and prior to 1813. When the Bullock collection
was sold, the thylacine taxidermy together with the rare Black Emu (Dromaius
novaehollandiae ater), were purchased by the Linnean Society of London.
of the Bullock Museum in 1810. Source: "The Repository of Arts,
Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics", by Rudolph
Graham Renshaw, in
his article "Thylacine", published in the Journal of the Society
for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire (Part 35, 1938, p. 48.),
speculated on whether the Bullock taxidermy could possibly have been Harris's
"It would be interesting to know if this was the individual that was exhibited
by William Bullock in London in 1812 as the Thylacine or Zebra Opossum,
the only known specimen in any museum".
The ITSD (2013) however, notes that Harris's type specimen was a larger
male, with a total body length of 5 foot 10 inches: "The length of this
animal from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail is 5 feet 10 inches
cm), of which the tail is about 2 feet (61 cm)". Bullock's
specimen by comparison was smaller, at 5 foot 3 inches (160 cm).
On the 10th November 1863, the Linnean Society disposed of a significant
part of its miscellaneous collections at auction. In J. C. Stevens
sale catalogue, the Bullock taxidermy is not specifically mentioned by
name, but there are two lots in which it could have been included:
Lot 93: A Kangaroo and 1 animal.
Lot 128: Two of the Ornithorynchus paradoxus, 2 porcupines, Koala, and
4 other animals.
The Curtis Museum in Hampshire purchased the Bullock thylacine taxidermy
from the Linnean sale and it remained in the museum's collection with certainty
In the "General Description of the Contents of the Curtis Museum"
published in 1889, a "Dog headed thylacinus" is noted amongst the
contents of display cases 4 to 6.
A written copy of an annual report dated 3rd December 1932, was recently
discovered within the pages of a 1929 Curtis Museum catalogue that noted:
"The cases which contained foreign material and hide, many found to be
in poor condition, now display a collection of pottery".
This statement clearly indicates that the thylacine taxidermy was no longer
on display. The ITSD (2013) notes that today the Curtis Museum has
no thylacine in its collection, so at some point after 1889 and prior to
1932, the taxidermy was sold, exchanged or destroyed. Further, it
states that no other museum with a thylacine taxidermy cites the Curtis
Museum as the source, so the ultimate fate of the Bullock specimen remains