July 19th, 2011 / 6:19 pm

The Authentic Animal, Caption Contest / Book Giveaway

Many Dave Maddens exist in the world. There’s the one from The Partridge Family, the one who is a video game executive, the one who is a musician, the one who is an Australian police commissioner, and the one who is a writer who wrote a book that will be published by St. Martin’s Press two weeks from today entitled The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy.

To celebrate its release, Dave and I came up with an idea:  I roamed the web and found various pictures of taxidermied animals, which I sent to Dave.  He then responded to each of the pictures using his vast knowledge of the field…you’ll find the pictures and his responses after the jump…you’ll also find a picture without a caption and this is where you come in…

Dave has graciously agreed to give away a free signed copy of the book to the person who comes up with the most best caption to that final image.  You have one week from today.  He’ll select the winner next Tuesday.

For those of you who aren’t clever, or who aren’t selected by Dave, I highly recommend pre-ordering the book now…it’s about taxidermy folks…you can be sure it kicks ass.  Also, you can find out more about the author here.

Novelty taxidermists find squirrels to pose in human attitudes the way Gary Lutz finds nouns to enverb. It makes sense—they’re easy to get a hold of. One question I always have when I look at stuff like this: where do you get one of those little hats? I want desperately for this straw sombrero to be part of the taxidermist’s handiwork. If that’s not animal love, I don’t know what is. And damn: how Aqua Netted are those whiskers?


One can imagine the poor girl who drops a hundred bucks on the Etsy gem. Cynder, you see, came to the Goth Prom with an actual bat stuck in her hair. But McKenzie’s on a budget and had to go with the zombie guinea pig. Zombie guinea pig? Bless her evanescent heart.


People look down (not literally, of course) on hunting trophies. Why did an animal have to die so some gun-nut can hang its head on a wall? It’s a valid question. We’ll always have animal heads on walls, right, so why not lend those heads some dignity? What I love about this pic are the animals’ eyes. I like also how they’re not looking at what most folks are looking at. (Though why did someone mount tagged cattle? That I’ve never seen before.)




Did you see the movie? It’s good. It starts out sticking taxidermists in the schmuck category, and then—would you believe it?—it turns the tables. What’s interesting is the way a lot of “professional” taxidermists stick “novelty” taxidermists in the schmuck category, too. They think what they do disrespects the animal. Your irony or hypocrite alarms may be going off right now.


I mean: see? For some taxidermist, it wasn’t enough to take a squirrel skin, sculpt a little manikin in the pose of a standing oarsman, and fit the skin thereover. S/he had to make a little canoe, too. Put a little oar in its hands. Make a little stand to show it off!

Is that Gmork? Run, Atreyu!


And so we come, at last, to the Jackalope. Google “cottontail rabbit papilloma virus” to learn a little something about the possible origins of this mythic creature. My private origin myth, shamefully, is from those Dave Coulier-voiced bits on America’s Funniest People: “Fast as fast can be, you can’t catch me!” Every time, I’d totally rofl and eat more Teddy Grahams. That was real comedy.


Man, these are awesome. Good finds, Higgs. Did I already make that WANT NEED joke? All right then what I’ll say about this one is that if I were to spend $10K+ on a lifesized zebra mount I’d make sure my taxidermist knew how they looked when standing. What is going on with those rear legs? There is, in the world, a hell of a lot of taxidermy, and thus it follows that there’s going to have to be a lot of bad taxidermy. And bad taxidermy breaks my heart. There are whole Facebook groups dedicated to sharing bad taxidermy, and I’ve joined and pored over every one. They’re great, I know. Some of the cats—good god! But taxidermy comes at such a great cost—an animal has to die for the process even to begin—that to do ill by its face and shape is a greater tragedy than an aesthetic one. Find a professional, people. Debbie Downer here says to pay for a professional when you need your animal skin to look as though it’s still got life living in it.


(Maybe let’s skip this one? [Higgs: No way!  This is my favorite one!]  It’s, I’m pretty sure, Kittens’ Tea Party, by Walter Potter, a very famous Victorian-era U.K. novelty taxidermist. I don’t have anything to say about it that hasn’t been said a million times before, except that as this [and all of Potter’s] “tableau” was going up for auction at Bonham’s, none other than Damien Hirst offered £1 million for the whole lot. They turned him down. All together, the auction netted just over £500,000. It’s another taxidermy tragedy. I guess you could put all that info down if you want to include this one, too.)


————-Okay, here’s the image for the caption contest….have at it ——–>



  1. Trey

      “yo what up”

  2. karl taro

      The Hobart Great Outdoors Issue cover lives!

  3. Tummler

      “Anthony Braxtoad”

  4. Joy Suder

      “I told you this wouldn’t look believable. Now give me back my bagpipes.”

  5. Guestagain

      The Bikini Bottom Orchestra

  6. deadgod

      Those three chick-in-a-bar trophies look incredibly life-like.  Is that diorama at the American Museum of Natural History?

  7. deadgod

      –and the taxidermist-with-tweezers:  how is that bust mounted?  It looks detached from the wall behind it.

  8. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      My baby’s left my lily pad
      My legs were both deep-fried
      I eat flies all day
      And when I’m gone
      They’ll stick me in formaldehydeOh, I got the greens….I got the greens real bad

  9. M. Kitchell

      why couldn’t they have just killed me

  10. Corey Zeller

      I didn’t know Truman Capote played the saxophone!

  11. Nathan Jackson

      If one were to percieve this from the slightly morbid slant, one might possibly suggest a young wide-eyed Jeffery Dahmer taking his first tour of Mr. Toads Wild Ride during those innocent pre-teen years, soaking in that almost narcotic sense of fantasy and letting the timeless influence of Kenneth Grahame’s classic ‘The Wind In The Willows’ carry his imagination to new heights. As a way of life, we all do what we can to preserve our childhood…

  12. Eric P

      Blow job.

  13. NotI

      Oh, sorry, I thought it was an inhaler.

  14. Wendy

      Bull thought the tracheotomy meant an end to his career. 

  15. danadonna

      And you thought kermit had talent.

  16. bobby

      Does anyone else think “race traitor” when looking at that frog? 

  17. mimi

      Ah loves dat Looz-iana Cookin’ . Ah’m stuffed.

  18. deadgod

      ha ha that is the spirit:

      cold-blooded traitor

  19. deadgod

      ain’t no “i” in Loozana

      they some crawdad eyeballs in the gumbo though

  20. deadgod


      Jumpin Boogie

  21. mimi

      they iz so
      but it be very very tiny

  22. Russ Woods

      holy fuck my legs

  23. deadgod

      maybe you’re right:  a tiny tinny semi-vowel:  Loozyana

      but I think the first “a” is just drawled as a rising and stretching sound (or as two syllables):  Looz-uh-a-nuh

      I’m trying to remember precisely how >1/2 the people actually talk there

      more than one way?

  24. mimi

      i think we agree
      but i have no idea really 
      i’m just making this up in my head

      an’ i ain’t e’er e’en bin tuh n’awlins

  25. bobby

      deadgod just made a pun. This seems important but I’m not sure why. 

  26. deadgod

      Importance bobs at the surface – an iceberg without an ocean liner.

  27. deadgod

      Importance bobs at the surface – an iceberg without an ocean liner.

  28. michael

      “It was the worst case of Gillespie cheeks we’d ever seen.”

  29. ~**Sally Jenkins**~

      Noam Chomsky: When I was ten years old I wanted to be a taxidermist for some reason, don’t ask me why. [laughs].

  30. Cameron Pierce

      I once worked as a taxidermist’s assistant and have been on the lookout for a solid book on the subject for five years. This sounds like that book. I am happy.

  31. Lee Patterson

      “I will suck in my validation when I emerge from the water.”

  32. wrongstring

      Coltrain had a more impressive embouchure.

  33. wrongstring


  34. Ryan

      I heard Obama promised change, BUT THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

      Jon Stewart’s consistently foolproof New Yorker caption

  35. Carlin

      All I want is for someone to make a Toad the Wet Sprocket joke.

  36. Liz Ahl

      “Does this saxophone make me look fake?”

  37. Liz Ahl

      “Does this saxophone make me look fake?”

  38. Vai

      Behold the plot summary of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog in its entirety.

  39. NotaPrincess

      Valiant takes up busking with his sax after the last of the princesses refuses him a kiss.

  40. Chelsea

      Let the sinful saxophones of devils finally resonate with the frightful tones of waltz, tango and quickstep!!

  41. Josef Horáček

      Be careful what you wish for when you croak.

  42. Ryan

      I’ve heard of Toad the Wet Sprocket, BUT THIS IS RIDICULOUS!