fake deer head

By Gabrielle. Faux taxidermy available at Tillie & Tweedle.

After I posted a Living With Kids Home Tour that showed taxidermy in several of the photos, I received feedback that some readers were upset. One wrote: How can you teach kids to be free, respectful and caring when half your walls have cadavers? And: There is no style in cruelty. Another said: Once I see dead animals/animal parts used for decor, fake or real, the house no longer looks cool.

Those are strong reactions!

My take: I’ve never hunted, I’ve never owned a gun, I’ve never purchased taxidermy (fake or real) for my home. But. I grew up with hunters — in fact, one of my very best friends in high school, Jandi Jones, had her own gun cabinet. And my town had a school vacation built around the annual deer hunt. So I’m familiar with how taxidermy fits in to certain cultures. And when I encounter taxidermy, words like “cruel” and “cadavers” don’t come to mind for me, but obviously they do for others.

The topic brings up all sorts of questions for me, as I seek for a more nuanced understanding about how people feel. Are you someone that believes taxidermy is automatically cruel no matter what, even if the animal died of natural causes? Does it make a difference if the taxidermy was found at a thrift shop or garage sale? If you’re a meat eater (I am), can you even be against taxidermy? Or is that hypocritical? What about Natural History Museums that are full of examples of taxidermy — if you have strong feelings against taxidermy, do you feel that even in museums, taxidermy should be removed? And related, we posted about conflicted feelings overs fake fur last winter, and the comments were pretty mild. Does seeing fur trim on a sweater give you the same reaction as seeing a mounted set of antlers?

What’s your take? Do you have strong reactions to taxidermy when you encounter it in photos or in real life? Would you ever use taxidermy in your own decorating? Would you boycott a store that uses taxidermy in its displays? Do you feel fake (think cardboard or plastic) taxidermy is a fun alternative to the real thing? Or is it still a reference of cruelty for you? Any other thoughts on the subject? I’m so curious. Let’s discuss!

P.S. — For the Clue Party at January’s Alt Summit, the parlor was filled with taxidermy. I thought it was a bold entrance!

126 thoughts on “Taxidermy”

  1. I work at a natural history museum, and we get questions about taxidermy all the time. We have dioramas that were created in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, all for educational purposes. Hundreds of thousands of people see the dioramas each year, and learn about the environment in which these animals live. Compared to a zoo, it is a much more realistic environment and you can get a lot closer (though there is a sheet of glass there!).

    Like any scientific specimen, the amount of information that scientists and the public can learn from a couple of taxidermied specimens far outweighs the cost to the population of that species.

  2. I’ve never understood how a chopped off head (of any animal) on display can be considered decorative or stylish. It’s not the look for me, that’s for sure. I don’t find the cardboard heads offensive, but I also don’t find it attractive. Some people hop on board with every decorating trend. I really don’t get this one’s popularity. As for your reader’s comments, I have to agree with them. To answer question, no I wouldn’t boycott a place of business or a blog for displaying taxadermy. I have to admit though that I have a little less respect for people who choose to display them. It really is a clear sign that we all have different values.

    1. I grew up with taxidermy in the house. I think the reason for it isn’t to say I hunted, I achieved, I fed the family. I outsmarted an animal with a better nose and better hearing than I, and one which is better as sneaking away than I an at sneaking up on him. Animal mounts are in memory of a special day, and of a special animal. if you’re squemish about the idea of meat coming from a living animal you wouldn’t want that reminder, but many people feel that the money they put into getting the trophy mounted is as much a tribute to the animal as anything else. It’s a jumping off point to telling the story of the whole trip, including the special effort they had to put forth to bag that wiley, cautious, fast and old animal who then went on to fulfill the function of all wild animals. feeding the family of the preadator. A trophy animal has a lot of years behind him. he’s knowledgeable and a worthy opponent. And in case you think it’s bad to take those animals, you should also know that an older animal is more likely to die during the winter due to slowing down and being unable to fight the deep snow or the predatory animals. it makes no difference to him if he feeds a wolf pack or a human family and in fact he suffers less pain and less fear if he’s taken by a hunter than by a wolf pack.

  3. Ruh-roh. This is a topic of conversation in our house on a regular basis, too. My husband grew up in the rural South, and hunting was not only a part of life, it was one of his favorite things (well, wandering around in the woods is one of his favorite things, and another is venison.It adds up). When we married and moved in together, what to do with the taxidermy was a big conversation: he had a lot, and I’m not in love with hanging dead animals in my home. But every family is a compromise, right? We have on our walls the skull of first deer he hunted (with a bow and arrow, which is a bit of a fairer endeavor if you ask me, and he ate all of it, which I think is the only responsible thing – he hunts for food, not for kicks) and the head of a boar that nearly killed him when he was 13 when he was walking in the woods. His dad was with him and, thankfully, armed, because otherwise there would have been no Bill for me to love at all after that day. There’s a lot we don’t have, because hanging taxidermy in the house gives me a case of the heebeejeebies, so it stays at his parents’ home. That being said, he continues to hunt, and we continue to eat what he brings home. He wants to take our boy hunting when he’s old enough, and from an omnivore’s perspective, I really do prefer them hunting an animal that’s been out in the wild and lived a full life than us getting venison at the butcher from some poor deer that didn’t live a life of joy at all. I realize that’s not an explanation that’s good enough for most people, but it works for us, and I assure that if you’re eating meat at all in the first place, hunting isn’t an act that undermines all you’ve taught your children about kindness automatically. I don’t want my child to think meat comes from the market. I want him to have to think about, struggle with, and come to his own understanding for how meat, its source, and food work themselves out in his life. We have a compromise that works for us. I want him to have all the pieces on the table to figure out what works for him.

    1. Well said! I couldn’t agree more with your last couple of statements. I grew up in a family where what my dad and brothers got during hunting season kept our family of 10 kids alive and healthy for the year to come. Along with what we were able to raise poultry wise, that was our meat source. I have a healthy respect for a living animal that gave it’s life for me to eat it.
      As for how taxidermy fits into this, if the person hanging has a relationship, so to say, with the animal on the wall, I think it fits other than that, it’s not for me. It weirds me out just a little. I always think the animal is watching me like in those old Scooby Do movies where the eyes follow them.

  4. After reading just two other comments, I’m thinking that I shouldn’t judge others based on this. :)

    1. Right, Lisa! Gabrielle and the other commenters have made a valid point. This just isn’t a black and white issue, and most of us aren’t vigilant enough in our own lives to pass judgement. I’m vegetarian and anti-taxidermy (even faux) in my own home, yet I find myself in situations where I could be deemed hypocritical, like when I purchase a leather purse or when I wear cosmetics without checking into the company’s history of testing on animals.

      1. I agree, Sara. I know some people feel this is a black & white issue, but it seems to move into grey areas really quickly when you start asking questions.

  5. I grew up in a house that had hunters, hell I married a hunter. Yes I have a taxidermy on my walls. Was the animal handled with cruelty? No. That animal was handled with respect and fed our family for a good portion of the winter. What would be seen as cruelty in the eyes of most hunters is when the animal is killed, the head taken and the rest of the animal left to rot out in the woods. Not to mention, it is certainly a lot healthier for you.

    When animals are harvested by hunters, they are given way more respect than the beef that comes packaged real pretty in the grocery store.

  6. I have grown up where hunting was a hobby and a way of life for a lot of people, both men and women. I even hunt and we eat the meat. Maybe that has something, or everything, to do with me being okay with taxidermy. I even sell painted naturally shed deer antlers as decor. ( To me, it adds a rustic touch to the home, a part of life and the world God created for us. I respect hunting and as long as people are doing it justly and legally, I think it’s a wonderful thing. I understand others’ different views on it as well, though. Our differences are all part of what makes the world go round.

    1. It’s interesting to read the comments and see how heavily people’s views on this topic are influenced by where they grew up. You could totally be from my home town!

  7. While taxidermy is not my personal choice for home decor, yes, it would give me the creeps. Not my style. But if someone chose to decorate their home with these items, that is their choice. Who am I to judge. I do not hunt, no desire to hunt, but I have fished. Since the dawn of the human race, we have hunted animals as a source of food. Those who are quick to judge people who hunt, and/or have taxidermy hanging in their homes I wonder. Do you know where your meat comes from? Do you wear leather? Do you eat Jell-O? Do you eat eggs, cheese, fish etc? If so do you know where those animal products come from? Do you know how miserable an existence many of these animals lived before becoming part of your food and clothing? How about leather furniture? I am not perfect, but I try to be aware where my food comes from. I buy my meat, eggs, milk etc from a local farmers co-op where our meat is drug free, animals are free range. I try to avoid factory farmed food sources whenever I can. We sometimes eat a local restaurant where most of their food is locally sourced, their beef is grass fed, etc. Hunters are probably more connected to the natural world, animals, and food sources than those who love to ridicule and judge them.

    I agree with the comments above whole heartedly. I think we as a society are so far removed from where our food comes from. I have heard of people who had no idea that milk comes from a cow. They just assume it came from the store. LOL

    BTW I asked about Jell-O since what makes Jell-O all jiggly wiggly is gelatin, and where does gelatin come from? If you don’t know, google it. LOL

  8. Great that you take controversy head on and turn it into a (hopefully) respectful conversation! I’m a vegetarian and an animal lover. I would never have taxidermy in my home as it would upset not only me, but also my children. I do, however, see such beauty in all natural forms, so a part of me understands it. Who can deny the haunting beauty of Georgia O’Keefe’s work with skulls and bones? I choose not to interpret them as symbols of death but as proof of the magic and strong geometry that underpins life.

    Anyway, not for me, don’t like taxidermy as “trophy” but not prepared to castigate others who may interpret differently.

    Happy weekend all!

  9. We have a different type of taxidermy on our walls. My husband preserves insects and hangs them as art. I was unsure of this initially, but I have to say that the framed bugs look very neat and visitors always want to ask about them. Much of the taxidermy my husband does himself. He has a large shadow box full of bugs native to Georgia that he slowly collected while on his mission. He also spent a summer with his younger brother collecting the neatest bugs he could find in our suburban Texas neighborhood. We also have several rare bugs like an emperor scorpion (which was our “pet” before it died of natural causes), some goliath beetles, deaths head moths (think Silence of the lambs), a tarantula, and a wall of colorful butterflies. My husband thinks bugs are incredibly fascinating and beautiful. His vision of taxidermy is that he respects the amazing and beautiful parts of natures weirder designs and he shows that respect by hanging them on our walls. That being said, if my grandpa wanted to leave us his warthog trophy that he shot on safari, we would not be disappointed. I have to agree with my husband, taxidermy can be beautiful because nature is beautiful. Having animals around, preserved or not encourages questions and the desire to learn more about them.

    1. That is too cool. When I was growing up, my mom was an elementary school teacher, and she loved science most of all. She would always pick up interesting bugs for her classroom.

      She works in administration now, but last time I was at her house, she had a huge dead moth sitting on her window sill. She’s never framed anything, so I have no idea what she’s planning on doing with it.

    2. Sounds absolutely fascinating, Lana!

      We did not have an extensive collection of bugs on display, but my mother hung the most beautiful preserved butterfly in our kitchen. I loved looking at it! It was large, and the perfect shade of blue.

      I have no idea where that butterfly came from. Hah! I can’t imagine she caught it herself.

  10. My dad was a hunter as was my grandfather. It was equal part sport and survival. And yes, there was a fair amount of fish and game bird taxidermy as a result. How I would love to have some of them in my house today! Not as items for decorating, but as reminders of the men that shaped my life and introduced me to the “outdoors”.
    I recently came across this article about a woman who pushes the boundaries of taxidermy and why

  11. Lana Cole your house sounds awesome! Bugs freak me out alive but I think preserved insects are gorgeous.

    I grew up in Alaska and so the antlers and skins of the hunted animals were all over the place and it did’t really bother me ever because it seemed more humane (Although I thought it looked tacky) to use the whole animal and pet it’s nice soft pelt in gratitude long after the mean was gone.

    And then I babysat for a neighbor who went on an African big game hunting safari in the 70s or 80s and their house was covered in Zebra skins and animals coming out of the walls and it just seemed so sick and mean and wrong to me and I hated going in their house with the poor little, innocent, dead friends of Simba on the wall.

    So, apparently I have very strong feelings about African Safaris and a house with those animals will give me the heebie jeebies but I think bears and moose and wolves and cougars etc are free game. But I mean, I don’t have to love other people’s home decor choices. It’s not my house.

    1. I totally agree with this division. Trophy hunting for no purpose other than a display is an awful thing– especially if the animal is endangered.

      Factory farming is much more appalling, in my book, than a hunter providing meat for his/her family and then preserving the head.

  12. What a great topic for discussion! It’s fascinating what aspects of the home tours will be highlighted in the comments.
    My husband and I are vegetarian, and we’re not generally fans of guns. I’ve never understood hunting, but then again, I wasn’t brought up around hunting culture. The idea of taxidermy? I’m just not sure, to be honest. My husband will make remarks about ‘heads’ and ‘gruesome’ if we encounter taxidermy in a restaurant or other public building. I find the idea of animals heads in one’s home pretty strange.
    However, when you brought up museums, I realized that I never connected the two. (“Hey, that’s taxidermy, too!”) Museums are valuable, educational institutions- and those exhibits might be the only way many people get to see some species.
    Feel as though I’m thinking out loud in this comment- but what a fascinating topic!

  13. Great questions, Gabrielle. Your mention of a school holiday built around deer hunting rings true for where I live as well. We actually have had quite an issue in our part of the country with over-population of deer, which causes so many issues including disease and lack of food. By all means I would rather see a deer shot to death and used for its meat than to see them starving to death on the prairie. In our area, there are also programs where hunters can donate the meat from their hunts to food banks and other hunger organizations in our state if they are not going to be consuming the meat themselves. My husband and many of our friends and relatives hunt (both with rifles and bows and arrows). I cannot think of one person I know who hunts, whether it be deer, duck, pheasant, etc., who does not properly process and preserve the meat for their own use. And yes, some of them have mountings in their homes as a result of a hunt. While we do not have an taxidermy in our home (I don’t feel that it fits well with our style), it does not bother me in other people’s homes.

    1. Living in So CAL, the idea of hunting and guns in general is, well, a whole other topic!

      Friends of ours moved out of state to a state where rural living is more the norm. They learned that their 8 and 10 year old boys would learn to castrate sheep in Cub Scouts! (would not have even been thought of in CA) Then, after a year of teaching at a High School our friends were astonished and humoured to see that at commencement, the honour students each received a case of shot gun shells; the valedictorian receiving a new shot gun and the case of shells. (NO WAY -lol- would that have happened in CA!)

      When in Rome!

      1. Those are fantastic examples, Smee! Even in the hunt-loving community that I grew-up in, I can’t imagine a gun as a valedictorian’s gift. Amazing!

  14. I am not a hunter and I don’t believe in hunting for sporting reasons. I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t oppose hunting for food at all. But, to me, taxidermy always seems like boasting, or glorifying the catch and to me, that seems wrong. I see animals as another species, same as humans – humans are of more complex minds than most animals and usually top of the food chain and therefore, we are usually the hunters and I understand that (I say most b/c brain function/awareness is highly debatable with some mammals), and I would never hang another human on the wall to display a ‘catch’, so I apply the same to animals :)

    I don’t judge others that do, but I’m definitely not drawn to rooms/decor where animals are hung just for display reasons. I think Museums are a different story because they are using taxidermy for teaching purposes, not decoration.

    Just my thoughts! Great topic.

  15. I have no idea where I stand on taxidermy, I eat free range meat, wear leather shoes and belts and probably use a whole host of other animal products. I don’t see a problem with fake fur or fake taxidermy. or fake bacon. does it make much difference to anyone? Not sure about the real stuff, but again, if you eat the meat, and use the rest of the animal why not?
    Beautifully written post, great way to address the conflicting views.

  16. Kim @

    I grew up on a pig farm, my grandparents had a dairy farm. We never questioned the meat in our freezer or the way the animals were treated, because it was a way of life for us. My dad loved being a farmer, and my grandpa loved working with dairy cows. Fortunately, I can look back and see that compared with the current awful feed-lots and cramped chicken cages that make up modern meat production, our animals would have been considered all-natural, free-range, etc.

    As an adult, we have raised chickens for meat on our small hobby farm. And it is important that our children participated in the butchering process. Each week as we prepared a meal, they understood what it meant to gather eggs and care and protect and love our animals. We had sheep and watched the miracle of birth each Spring and thoughtful discussions when it was time to take a ram to the butcher. It is a cycle of life, and for our family, a meaningful one.

    1. “Each week as we prepared a meal, they understood what it meant to gather eggs and care and protect and love our animals.”

      Everything about your comment was beautiful to me, Kim. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  17. We have a set of antlers on the wall. In fact, it’s the ONLY thing my husband has gotten around to hanging in our new house. They went up right away. I would rather not have them on the wall. In fact, I did notice the taxidermy in the last post, and my immediate thought was, ” what in the world would you CHOOSE to hang those on your wall?” Especially since they didn’t look like they were the family’s hunting trophies. I think the whole antler faux rustic lodge look is ridiculous, but not cruel, etc. That gets my eyes rolling even more than city people who have never set foot in the woods hanging antlers on their walls.

  18. Carie Clayton

    “Another said: Once I see dead animals/animal parts used for decor, fake or real, the house no longer looks cool.” I agree with this 100% – I actually lost interest in the photo gallery – a first on your site!

  19. Why are people so opinionated about the way others decorate their homes and live their lives? I really enjoy the Living With Kids Home Tours and cannot fathom ever saying negative things after a family was brave enough to share their home with the public. Too many women are way too quick to judge other women! What is up with that??

  20. What a great discussion!
    I don’t eat red meat. Not because I have a moral issue with it, but I have a digestion issue with it. But, I do have a cow-hide rug. I LOVE my rug. I hope the entire cow was eaten by those who do eat red meat and treated with respect.

  21. While I am not a huge fan of hunting myself I do really like the look of mounted deer heads. I found a happy medium and used one of the popular cardboard deer heads and papier mached it with pages from french books I had picked up while wandering Paris. I love the way it looks AND no animals were harmed :) You can see it below.

  22. Such an interesting and vexed (at least for me) question. I don’t like zoos, but I’m basically ok with natural history museums. I can respect hunters who know what they’re doing and eat what they kill, but trophy hunting (as someone mentioned above) or the killing of non-meat animals, such as wolves or coyotes, makes me shake my head. To me, a taxidermied animal head is beautiful, because the living animal was beautiful; a taxidermied head is also sad, artificial thing, because the animal is dead.

    It got me thinking: why don’t people display the taxidermied heads of their pets? (Or maybe they do?) Does the different approach to that tell us something?

    1. My d-i-l lost her beloved bird when she was about 8 years old. Her mom saw how much it grieved her daughter, so she talked with d-i-l. The bird was gently wrapped and frozen just long enough for her mom to learn taxidermy. Once she felt proficient, she removed the (whole) bird and preserved it. They placed him back in his cage and hung it back up in her room where it stayed until the day she moved out.

      This story always makes me laugh, a lot! But now I know both her mother and she, and it makes perfect sense. It was a truly loving mother that tried to comfort her daughter the best way possible and it worked. (Her mother is brilliant on many levels!) Any who, d-i-l *was* comforted and looking back she can see the humour in her mother’s act -but more so, she understands just how much it hurt her mother to see her grieve.

      So, long story short…I guess some folks *do* preserve their pets.

      1. Thanks for sharing this story, Smee! It brought a smile to my face. (My parakeet died when I was the same age.)

    2. Cecilia,
      I just wanted to point out that sometimes wolves and coyotes are shot because they themselves are hunters and can be a threat to sheep and cattle herds, horses, and even outdoor pets in rural areas. I have not really heard of them being shot for sport, though I’m sure it’s possible.

      I agree with you that a living animal is much more beautiful than a deceased one.

      1. Tessa,

        I do know that especially in the West, where wolves are being reintroduced, there is hunter/hunter conflict. But sometimes I wonder who has the right of way. One of my neighbors in Maine (who does not have any livestock) traps coyotes because they are a “nuisance.”

  23. My grandpa had his study decorated with animal heads. It was creepy, because I knew they were watching me (I was five). It doesn’t bug me anymore. I would never have had a chance to see some of those animals up close. Had it been merely for the trophy and not the whole animal, I would have a HUGE problem.

    Most hunters I know love the animals they hunt and actively work to preserve and protect them. I know a guy who once picked up road kill to see it any of it could be used.

    1. “Most hunters I know love the animals they hunt and actively work to preserve and protect them.”

      I’m glad you mentioned that, Suzanne. If someone hasn’t grown up around hunters, they might not know that.

  24. I guess I’m a bird of a different feather; the fact that the house had so much interesting taxidermy actually really attracted me; it was a unique feature that I liked. I thought it was beautiful, and it made the house stand out.

    Of course, I’m biased. I am currently in the midst of putting silver leaf on the antlers of a deer head so I can put it in my living room. My father-in-law hunted the deer himself with a bow, which I take a lot of pride in; we all had venison from the deer. Anything left over, he donates to his local church’s food bank for local at-need families. Since he lives in rural North Carolina where most of the industries have been sent overseas, there is plenty of need and appreciation for the food he helps provide.

    I guess I see taxidermy as a sign and a reminder of the fact that we are, innately, a hunter species. It’s where we came from, whether or not modern most Americans take part in the culture. I think it’s an important part of my family tree, and I acknowledge the love, skill, and respect that goes into hunting the way my family does it.

    It’s too bad other people see it as something to be disgusted by; but we all come from different places. I think it’s really too bad that the last two homes that have been featured have been such bastions of controversy. I wish we would make this more about the women sharing their homes, and less about what we project negatively onto them.

  25. So many good points have been made! I chose not to respond to the last post because I believe that no one can point fingers when it comes to morality and use of animals; and, because style is a totally personal prerogative. That said, it is hugely disappointing and boring to me when everyone thinks they need to add animal decor to their homes because they don’t want to miss a trend.

  26. having traveled the world since i was young, and especially since some of my adventures took me into the remote villages of new guinea (where a hunting trophy hits a little too close to home for all of us homo sapiens), i find this discussion interesting. after years of seeing our western-ism from an outside perspective, i have learned to live with a little less passion about these kind of topics. i’ve come to realize that we should all be thankful that we have the privilege to even worry about these issues – to make the kind of choices men and women have historically not been able to make. so, while i feel strongly about where my food comes from, eating seasonally, loving faux-taxidermy, not really big on hunting but know i should be willing to kill what i eat (theoretically), homeschooling, design, whatever issue of the day we are discussing…at the end of the day i am just thankful that we all have the relative comfort and privilege to have these kind of conversations. there are a lot of people in the world that would not understand taxidermy debates, much less debates about locally source food. falling back on what has been said repeatedly, i am respectful and aware of the cultural aspects of these traditions and choices…as respectful as i am the cultural traditions and choices of vegan/vegetarian communities. i think the issue is respect and i worry that this new age of social media is creating a platform for disrespect, narcissism ever present as people bully, cajole, threaten – i can never teach people about my passions if i speak with disrespect or if i refuse to understand the other side of my argument (which is why i respect gabrielle’s continued efforts to maintain a safe community in which to discuss these issues). vilification seems to be the new trend…trickling down from our media, all the way to our personal blogs and facebook pages and even to our dinner tables and personal relationships.

    again, we should just be so happy to be so privileged – and once that is acknowledged, go fix the world or something. and if you define fixing the world by wanting everyone to hunt their own food or by wanting everyone to never kill/eat/display an animal again – do it. but do it with authority, education and compassion – go live a life so flipping amazing that we all want to jump on your bandwagon of awesomeness.

    1. Becky,

      You have written a beautiful response that addresses the issues I find so vexing and pervasive in our society today. Sadly, I further believe that these demeaning tactics actually encourage others to hold more tightly to their beliefs rather than change their opinion.

      I heart your final statement that if we want to effect change we should “do it. but do it with authority, education and compassion – go live a life so flipping amazing that we all want to jump on your bandwagon of awesomeness.”

      Simply lovely! and… I think that Gabrielle is the epitome of this kind of awesomeness. I know I’ve been changed because of the kind and considerate way that difficult topics are approached on this blog :)

    2. “again, we should just be so happy to be so privileged – and once that is acknowledged, go fix the world or something.”

      I really love your comment, Becky. Really love it. Especially the last line!

      I do try really hard to be aware of how privileged my life is. But man, I find it’s difficult to keep that perspective consistently. Have you found any tricks? Or do we all need to move to New Guinea? : )

    3. Amen, sister! I was thinking how lucky we are to have a forum to express ourselves so unreservedly on any topic – blessing! Thanks for providing it, Gabrielle!

  27. Hmm. I’ve honestly never even given a lot of thought to this.

    My family has Native American roots and some still-existing cultural heritage, so I grew up with a lot of Native American-made authentic artifacts around–things like painted deer antlers and drums made with animal skin. So to me, decorating with antlers and taxidermy or using animal products in general has never seemed inappropriate.

    I imagine that most people would be pretty sympathetic to this since it has to do with a very legitimate cultural heritage (and in the case of drums, even a spiritual element, since they were used by my parents in drumming circles), which begs the question: Why isn’t the culture of hunting in the west or south legitimate too?

    I used to have pretty negative feelings about hunting, in particular, but my feelings about it changed slightly a year or so ago when I had a conversation with one of my very sweet friends who hunts. I asked him about it, ready to tell him off, but he opened up, and through our conversation, I saw how much it means to him. He got emotional when talking about connecting with nature and the almost-cathartic process of preparing and waiting for the hunt.

    1. Wow, Rachel! I’m impressed that you went into a conversation with your mind made up, but then were willing to listen openly to your friend. And that you can freely admit your opinion changed. I think that’s brave!

  28. I have my opinions on hunting and decore and they don’t jive all of the time. It’s hard to be consistant especially if you are going to point the finger because animal products are everywhere. I think it’s an ethical problem of a society who has the luxury of removing themselves from the process of food to table. I’m all for being kind to animals but look in the mirror before getting on the bandwagon,

    1. “I think it’s an ethical problem of a society who has the luxury of removing themselves from the process of food to table.”

      Nicely stated, Heather.

  29. Like so many others here, I grew up in a home with hunters. It was a sport, but also feed our family of seven, meat is expensive! I never once considered that my dad had anything but respect for the sport or the animals and we had a fair share of animal heads in our den.

    Whenever I see taxidermy, it reminds me of my childhood and the excitement and pride in my dad’s face when he came home from a hunt with something to show and to provide for our family.

  30. A joke I heard once comes to mind: “It’s not a sport if the other side doesn’t know they’re playing”..

  31. I wouldn’t want taxidermy pieces in my own home but I appreciate it as an art and I’ve always loved to go to Deyrolle in the 7th. It’s such a mysterious place and if anything it teaches us to value life and appreciate nature…

    xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

  32. I grew up with a taxidermied iguana, my mom got at a garage sale and named Iguana Hold My Hand, hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom. She would bring it down to fascinate and scare the neighborhood children. Its feet eventually rotted off because she liked to put it on all of our birthday cakes.
    This early introduction to bizarre decorating choices has framed my love for all things weird. I read “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson and felt like I was home. I gave a copy to my mom for Mother’s Day this year and it took her half a day to speed read through it, intermittently texting me between laughs and calling her friends to read them parts out loud. I love skulls, bones, and objects of nature. I love sharing them with my children at the museum or wondering into our favorite German restaurant that has a collection of taxidermied jackalopes and other oddities. One of the best exhibits I’ve seen was the skulls display at the Academy of Sciences several years ago. It was a huge room with thousands of skulls, organized by species. It showed the enormity of difference but also the intricacies and similarities between all living creatures.
    I’m a huge fan of alternatives to taxidermy. Whether cardboard, wood, paper mache, or crochet I think they’re a great alternative to the real thing, and more appropriate for a house full of non hunters in a city. One of my favorites is the clever use of crochet to display “dissected” specimen. Pinned to little boards are crochet frogs, moths, pigs and owl pellets, patterned to show the crocheted insides and expose the crafter’s full creativity.
    For the last two years we’ve held a preschool auction. The biggest sellers in the live auction are always the taxidermy. It’s unique and strange, perfect for San Francisco parents. We had a boar’s head the first year that was donated by a local coffee shop (it used to hang in their bathroom). There was a bidding war and it ended up selling for $1000. Crazy.

    1. Oh hooray! I was hoping someone would bring up Jenny’s book. I’ve known The Bloggess basically since I started blogging and I have an advance copy of her book that I consider a treasure.

      And I love your comment. I especially agree with this:

      “I’m a huge fan of alternatives to taxidermy. Whether cardboard, wood, paper mache, or crochet I think they’re a great alternative to the real thing, and more appropriate for a house full of non hunters in a city.”

  33. Oh, taxidermy. I keep thinking of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast: “I use antlers in all of my decorating!!” So while it’s not my personal decorating fetish, if you killed it and ate it, then by all means, put that head on your wall. If you didn’t kill it and bought it second-hand or fake … I think that’s a bit more “Gaston” but if you pay the rent/mortgage, the decorating choices are yours. For what it’s worth, I’m in the minority as well on the topic of chalkboard walls.

  34. I wear leather, eat meat, and have lived in the suburbs of Southern California all my life. I’m fully aware that I wasn’t raised in a culture where hunting and guns were part of everyday life, and whatever my own preferences and tastes, I don’t feel comfortable getting on my high horse with others with different values over an issue that doesn’t harm other humans.

  35. Gabrielle,
    Thank you for taking the time to write these kinds of posts. I love the way you encourage each of us as your readers to think about and identify our own positions on so many controversial issues rather than simply attacking those who come from a different point of view.

    Because of your lovely writing style and kind tone, I have learned to better analyze “why” I believe what I believe, and the learning that occurs when I look at issues from a why perspective has helped me to become a kinder, more tolerant person. I appreciate you and all those who share their lives on your site, especially when those sharing believe differently than I, because I have had the opportunity to grow in ways that would be impossible otherwise.

    As for taxidermy, I grew up eating hunted meat, but neither of my parents wanted trophies, and I have no desire for them in my home. But, my mother’s father was a hunter, and had many full body taxidermy animals in his home that I found beautiful and amazing, so I have no issue with others who enjoy displaying them.

  36. “He uses antlers in all of his decorating…Oh what a guy, Gaston!”

    The ivory keys on my antique piano were once acceptable, now – not so much, but do I throw the piano away and waste all 88? The same with the pieces of coral I have, once legal, now, no way. Are the pieces of taxidermy obtained legally, humanely, and with respect?

    I don’t “get” hunting or guns, I’m just this side of vegetarianism, and the thought of the heads/parts of animals hanging about gives me the creeps. That said, I love me some sea shells, star fish, anemones, and sea fans, toss in some coral and this fat girl will dance a jig!

    How is one carcass different than another? (A friend has her mother in a jar on top of the spinet.)

    If one is “black and white” on this subject then one would need to remove wool rugs, leather belts, any silks, stop smashing spiders and killing slugs, etc. Toss out about 98% of your make up (of the red beetles!), shampoos/soaps/household cleansers…gasoline! Oh and while we’re being b/w -toss in all those pearls and diamonds…pearls for the animal cruelty, and diamonds because of the human cruelty used to obtain the majority of the overprice little rocks.

    Perhaps everything with moderation, respect, and humanity? Being a conscious consumer rather than a “Jones'” hoarder? Let’s think reasonably, finding *our* personal needs/style rather than just running out to grab the newest cool thing.

    1. Wow, Smee! I feel like my mind is kind of being blown. I had never thought of sea shells and star fish and other preserved sea-creatures (and sea creature parts) in relation to things like antlers or taxidermy. I’d honestly never made the connection.

      I need to think about that!

  37. It’s so funny that you posted this because 5 minutes ago I searched “deer antlers” on Google. We don’t hunt. We do eat meat. We live on a wooded lot and large numbers of deer share our yard (and eat our bushes) daily. We want to find “shed antlers” and mount them on our wall. We see it not as cruelty but as a nod to our very alive backyard companions. For me, I wouldn’t want the head mounted. That would be hard to look at… although, as a person who eats meat and wears leather I have no illusions about the animals fates. Thanks for starting such a respectful dialogue. Somedays I think there is hope for the internet. :)

    1. Michelle, I would totally think like that. If I lived in a place that had a herd of deer near nearby, you can bet I would be searching for shed antlers. I love having things in my home that relate to its locality.

      1. I have a friend that manages a herd so I asked him if I could have some of the antlers he has collected after they have been shed. He took me to his collection and I went to grab a couple and he immediately stopped me and said he would pick the ones I could have. His family has managed this herd for a very long time and depending on the age of the animal he can identify which deer each of the shed antlers belong to. He is very proud of them!

    2. There are people all winter and springtime long parked on the side of my road watching the herds of deer with binoculars and scopes and I just learned they watching in hopes of collecting shed antlers. I had no idea that was such a huge thing!

  38. I wasn’t raised in a culture of hunting, although many of my friends and roommates in college did and I respect that culture if done responsibly, but my dad has worked in natural history museums for my entire life. I grew up in the museum collections, surrounded by taxidermy, bones, tissue samples, skins, and the like. Turning off all the lights in the collection space before we went home was the most fun and the most terrifying; Dad always told us stories about the “museum beast” that was going to eat us (a la The Relic).

    I’m not sure I would like a lot of taxidermied animals in my house, but I recognize their usefulness, especially in museums where they are used for research. My brother and I have even donated animals that we’ve found to natural history collections at a couple of universities. We had two fully taxidermied animals (a stuffed weasel and a freeze-dried fawn; both died of natural causes and my Dad collected them) that I love. I also really liked a lot of the mounted heads in the museum and the dioramas using taxidermied animals are often so fantastic and interesting. The people who create them are so knowledgeable and respectful of the animals that they are trying to show the public. Also, I think antlers are pretty (and can be “foraged” since most antlered animals shed them at some point).

  39. I personally don’t believe in hunting for sport and dislike the taxidermy-as-decor trend. I am not offended by others using it, it just isn’t for me. That said, I am definitely a meat-eater! I just find the idea of killing for sport rather disturbing.

    1. I think I agree with you about killing for sport (versus killing for meat). I’m curious about how much of world’s hunting is done for “sport”, and how much is done to provide food. I want to believe that very little is done for sport, but I actually have no idea.

      1. We have friends that do some sport hunting and they always donate the meat to the local guides that accompanied them during their hunt.

  40. I like so much how you approach a topic like this in such a light but still complex and sensitive way. I am German, I find it hard to find the right words in English, but this is one of the reasons why I like your blog so much.
    When you get strong reactions like this it is probably hard to pick up that topic again without being defensive or judgemental or or or…
    I know, I would find it hard. And I like all the aspects that you bring into it.
    I have to admit: When I saw the tour I stopped liking the house the moment I saw the dead animals hanging from the wall. Without judging the owners: That is just not for me. I eat hardly any meat, I would never buy or cook some myself, I wouldn’t be able to touch or chop it. That’s why I couldn’t have these eyes looking down on me, just couldn’t.
    But I know there are different angles to look at the topic and I also think that everybody who is regulary eating meat should not be judging this. This is part of it.
    My daughter, who is 4 and a real meat eater, knows everything about where the meat is coming from and which animal she has on her plate. I think that is very important. If you decide to eat animals you have to accept the whole truth and culture that comes with it. That is more natural than blocking it out and being overwhelmed everytime you see a dead animal. My daughter LOVES animals and is totally okay with eating them. Since I believe her instincts are more intact than mine I suppose that is not a contradiction.

  41. The way I see it, nature is very cruel. Just watch a nature video. A cheetah will, with no guilt, rip the guts out of a baby gazelle who is still gasping for breath. The rest of the gazelle, not consumed, will be left to be eaten by birds of prey and other small animals. Talk about no respect. Humans are really quite humane comparatively. A bullet to the head or a vital organ and the animal is dead. But for some reason if a human kills an animal there is outrage, if a lion does it’s called “nature”.
    An animal is an animal not a person and at the end of the day I’m thankful for their furs, leathers, feathers, and best of all meat. I see no problem displaying taxidermy. A lot worse happens in nature.

      1. I agree – an animal is an animal. I find it a little strange when, for (true life) example, people are perfectly fine with watching a TV show about people being murdered, but the minute a dog or cat is killed, the message boards explode with “How dare they! So cruel!”

  42. Well, it’s not my style choice at all. It doesn’t bother me to see it, when it was an animal that was hunted and eaten. I’m sure my experience growing up on a farm in the rural countryside and have eaten both food we grew (vegetable and animal) and what my dad hunted colors my opinion. I have also helped kill and butcher animals that we raised for food (rabbits, chickens, sheep, pigs, cows & helped with the butchering of each deer my dad hunted) and that, ultimately, colors my thoughts the most. The process is gory. It is not pleasant. But, it can be done so that the animal does not suffer. So, while I really appreciate not having to pluck a chicken before I cook it (such a lot of work) I can also appreciate an honorable death given to an animal that will provide for myself and my family. I don’t have a problem having the skin of an animal that we have consumed tanned for making something useful for us. I’m in the gray area. I don’t love a house full of taxidermy, but consumed animals bother me much less than those killed for ‘sport.’ I don’t enjoy seeing sport trophies at all.

  43. I grew up in an area where pretty much everyone hunts, including a lot of women and girls. My dad and both grandfathers have always hunted. Taxidermy doesn’t really bother me, although I don’t really like it as decoration. In our house, mounted antlers are allowed inside, but deer heads are not. My dad’s taxidermy is therefore at his office, which probably offends some people, but all of the animals were humanely killed. At his office, he has deer heads, a moose head (that thing is enormous!), a stuffed peasant, and a fox hide. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t know if I’d want it staring at me while I sleep. I now attend a college where one of the science buildings is filled with taxidermy (of all sorts). Some people don’t come to the college for this one small detail, but I don’t mind it. They are moving the taxidermy this year to the art building to use as models for the painting and drawing classes, which is something I had never thought of before. Also, I just remembered that growing up, my brother had a stuffed alligator, bones (including a cow skull we found while hiking), and a preserved shark in a jar. Guess it really isn’t a big deal in my family!

    1. “I now attend a college where one of the science buildings is filled with taxidermy (of all sorts). Some people don’t come to the college for this one small detail, but I don’t mind it.”

      I’ve never heard of someone choosing or not choosing a college based on this. I’m fascinated! I imagine most colleges do have some taxidermy — at least in their science departments. My university (BYU) has an entire museum of taxidermy.

      1. I would never imagine people would avoid a school because of taxidermy… it’s for educational purposes.

        I recently went on a tour of the school my daughter will be attending next year, and I was so pumped to find out that they had a brand-new science lab and it was full of specimen jars with all kinds of bugs and frogs and other things to look at. I was like, Wow! She’s going to learn so much!

      2. I love that museum!

        Did you see the Harry Potter spoof video by Divine Comedy called Firebolt? In the video one of the students who is suposed to a huge Harry Potter fan “steals” the taxidermy snowy owl and is shown being chased my museum staff.

  44. I also live in a community where hunting is the norm, and it does feed families well with a sense of accomplishment for the work it entails. I have been privileged to share in some of those meals and they were delicious. Although many in our family hunt, my husband and I have not hunted, but we do have a faux taxidermy. My husband created a very beautiful piece from a resin antelope skull, and . . . my apricot tree! That’s right, the antlers are made from a cherished apricot tree that grew in our yard until a severe drought took it a few years ago. It is a great conversation piece, and I enjoy it. You can see it here:

  45. I love Linda K’s take on it. I don’t personally like taxidermy at all–not for any ethical reasons, but just based on aesthetics. I don’t understand the appeal of it aside from what Linda mentioned–the beauty of natural shapes and geometry that can be found in animals.
    But if I wanted to get those shapes, I would rather go for sculpture or ceramic pieces than taxidermy. There’s something about dead animal parts hanging out in my house that feels creepy–and it seems (though I don’t know for sure) that they might be hard to keep clean. Do you vacuum taxidermy pieces? Dust them?

  46. I am in total agreement with Gabrielle and Raleigh Elizabeth. I grew up with it as well and am not offended. However, a little goes a long way.
    I would never be so judgemental about another person/family who displays their interests. It’s great to have opinions, but there is no room for hateful, judgemental attitudes.

  47. Pingback: Taxidermy

  48. I like taxidermy. I want a moose head…I have no room in my house for a moose head at the moment, but someday I want one! I have a longhorn cow skull and horns…I think antlers or mounted heads look cool. I am ok with new taxidermy if the animal is not endangered or protected and if it was killed humanely (died quickly, did not suffer); I prefer that it be used for its meat first and for its taxidermic (?) appeal second. I think second hand/vintage taxidermy is great!

    My husband enjoys hunting. He enjoys the challenge, and we enjoy the meat.

    Its easy to judge…its rarely necessary to judge.

  49. I married a hunter. As such, our home has several taxidermied pieces throughout-probably about 6 total. People who don’t hunt fail to appreciate all the work that goes into making sure the animals have all they need to thrive, selective hunting to ensure the strongest animals survive and reproduce. Hunting is highly regulated to protect native populations of each hunted species, while ensuring the participants are protected as well. It is not the way I was raised, but it is the way my children are being raised. Our girls love going hunting with daddy. I love that they have a special thing to do with him.

    Our house reflects what our family does. My girls and my husband hunt, therefore, we have taxidermied deer and ducks on our walls (not all-just a few). It is not a house of horrors or fear by any means, our home is full of laughter and hugs and love, just like yours.

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