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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Finally off to visit the Walrus!

Years after first hearing about it, the circumstances have come together that, next week, I will finally get to visit the Horniman Museum, and it's famous walrus.

Horniman walrus

(Image courtesy of the Horniman Museum)

It is such a star, it even has its own twitter account.

Wondering why it is so special? Or what looks so odd about it? It is a wonderful example of taxidermy performed without knowing what the animal looked like. So the taxidermist just filled the skin. Compare this to a walrus in life, with all its wrinkles and wiggle room.

Walrus on ice flow contemplating photographer

(Image Courtesy of Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps - NOAA's Ark - Animals Collection Image ID: anim0022 ([1]), Public Domain)

The Horniman walrus is a great example of many aspects of zoology history. It was such an unknown, unseen creature when it was put on display in 1886 (as proved by the way it was portrayed so badly) its taxidermy skin was of real educational value at the time. And now, we are so familiar with the animal that the terrible misrepresentation in this taxidermy is both comic and a reminder of how far the popular understanding of animals has progressed.

And, it has a twitter account, with the description "Queen Victoria called me a fine specimen and she knew her onions." How brilliant is that?

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