Sideshow Hoaxes and Artistic Freaks

A Creepy Collection of Rogue Taxidermy


Besides preserving wild animals as hunting trophies and museum exhibits, taxidermy has another face that lies in sideshow monsters and hoaxes, like P. T. Barnum’s famed “Feejee mermaid” of the 1840s.  Assembled from the parts of assorted animals, such literally incredible creatures were called “gaffs” because they served to hook the public to “come on in” to see what was on the inside of the carnival tent.  These days the concept of the gaff has been turned into an art form, “rogue taxidermy,” a term coined in 2004 by the founders of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists (MART)


Next to the jackalope, probably the most classic “gaff” is the fur bearing trout.  Osaka, Japan, born artist Takeshi Yamada came to America, saw Coney Island, and knew the kind of art he wanted to make, like this great “Canadian Hairy Trout.”


“Canadian Hairy Trout”—Photo courtesy of Takeshi Yamada © 2009


Pieces of art like these inevitably raise questions about the meaning of taxidermy.  Hunters view a mounted head as a memorial and an honor to an animal they ethically hunted and to the hunt itself, and some hunters may be offended by the way these mounted heads in this gallery have been manipulated and altered.  But while many of the rogue taxidermists see the mounts they do as simply works of art, or perhaps visual humor, there are others who solemnly view them as critical comments on hunting, the relationships of humans and animals, and what they consider animal cruelty - click here for the rest of the story.


It’s a peaceable kingdom for “Fox and Bear” in the world of rogue taxidermy. “Carousel”—Photo courtesy of Gordon Wilding © 2009,

Sideshow Hoaxes and Artistic Freaks: A Creepy Collection of Rogue Taxidermy  Article from Field and Stream October 2009


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