A Unicorn? Where do you draw the line?

Back in my London life, a hundred and something years ago, I jettisoned an unpromising career in advertising and started an interior design business specialising in stencilling and paint finishes.  That sounds like some kind of period piece now, akin to embroidering antimacassars or wearing liberty bodices.  (If none of this rings the slightest bell with you, think yourself young and lucky and scroll down to the picture…)

Anyway, I ended up working for an interiors magazine.  At the time I was in thrall to architecture, design, colours, fabrics and furnishing my first home …. so it seemed like a dream job.  Unfortunately the potential pleasure of the experience was completely marred by the bitchy atmosphere that reigned in the (almost) all woman staff, permeating down from an Editrix so rebarbative she regularly made grown women cry.  And took sadistic pleasure in doing so, I’m sure.

Cut to a lifetime later, deep in the French countryside and a different career, mostly behind me, restoring old stone houses.  Not really the cutting edge of design.  But I make no apologies for a recidivist tendency to browse through home decorating and restoration magazines from time to time, looking for ideas to pinch and recreate on a shoestring.

Imagine how it felt to come across this image:

This “unicorn” has been made from a real horse’s head with the tusk of a narwhal stuck onto it’s brow, so that the owners of this property can have a whimsical talking point in their country home full of “delightful” pieces of kitsch.

I’m afraid this made me feel quite sickened. And I no longer buy this magazine.

For me, this “style statement” gives rise to the question of where, on a scale from strict vegan up to having a stuffed animal head on your wall most animal lovers would put themselves.

You may be a vegan who considers all riding to be servitude for the horse.  Or a vegetarian who rides.  Or a rider who eats meat.  Or a lover of the countryside who would eat any kind of meat, even roadkill.  Or a countryman/woman who hunts, shoots and fishes and would happily keep a trophy stag’s head on a wall or stuffed champion pike in a glass case.  You may be a French omnivore to whom horsemeat is a low-cholesterol version of steak, who bets on the races and sees no irony in eating the losers.  Or you may, as the owners of the above room, be a couple of Parisian cake makers, who want to re-create a sort of “Grand Meaulnes” fantasy of a rural idyll as a weekend retreat. (No jokes about, “Let them eat cake,” please!)

I can remember being fascinated by the stuffed horse that pulled the hansom cab in the painstaking re-construction of a Victorian street which I saw in the York museum when I was a little girl.  I wonder if it’s still there?  How long does a stuffed animal last?  But modern tastes have moved on;   taxidermy has largely fallen out of fashion and it’s easy to see why, as few people these days want to keep a memento mori in their living room or even, as Roy Rogers did with Trigger,  to stuff a famous old pardner to keep him around a while longer.

But to turn a real dead horse into a “unicorn” as a statement piece ….. this made me deeply uncomfortable, how about you?

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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4 Responses to A Unicorn? Where do you draw the line?

  1. ptigris213 says:

    How long does a stuffed animal last? Well, while I’m not a taxidermist, I am a field biologist and have done research on preserved animals and birds in museum archives. The longevity of a ‘stuffed’ animal varies IAW the conditons it’s kept in (if in a nitrogen filled glass case, probably forever) to a year, if it’s kept outside where the rain hits it and bugs get to eat it. The better the mounting job, keeping it indoors and cleaned, a good mount will make it probably outlast the owner or hunter.
    However, that is not the point. This so called ‘unicorn’ is dreadfully bad taste. In the US, many, if not most hunters and fishermen have their trophy animals mounted. While I’ve never shot one, I have elk and deer antlers on the walls of my home because I am hopelessly ‘rack crazy’..I love antlers!
    But this? Horrible taste, if any. Did they shoot and eat the horse? Did they hunt it down? Was it menacing their family so they had to kill it with a sharpened stick? It’s a poor job of mounting, probably because the taxidermist didn’t have a horse head mount (most of the ‘stuffed’ animals are really merely the tanned hide and horns glued onto a fiberglas mannequin). But the point is, hunters have their game animal trophies mounted, a wild animal, a game animal. Certainly not a dapple grey horse. Jeez.
    What’s even worse is they stuck a narwhal tusk on it. Narwhals are on the CITES list. They are an endangered species. Were they in the US, they’d have to have a permit or something showing they had obtained the horn legally.
    I will give them one tiny bit of credit, that of historical accuracy. Narwhals,walrus, elephants, and hippopotamus tusks are all merely elongated teeth. They’re not ‘horn’ at all. When narwhal horns were first seen in areas where they weren’t native (that being the Arctic circle), the idea that a cetacean grew it was so far beyond belief that it being from a unicorn wasn’t much of a stretch for explanation. Narwhal horns were thought to be unicorn horns.

    I would be interested in seeing if the so called ‘whimsy’ of these fashionable twits didn’t include having a stuffed cat or poodle on their walls. What next? A chicken? A gerbil? Who knows how deep their tackiness runs?
    I find this uncomfortable, yes, I do. I hope they pay the price one pays when one slays a unicorn: unhappiness, ill health, and conflict within the home.

    Oh, my god. The thought just struck me. They don’t have horses, do they??


  2. marissaberg says:

    This is the only thing that tops the stuffed horse in the Rose Parade. Although I am a meat eating, horse slaughter supporting, horse loving cowgirl. I just don’t think stuffed horses are stylish or intriguing. I don’t think they belong in a parade, nor in homes with horns glued to their head. I don’t think I’ll ever get this picture out of my head.


  3. Thank you for both comments, I didn’t think I would be the only one appalled by this poor “unicorn”….


  4. dannybigdog says:

    Admittedly, I laughed out loud when I saw this because it was so troubling and terrible. I see no humor or good taste in a cetacean/equine chimera. Only serves as sad commentary on those that created it, in my opinion.


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