Hunting trophies: the boom in home decoration fashion items

A major sale of hunting trophies takes place today (20 April 2022) in Yorkshire. Thanks to a revival in hanging game heads on walls, Tennants auctioneers in Leyburn expects to raise more than £100,000 from the auction of Indian and European game trophies from Kilberry Castle, Argyll.

Many of the trophies date from the second half of the 19th century, with rare and historical specimens including Asian water buffalos, Astor markhors, bengal tiger skins, Indian leopards and Himalayan tahr. Among the more up-to-date trophies is a fox head with the plaque ‘Sandringham 2007’.

Items in the Tennants sale:

Auctions expert Diggory Hadoke from VintageGuns.co.uk says that good tiger skins can fetch more than £10,000 each. There are two tiger skins guided at top prices of £5,000 and £5,500 in Tennants’ sale. A snow leopard has the estimate £1,200-£1,800. and an Indian leopard £1,000-£1,200.

England and Harlequins prop Joe Marler recently made an advertisement for underwear company Step One featuring a buffalo head. Hadoke says it is the starkness of the bleached skull against the darkness of the horns that make mounts of antlers and horns attractive to interior designers.  

Martin Jacoby, who studies the evolution of human behaviour, points to the importance of ‘display’ in hanging game heads on walls. He says it is part of human behaviour that probably dates from soon after early humans began hunting big game on the southern African savannah.

Claes Olesen from the hunting museum at Valdemar’s Castle in Denmark, the largest public big-game hunting exhibition in Europe, says that showing off your game heads is a way of displaying that you are a conservation hero. He says the role that trophies play in inspiring hunters to fund much of wildlife conservation across the developing world means a trophy is a ‘badge’ a hunter earns for playing their part in that conservation story. 

Meanwhile, the BBC is trying to ‘cancel’ hunting trophies. It ran a story about a trophy collection in Valencia, inherited from a hunter by his two sons in 2014, that Spanish police recently impounded over import certificates. Despite images showing the Valencia collection laid out as a trophy museum, the BBC attempted to criminalise conservation efforts by referring to the police ‘haul’ of trophies. The UK’s state-run news organisation left out important sections of the story, such as the warehouse’s public use as a trophy museum for at least eight years. 

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This item appears in Fieldsports Extra, episode 216

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