Rare rhino heads go under the hammer at sale of sporting antiques

7th September 2017

Two rare and valuable rhinoceros heads will be going under the hammer at an auction of sporting memorabilia in the Cotswolds.

The rhinos were shot by a big game hunter in Africa more than 100 years ago, and their heads mounted on wooden shields.

The heads are expected to achieve between £30,000 and £50,000 each when they are offered for sale at Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester on Friday, September 15.

Strict rules govern the sale of rhino horn, in a bid to discourage poachers who supply the medicinal market in China.

Items that have were ‘worked’ before 1947 – including taxidermy rhino heads – can still be sold, although mounted horns cannot.

For security reasons, the heads are being stored in an off-site bank vault until the morning of the auction, but will be on display during the pre-sale preview.

Plaques on the shield mounts record that the first rhinoceros was killed on the Athi Plains in British East Africa (now Kenya) on January 14, 1904. The second was shot on the Elbolossa Plains, British East Africa on February 9, 1905.

The heads are expected to be the highlight of Moore Allen & Innocent’s sporting sale, which includes a large taxidermy section.

Among the more unusual pieces, a stuffed albatross – mounted as if in flight – is expected to achieve £400 to £600, while the head of a marlin fish, which measure 1.3m from its base to the tip of its spear-like bill, carries an estimate of £300 to £500.

Meanwhile, a star of the small screen is expected to achieve between £400 and £600.

English setter Morwenna made several television appearances before her death in 1985, aged 14, including her debut as a deceased dog on an operating table in All Creatures Great and Small, and subsequent appearances – alive – scampering around the Wensleydale countryside in the same show.

Stuffed by taxidermist Mike Bright of Middleham, Yorkshire she continued to provide entertainment when her owner moved to Cyprus in 1989, and caused confusion among Cyprian officials who could not understand why someone would be applying for an import licence for a deceased animal. Morwenna finally made the trip without a licence, as part of a consignment of furniture.

Outside of the taxidermy section, three signed sports shirts donated by a surfer who suffered heart complications off the North Devon coast last October will be sold in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, who came to his rescue and saved his life.

Two rugby shirts – one signed by the New Zealand All Blacks, the second by the Bath Rugby Club squad, and a shirt signed by the England cricketers who faced the West Indies in July 2004 – will be sold commission-free, with an estimate of £30 to £50 on each shirt.

For a full auction catalogue, log on to www.mooreallen.co.uk