A stuffed dog more than 150 years old is expected to fetch up to $35,000 at auction this week.
The preserved kuri dog, a rare piece of New Zealand history, is just one of only three known examples of taxidermy kuri dogs. The other two, a bust and full figure, are held by Te Papa.
Descended from the Polynesian dogs that arrived on the ancestral canoes of the first Maori settlers in the 13th century, the kuri failed to survive interbreeding with European dogs and was extinct by the early 1860s.
A similar size and facial profile to a fox or medium sized terrier, the kuri were highly prized by the Maori and are depicted in cave paintings of the South Island.
They were domesticated and bred as pets and used for hunting, while their skins and hair was used for cloaks, and they were even eaten at ceremonial feasts.
This incredibly well-preserved piece is from the the catalogue of a private taxidermy collector and has been extensively researched to ensure it is a genuine example of one of New Zealand's rarest historical artefacts.
"We are confident that this is a genuine example of this sadly lost part of New Zealand fauna whose legacy exists in only a tiny handful of taxidermy examples," said ART+OBJECT director James Parkinson.
The taxidermist is unknown because the animal had become extinct long before well-known practitioners, such as Austrian Andres Reischek, who arrived in 1877, began working in New Zealand.
The pre-auction estimate is from $25,000 to $35,000 and has received interest from private collectors and museums.
"It is really hard to price because it is so rare," Parkinson said. "We sold a kuri bust a couple of years ago and it made about $17,000."
The kuri is being exhibited at ART+OBJECT gallery in Auckland this weekend and is up for sale on Wednesday.
- © Fairfax NZ News