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Buggy rug

Buggy rug

c. 1903

Robert David Stephenson (n.d.)

animal skin (thylacine); textile (wool baize); metal (brass fitting)

118 h x 108 w cm

Presented to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, by the Federal group, 2002



The thylacine skin buggy rug was purchased at auction in Launceston, Tasmania, by the Federal Group for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery on 7 September 2002. It was one of a number of items from Pleasant Banks, the Foster family property in the Evandale area, sold at the auction. The rug was sold by Angela Foster and had been originally purchased for three pounds, five shillings by the vendor’s parents on 28 May 1945 at a clearing sale at the property Aplico, Upper Blessington. The rug was sold to the Fosters by members of the Stephenson family, descendants of Robert Stephenson who trapped thylacines and made the rug.


This buggy rug is made from eight skins and is the only known multi-skin rug made from thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) skins. The rectangular sections are taken from the back and rump of the animal, where the distinctive striped pattern is most prominent. The rug was made by Robert David Stephenson in about 1903. The Stephensons operated two farms in northern Tasmania and, holding them responsible for stock losses, trapped and killed many thylacines, including those from which this rug is made. From the beginning of colonisation, animal skin rugs were made from the skins of a number of native animals including possum, platypus, wallaby and quoll. While this was clearly a practical use of available resources, many such rugs became objects of pride and were passed through families as heirlooms. The last recorded thylacine died in Hobart in 1936. In the absence of confirmed sightings the animal was declared extinct 50 years later, in 1986.


A small rug made of eight rectangular sections of tanned thylacine skins taken from the back and rump of the animals. The skins are tiled—laid in the same direction and orientation, with the broader striped section to the same end in both rows. They are backed with plain red baize fabric with a scalloped edge projecting beyond the edge of the skins. A small domed, circular brass fitting is located near the central seam (between the two rows) towards the edge of the rug.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of decorative arts made in Tasmania throughout the colonial period. The thylacine skin rug is representative of frontier colonial culture and the tradition of using immediately available resources. It is also a poignant reminder of the effects of colonisation in transforming the landscape and its ecosystems.


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This page was last modified on : 26 August, 2010