Maude was the most famous animal in Belle Vue Zoo in the 1940s, seen by enormous numbers of visitors from all over the country. When she died, in 1949, her skin was given to the Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, but for some reason it was never prepared into a mounted animal.

“I commissioned a taxidermist, Phil Leggett, to prepare Maude,” said Henry McGhie Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology (Honorary Scientific Associate, Faculty of Life Sciences). “She had been professionally skinned when she died in 1949, retaining the linings of ears, mouth etc., and professionally tanned, with a view to her coming to the Museum. Over time, the skin had deteriorated so that, when the taxidermist came to prepare her, he had to be extremely careful as the skin was so delicate.” Leggett said it had been both the most challenging and the most rewarding job of his long career.

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In the 1930s and 1940s, Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo was home to two Tigons, a brother and sister that had been born in Dresden Zoo in 1932. Kliou, a male cub, and Maude, a female cub, were the offspring of a male Manchurian Tiger and an African Lioness. They were brought to Manchester in 1936 by Gerald Iles, who managed Belle Vue Zoo. Kliou died in 1942 but Maude lived until December 1949.

In a letter to the Museum from 1950, Iles wrote “During her lifetime here, Maude was always greatly admired and I would say loved by a very great number of our visitors. She was always quiet and good-mannered and always appeared to be perfectly groomed.”

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Maude, the Tigon, ready to go on show again at Manchester Museum. ©P.LEGGETT