Taxidermy, the art of preserving a once-live animal for display, is a trend as old as time. The Museum of Idaho notes that the ancient Egyptians began doing it as early as 2200 BC. Paris taxidermist Deyrolle opened its doors in 1831, 78 years before Teddy Roosevelt, just out of the Oval Office, went on a 1909 expedition in Africa to collect specimens that would later be stuffed for the Smithsonian. Back then it was considered conservation, but nowadays we know better. (Most of us, anyway.) Some folks apparently knew better back then, too: Margarete Steiff founded her eponymous brand of stuffed toys in 1880. According to the company, its first hit was a stuffed elephant. Its stuffed bears, which became known as Teddy Bears thanks to Roosevelt, exploded in popularity decades later.
Stuffed animals have since evolved to take countless forms. Most of them are not meant for display. But some are large and lifelike enough to be décor themselves. In nurseries and kids’ rooms, yes, but also spaces for grownups with more whimsical taste. Somewhere between Steiff’s elephant and the Teddy Bear came its first giraffe. And sometime after that, the giraffe grew (to 43 inches for $1,200), and grew (to 59 inches for $2,500), and grew (to 100 inches for $4,975).
Maybe you saw them lining the entryway of FAO Schwarz as a kid. I have wanted a jumbo-sized Steiff giraffe ever since I laid eyes on one, as an adult, years ago at a John Derian boutique. And I’m not alone: According to Architectural Digest, the giraffe is having a moment as a must-have among decorators and new parents who can afford it. As someone who simply cannot, I settled on a 44-inch, made-in-Peru stuffed alpaca instead. I bought it last summer at a home-goods store near my parents’ house in Delaware and it now flanks a bookshelf in my living room. And as I learned from finding my alpaca, Steiff is not the only game in town when it comes to display-worthy stuffed animals. The menagerie from other brands below ranges from plenty of giraffes to lions and tigers and bears. All are sizable — and none will cost you nearly as much as an actual pet.
While it’s not nearly as storied as Steiff, Melissa & Doug has become synonymous with good-quality toys that come at not-laughable prices. At 53 inches, its giraffe is close in height to Steiff’s mid-size option — but costs roughly $2,400 less.
For half the price of the Melissa & Doug giraffe, you could get this 50-inch one that’s only three inches shorter.
Closest in height to Steiff’s mid-size giraffe is this 57-inch tall one from Pottery Barn Kids. It may be the most Steiff-looking, too.
This alpaca is made with real alpaca fur and more or less looks like the one I own. (The price shown is for a 40-inch one.) It does cost more than the others on this list, but these are handmade to order and no two are alike. You can choose from four shades for the fur and there are also more sizes (one smaller, two bigger) depending on your budget.