11 Unique Animals To Spot at NMI Natural History Museum

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National Museum of Ireland Natural History

Irish families will be familiar The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History in Dublin, otherwise known as “The Dead Zoo”. It opened its doors to visitors in 1857, and in that time has hardly changed. The Natural History Museum got its nickname because of the hundreds of stuffed animals that can be found there. Here are 11 Unique Animals to Spot at NMI Natural History when you visit:

The Dead Zoo is a great place for kids to learn about animals. The museum runs regular free family events and workshops for kids on different themes about Natural History too.

Next time you visit, have a look out for these 11 unique animals!

In the Irish Room on the Ground Floor:

#1. Giant Irish Deer

dead zoo Dublin Giant Irish Deer at NMI Natural History Museum

These fossil skeletons hold the record for having the largest antlers of any deer species, a pair can reach lengths of 4m! How many of these giant deer can you find in the Museum?

#2. Peregrine Falcon

See the amazing Peregrine Falcon in the birds of prey display in the Irish Room.

Did you know it is the fastest animal in the world reaching speeds of 250km per hour during its hunting dive?

Faster than a Cheetah but much smaller!

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#3. Rabbits

Rabbits at NMI Natural History Museum

Find the rabbit diorama in the Irish Room. These animals can live in large groups of up to 30 rabbits and have underground burrows called a warren.

#4. Basking Shark

basking shark at NMI Natural History Museum

Yes, we have a basking shark on display. It’s real but very very old, and has been hanging from the ceiling for over 100 years! This shark is about 7m long but they can reach up to 12m, about the length of a double decker bus!

#5. Butterflies

butterfly at NMI Natural History Museum

For those with an interest in creepy crawlies, check out the range of insects & bugs, at the back of the Irish Room. The extensive insect collection makes up over half the specimens in the museum and includes a selection of the 34 different species of butterfly living in Ireland. Which one is your favourite?

#6. Pilot Whale Skull in the Discovery Zone

See if you can spot the skull on the blue cart in the Discovery Zone and don’t forget to smell and touch it. Ireland’s waters are home to many whale and dolphin species and the pilot whale skull will give you an insight into their size and shape.

In the Mammals of the World Exhibition on the First Floor

#7. Zebra

Zebra at National Museum of Ireland Natural History Museum

When you find the zebra, take a good look up close to see the horizontal and vertical black and white stripes of this beautiful animal usually found on the African Plains. (please remember, do not touch!).

#8. Fin Whale

fin whale

Stand underneath the second largest whale in the world! The whale skeleton is hanging from the ceiling and is about 20m long. This whale unfortunately stranded itself in Bantry Bay, Co. Cork over 200 years ago. Do you know the name of the largest whale in the world?

#9. Giraffe

Giraffe at NMI Natural History Museum
Photograph by Paul Sherwood

Meet Spotticus the giraffe! A fully grown male giraffe can reach nearly 6m from the ground to their horns. Spotticus is about 3m in height and is an impressive sight standing tall above the other exhibits.

#10. Asian Elephant

Elephant at NMI Natural History Museum
Photograph by Paul Sherwood

Stand beside the elephants on display and see how you compare to the biggest land animal on the planet!

#11. Tiger

Tiger at NMI Natural History Museum

See up close the striped coat of the tiger, no two have the same pattern, just like our fingerprints! With only about 5,000 tigers left in the world this endangered species is threatened with extinction.

NB Please do not touch any of the exhibits, unless it states otherwise.

The reason we ask visitors not to touch the animals is because of wear and tear, not because they are at risk from the specimens on open display. Some of the very old specimens in the museum will have been treated with chemicals (including arsenic) as part of the taxidermy process over a century ago. Most animals on open display today such as the giraffe, zebra, moose and antelopes are less than 15 years old and were never treated with any such materials.

If you look at the baby zebra or ‘bald-tapir’ now behind glass, you can see what happens when visitors stroke the animals over the decades, with loss of fur – in those examples they have polished leather from years of handling. If you touch our elephant, walrus or rhinos you are likely to stick to them, as they were treated in the past with various oils. At least our animals don’t bite.

We do have an activity cart in the Discovery Zone on the Ground Floor that has a real pilot whale skull on top of it. We encourage everyone to touch this as it’s part of our handling collection and it is OK to touch it.

You can come and visit the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History just off Merrion Square in Dublin 2, from:

  • Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 5 pm or
  • Sunday, from 2pm to 5pm.

It is FREE to visit and families of all ages will enjoy looking at and learning about the animals and mammals on display. Be sure to check at the desk for the seasonal activity sheet available for kids to make their visit even more exciting.

Don’t forget to check the Museums’ Calendar of Events to see all their free family friendly events too.

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