- Animalier Set -

I recently came across this charming set of wooden animals. It seems animalier chess sets have been popular since at least the 19th century and in the 20th century were made all over Europe as well as Africa and elsewhere. It's possible this set is made from African woods; it's hard to tell. Because of the particular animals represented, I feel it's more likely this set was somewhere in Europe in the 20th century. I can't really say I know anything about the origin or the age (the seller assured me they are at least 50 years old) of the set, though, beyond guessing. If you have any information as always I'd love to hear from you.

Wooden animal figures.

Royalty as lion. The wood appears to have darkened over the years and now there's sadly little difference between the White and Black pieces.

Kings as male lions in red and dull gray-brown. Can you tell me what kind of woods were used?

The White lion may have lost his teeth over the years or it may be the result of a carving mistake to begin with.
Either way of course the Kings fangs are mostly for show. It's the Lioness and the Chess Queen that makes the kill.


Queens aptly portrayed as lionesses.

Interesting streaks where the sapwood turns to heartwood in both wood grains.

Lionesses stand proud.


Bishops as tall giraffes, a sensical choice to me given the abstract tall, skinny "feel" of a Bishop in a chess set.

Knight are a humorous chess as kangaroos, a commentary on the "jumping" Knight move.
I was surprised to find this piece is very common in animalier sets.

Rooks as bears, a less common choice. Apart from the black forest sets where every piece is represented as some kind of bear mine is the only set I've ever seen with bears for rooks. It's quite clear that they are the rooks only because the other pieces are more common and obvious.

Pawns as seated monkeys, another common choice in anamalier sets.


Bottoms. The bases, turned seperately are marked from the chuck. It's a kind of mark I've seen on some thread spools and could possibly be a clue as to the age and origin of the set.

As could the attachments of the pieces to the bases which are made with metal rods, possibly nails which were pounded into one side and clipped off, the other side being drilled.

Bishops and Knights with similar features.

Pawns, deep in discussion on some monkey business or another.

Representative pieces.

Anamalier set.

Figural Sets

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