The Museum has the first Gorilla skulls ever to be sent to Europe. These were studied by the famous Professor Richard Owen at the Natural History Museum, London. Based on the skulls, he described the Gorilla as new species of ape - Troglodytes savagei - in a paper published in 1848. This would make our skulls the “type” specimens of the species. However, Owen had been pipped to the post by the US missionary Thomas Savage just a few months earlier in 1847, who gave it the name Troglodytes gorilla. His earlier publication has official priority, so the name gorilla, not savagei, must be used. The genus name was later changed to Gorilla, hence the full scientific name Gorilla gorilla. Samuel Stutchbury, Curator at Bristol Museum, had acquainted himself with many masters of ships and requested a skull of a large African ape that was mysteriously spoken about. Two skulls were sent to him from Gabon which Stutchbury promptly lent to Owen. However Dr Savage’s own visit to Gabon, on his way from Africa to the US, meant he also obtained specimens. Savage’s skulls are now in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard, USA. The Bristol skulls had been used by the locals in a celebratory ceremony after their killing, due to the superstitions surrounding the animal. They were painted red and white and probably mounted on poles – hence the lack of lower mandibles. Sadly this paint was removed from the specimens in 1848. Casts of these skulls were donated to the Odontological Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1848, and appear in the ‘Descriptive Catalogue of the Osteological Series Vol. II. Mammalia Placentalia’ (1853). Since then the skulls have often studied by experts and went on loan to Bristol Zoo in 1981 for a display at the Ape Advisory Panel meeting. One is currently on show at MShed.