Review and images by Suspsy; edited by bmathison1972
No animal is more associated with Canada than the beaver (Castor canadensis). Many First Nations tribes from the Haida to the Cree to the Mi‘kmaq include it in their legends, usually emphasizing the animal’s industrious nature. Moreover, the fur trade, which began in the 16th century and upon which the entire nation was built, was based primarily on beaver pelts. For nearly 300 years, explorers and voyageurs trekked further and further across the land in search of more beavers to turn into fancy hats and robes. This made the beaver globally famous, but of course it also decimated the population. Fortunately, the demand for furs eventually died down before the beaver died out. In 1975, the humble rodent was officially declared Canada’s national symbol. Prior to that, it debuted on the Canadian five-cent coin (the nickel) and the very first Canadian postage stamp. It has also been turned into wartime propaganda, company logos, and scores of toys.
One such toy was released by Safari Ltd. in 2007 as part of their North American Wildlife series. It is sculpted with its head raised and its unmistakable flat tail held straight out behind. Gripped in its mouth are some small sticks, which is a neat touch. These could be intended as building material for the beaver’s lodge, or perhaps they’re just part of its lunch. Strict herbivores, beavers feed on a wide variety of herbaceous plants, aquatic vegetation, and trees, with aspen and poplar apparently being their favourites. They will readily eat all parts of a tree, from the bark to the branches and the leaves.
At about 10.5 cm in length, this is a fairly large beaver figure and certainly not in scale with many of the other NAW animals. The main colour is medium brown with a darker patch on the back. Dark grey is used for the tail and lightly applied to the soles of the feet. The ears, eyes, and nose are glossy black, the front incisors are light pink, and the sticks are grey with speckles of black. Unfortunately, the paint on this particular figure has been sloppily applied on the nose and ears, plus there’s a blot of dark brown on the right side of the head.
Accuracy-wise, there really doesn’t appear to be anything to complain about with this toy. All the familiar features are present in addition to the visible front teeth: a large, relatively rounded head with tiny ears, a stout body covered in slick fur, webbing on the large hind feet, and, of course, a flattened tail shaped like a paddle blade. The tail serves as a swimming rudder, helps support the beaver when it is rearing up on its hind legs to gnaw on trees, stores fat, and is used to slap the water’s surface as an effective danger warning. It’s also the inspiration for one of Canada’s most popular pastries.
Unfortunately, as one of older Safari’s products, the detail on this beaver is decidedly not on par with their more recent wares. The fur covering the head and body is reasonably well-sculpted, but far from what you’d describe as painstakingly intricate. Similarly, the tail features rather crude overlapping scales that are far too big and far too few to do proper justice to the real animal.
Nevertheless, the Safari North American Wildlife beaver is still probably the best toy of this iconic animal currently available on the market, and the easiest to acquire as well. Recommended, especially for those fond of Canadian fauna.