Vault tales 37 Bullyand Predatory Ratite

Who makes it? This figure is from the glory days of Bullyland’s Stuttgart Museum Prehistoric Mammals line, item number 58356. It was originally released as Diatryma, but the re-release labelled it Gastornis.

If knowing the exact species is important, this figure is probably G. gigantea. since it’s the best known Gastornis skeleton. And the biggest one!

When did it come out? The line originally came out in 1998, and was briefly re-released in 2012.

Still available? After coming out twice, no. When they were discontinued the first time the figures were very sought after and expensive. When they came out again they were more affordable for a little while…but they’re back to being rare and pricey. And they probably won’t be released again (Bullyland has changed their toy focus a lot now). The best bet is from Germany somehow–either through contacts, or eBay Germany!

A front-on view. If there was something Bullyland missed, it’s that the beak should probably be narrower. This is a very broad interpretation. Pun absolutely intended.

Where can it be found in my displays? On a shelf with a wide variety of themes…but it’s where all of my larger prehistoric birds are (along with modern reptiles, ungulates, other mammals, pterosaurs…it’s a bit of a random shelf)

How does it fit in the collection? Well, when I first discovered this set in about 2000 I had to track it down; prehistoric mammals have always been a bit of a passion for me. The ratite was the only non-mammal in the series, but I had to have the whole set after all!

Fruit-and-seed eater or hunter? This particular figure seems to want to hunt (in this case, the Ausini Chevrotain which can make a good stand-in for a small Palaeocene mammal if you squint…)

Any story behind it? At the time that I found out this series existed, Bullyland was incredibly hard to find in North America, and I ended up ordering them from Germany! And due to mix ups, I ended up with the same parcel twice (which, in turn, led to a brief time as an eBay seller!). But it was my first foray into being in contact with fellow enthusiasts and collectors from around the world. Which is a very important part of being a collector these days!

Notable remarks about this figure (a review that isn’t really a review): There are a lot of toy interpretations of Gastornis (or, just as likely, Diatryma, a synonym for the same animal) which can vary wildly. It has the big, heavy head and beak that is typical, and a heavy looking body, neck, and legs. The short-ish, thick legs really stand out, as many skeleton illustrations and reconstructions that I found appear to show the legs as longer and more slender than depicted in the Bullyland figure (which is part of the debate about whether these were hunting birds, or plant-eating birds) but this could just be a proportional thing with the figure. There is a just a short fan for the tail, which seems to be the consensus, although a few figures out there have a long, dragging tail. It is painted with a fairly uninspiring black body and grey legs. The only colour is the bright yellow beak and a red mask over the eyes. Maybe this is inspired by a bird I am not aware of? As it is, the dark body is almost a trope for these figures; with very few exceptions figures of Gastornis tend to be depicted as black and/or grey, with yellow beaks. So at least it’s consistent.

The figure is roughly 1:26 or so. These people are pretty close to scale, more or less. They should probably hope that it’s not a hunter, although with a beak like that it would hurt anyway–from personal experience, even vegetarian birds can take a piece out of you…

Would I recommend it? I love the Bullyland Prehistoric Mammal series. I recommend the entire series (except the cave bear…it’s so small and uninspiring…but that’s for another time.) It would be nice if I could then say that they are easy and cheap to find but…they’re not. Even with two releases in the last 20 years, Bullyland didn’t find its way out of Germany, or at least Europe, very well. And given that many of them are prized by collectors, they can be tough to find at all. For the Gastornis itself, I don’t know, but I have a feeling that it might be one that is relatively less sought after. There aren’t many other versions currently available that I am aware of though, if any.