Torosaurus outside the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven

Power Animals

Round a few corners in downtown New Haven and you’re bound to see a piece of public art. What you’re unlikely to see is a certain category of it: sculptures of animals, or at least the non-Homo sapiens varieties.

Turns out they’re around, but you often have to look in nooks and crannies to find them. Expanding the search above eye level, and beyond downtown, is a big help.

The difficulty is surprising given how consistently animals inspire us, and how much they’ve come to symbolize in our minds. Atop a huge granite slab, the 21-foot torosaurus outside the Peabody Museum is an awe-inspiring image of strength and power. Roosting 10 or 11 feet from the ground, the magnificent eagle in Monitor Square—really a triangle, framed by Chapel Street, Derby Avenue and Winthrop Avenue—is vision and resolve incarnate. The carved animal heads adorning the High Street overpass of the Yale University Art Gallery—including a pig, a monkey, an owl, a ram and many others besides—are both whimsical and a little menacing.

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2015 Twilight Concert Series at the New Haven Museum's Pardee-Morris House

The dragons above the portal to Grove Street Cemetery, meanwhile, evoke an otherworldliness befitting their locale. The sculpted Handsome Dan tribute outside the Yale Bowl symbolizes, of course, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. The lions tucked into a corner of Yale’s Old Campus are noble sentinels, clutching shields to drive home the point. On the other hand, the lion behind the patio at the Book Trader Cafe is a sort of jolly Zen master, spitting a steady stream of water into a fountain, helping real birds bathe and book-readers relax.

Actually, that last one’s kind of a mismatch.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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