Longview homeowner decorates exotic stuffed animals for Christmas

Pictured is the stuffed polar bear in Rusty Johnson's collection of exotic animals. (Source:...
Pictured is the stuffed polar bear in Rusty Johnson's collection of exotic animals. (Source: KLTV Staff)(KLTV Staff)
Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 3:11 PM CST
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LONGVIEW Texas (KLTV) - In what has become a quirky tradition for the holidays, an East Texas homeowner has been entertaining visitors for the past three years with an unusual holiday display - stuffed exotic animals decorated for Christmas.

If you drive along Pineland Street in Longview, a startling thing may catch your eye. It’s not every day that you see an African lion wearing reindeer antlers.

It is the holiday twist of homeowner Rusty Johnson.

“Well we had the animals, and the kids like to come by and see them,” Rusty said. “It’s Christmas time, so we just dressed up the animals we got.”

Birthday parties, church groups, and school groups have come by,” he said.

Rusty decorates over 30 exotic stuffed animals at his home that he allows the public to come in and view. From exotic deer and moose to big cats like lions and panthers to Kodiak bears, including a TCU alumni bear, and even a 2,000-pound polar bear.

“Had to take the fence down to get him in,” Rusty said. “At 12 feet long and 2,000 pounds, he’s quite a load.”

“Once you get started, you got a bear and a moose, then you got to have a lion, got to have a leopard, then a turkey, so on,” Rusty said.

And because many of the animals are protected, he must have papers for them.

“The jaguar, that was 1972 and before with the proper paperwork,” he said.

His joy is seeing people and particularly children react to the display.

“Cars stop. People come up to the door. Well, if it brings joy to people that’s fine with me. It’s here 365. Most people seem to like it especially the little kids,” says Rusty.

Johnson leaves the animals on display year-round, just without the decorations after Christmas.

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