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94/201/1 Condom, animal membrane, sheep intestine [caecum lining] / silk / paper, made in Great Britain, [1880-1920]. Click to enlarge.

Sheep gut condom

Made in United Kingdom, Europe, [1880-1920].

This is a condom used to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of infectious diseases during sexual intercourse. In the European context, sheaths worn by men for the purpose of contraception and disease prevention were in use from the 16th century (Robertson, 1990) if not earlier. Gabrello Fallopio described a similar devise made from linen in 1564. Five fragments of gut condoms were found in the lavatory of Dudley Castle, UK dating from the 1640s (Parisot, 1987). By the 1700s sheep gut condo...


Object No.


Object Statement

Condom, animal membrane, sheep intestine [caecum lining] / silk / paper, made in Great Britain, [1880-1920]

Physical Description

Condom made of parchment-like animal membrane, likely sheep, made from the lining of the intraperitoneal pouch at the beginning of the large intestine (caecum). A pink silk ribbon tie is located at the open end, contained in "original" wax-paper envelope.



60 mm



United Kingdom, Europe [1880-1920]


Sheep gut condoms were produced from the 1600s and was the main material for these products until the 1920s when this animal material was largely replaced by vulcanised rubber.

The condom is made from the peritoneal covering of the bowl of the animal (likely, sheep). They are quite thin but strong and durable. More expensive and finer examples were soft but cheaper examples remained stiff and needed to be wettened to soften before use.

Gray's Supplement to Pharmacopoeia, 1824 gives a detailed account of how these products were made:
"Condoms, Armour, Baudruches, Reginotes Anglaises: the intestinal caeca of sheep soaked for some hours in water, turned inside out, macerated again in weak alkaline ley changed every twelve hours, scraped carefully to abstract the mucus membrane, leaving the peritoneal and muscular coats; then exposed to the vapour of burning brimstone, and afterwards washed with soap and water: they are then blown up, dried, cut to the length of 7 or 8 inches and bordered at the open end with a riband: used to prevent venereal infection or pregnancy"

Finer condoms (baudruches fines) were made in a similar fashion "The blind guts are soaked in weak ley, brimstoned, drawn upon smooth oiled moulds of proper size, observing that the external coat of gut is next the mould and dried". They could receive further treatment (then called baudruches superfines) "The baudruches fines are washed in 2 soapy waters, after soaking 24 hours in them and very carefully dressed with a knife; then soaked in hard water for three days, the water being oftened changed; dried with a clean cloth, scented with essences, and being stretched on a glass mould, rubbed with glass to polish them." Finally, these could be made into doubles with one superfine placed on top of another on the mould while still wet, presumably making them thicker and therefore considered 'safer'.

In the mid 1800's vulcanised rubber technology meant that condoms could be mass produced from this new material, they were stronger, more elastic and (relatively) cheaper, creating greater access to birth control. However animal skin condoms were still produced ? the first rubber condoms were thicker and reduced sensation for the wearer.

Latex condoms were produced from 1920. Polyurathane condoms were manufactured from 1994 and Polyisoprene in 2008. Lamb skin condoms remained in use despite the introduction of new materials largely due to the occurrence of latex allergies.



The provenance of the object is both frustrating and intriguing. Nothing is known about its previous owner and the condom was listed at the auction Christie's in 1994 after having been found hidden between the pages of a "not particularly old" book. Its discovery speaks volumes of the secrecy in which such objects were enshrouded and also of the changes in the sexual mores of western society during the twentieth century.

Unlike other examples of condoms from the same time period, this example bears no illustrations or makers marks to indicate who manufactured it. Nor are there any clues in the wax paper envelope within which it was found.

Its arrival in Australia caused something of a stir. To save delivery costs the condom was packed with an enigma machine that the museum had purchased from the same auction house. Both the enigma machine and condom were sent to quarantine because of the animal material in the package, somewhat disrupting the large press conference organised for the arrival of the famous Enigma.


Credit Line

Purchased 1994

Acquisition Date

20 September 1994

Cite this Object


Sheep gut condom 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 31 March 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Sheep gut condom |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=31 March 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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