I finally found that photo I was looking for. Behold, one of the strangest Breyer knock-offs you'll ever see: a Bucking Bronco mechanical bank!
It's from a 2005 mail-order catalog from Betty's Attic. I love how they didn't even bother to change his name! I was quite tempted to buy this little marvel of modern engineering, as I've always been a big fan of the Bucking Bronco mold, but I managed to resist the urge. If I ever should come across one at a flea market for a not-indecent price, however, I won't hesitate.
I do have a few knock-offs in my collection – they've been something I've kept a small interest in for a number of years now, though I only have a handful of them in the herd due to space issues. My most recent acquisition was this remarkably faithful adaptation of the Elephant:
He's from a company known colloquially in the hobby as “Diamond P.” On their inside hind legs, where the Breyer copyright horseshow would normally be, there's a small, four-pointed diamond shape with a capital letter “P” in it, along with a three digit number and the phrase “Made in Hong Kong.” Here's a shot from the inside hind leg of a Running Mare copy to illustrate:
The actual name of the manufacturer, or the “brand” name the Diamond P models were marketed under is unknown to me: it's another one of those numerous topics I haven't followed up on yet. The extent of my research so far has been to keep a small list of known models and a photo reference file, mostly of pieces that have passed through my hands on their way to someone else.
(FYI: I'm keeping the Elephant.)
Some Diamond P models, like the Elephant, are really good copies; their copy of the standing Donkey is also very good, as well as their version of the Rearing Hartland Mustang. Others, such as the Running Mare in my possession, are just a little off in size, color, and the overall details:
From the selection of models found so far, I'm presuming this particular brand was in its heyday in the late 1960s to early 1970s. There have been other knock-off manufacturers both before and since, some quite notorious. (“Antique” Chinese Big Ben Bronzes, anyone?)
The irony is that Breyer itself started as a company that produced knock-offs - slightly classier and better quality, but still knock-offs. Most of their molds from the 1950s were direct, or near direct copies from other sources:
Western Horse and Pony (Hartland, among others)
Old Mold Stallion, Mare and Foal (Hagen-Renaker)
Racehorse (Grand Wood Carving)
Brahma Bull (Boehm)
Walking Polled Hereford Bull (Boehm)
Most, but not all: the Lassie mold is definitely an original Breyer design, and the Small Poodle, the Rin Tin Tin, Fury, and the Rigid Riders were probably originals. (We have a dated letter and sketch for the Lassie, but nothing for any of the others, yet. Those darn fragmentary records from the 1950s!)
After the Hagen-Renaker lawsuit, Breyer did cool it a bit with the direct knock-offs, for the most part (the jury is still out on the Bassett Hound, and the Adios's story is … complicated.) And those that were knocked-off were modified just enough to keep the lawyers at bay.
All that could change with further research, naturally.