As you breathe the fresh air, you finally see it. As your prey moves behind the bushes, not knowing its fate, you feel the adrenaline rush through your veins. Concentrating hard, you pull the trigger, and the target falls on the ground. You now have a trophy to signify your hunting capabilities. You want to preserve the animal as a decoration piece above your mantel. At this point, the need for a taxidermist arises.
What is taxidermy?
The literal meaning of taxidermy is the movement of skin which, considering the historical and some of the current methods, seems to be an apt definition of the term since the process involves removal of natural skin and putting it over a taxidermy form, or artificial body and adjusting the skin until it looks lifelike.
Taxidermy is an umbrella term which is used to describe an array of methods via which you can reproduce a lifelike representation of an animal, regardless of how small or big the animal is. While commonly people think of taxidermy as stuffing an animal, such is only a type of taxidermy. While sometimes the real skin of the animal concerned is used, in other cases, the animal may be reproduced entirely via human-made materials.
While the historical method of taxidermy revolves around using as much of the real animal as possible, the modern practice has somewhat deviated from such methods. Current practices now require an array of skills including woodworking, casting, molding, tanning, and carpentry. Most importantly, taxidermy requires artistic skills so as to make a real-life sculpture masterfully.
Now, deer mounts only use the antlers and skin of the deer, unlike in ancient times when most of the organs were used. Today, all other organs and tissues are now a product of a man’s hard work. While the eyes are made from glass, the eyelids are made through clay. The tissues of the nose are made with the help of wax. The rest of the anatomy, ranging from muscles to veins, is made using a polyurethane foam and is known as taxidermy forms.
For a definition please read here.
Procedure of taxidermy
The process of taxidermy can be viewed as a mixture of art and science. It is because the act of preserving the skin and other organs of an animal requires scientific knowledge of the process whereas to insure that the taxidermy looks as real as possible, one must be a masterful artist.
While there is any array of animals, you can immortalize using taxidermy including bear taxidermy, deer taxidermy, fish taxidermy and alligator taxidermy etc. However, the process of doing so is marked by similarity.
Preparing the animal
Before the art of taxidermy, you first begin by preparing the animal. If the animal is small enough to fit in a freezer, such is done to prevent it from decomposing. Before such measures, the measurements of the animal are taken to make the taxidermy form. Mold usually is used to make such a form.
The skin of the animal is then removed via the help of a sharp knife. At this stage, caution must be taken to insure that none of the organs or the body cavities of the animal are punctured. It is because doing so can lead to the destruction of the skin. The skin is then peeled off, and it is insured that no fat or flesh sticks to the skin so as to guarantee proper preservation.
Preserving the skin
Iodized salt is rubbed onto the side of the skin which was previously attached to the skin to protect it. The skin is then kept under the sun for about a day to make sure that the salt absorbs all the moisture present in the hide. If any moisture remains, one is required to repeat the salting process until the skin is completely dried off. However, you need to make sure that the skin does not dry up to the extent of being too hard to mold.
Once the skin gets hardened, it is rehydrated by soaking it overnight in a mixture of cold water, disinfectant solution, and table salt. The skin is then dried, and excess moisture is toweled off. After insuring that the skin is dry and that no flesh remains, tanning oil is heated and rubbed onto the dry skin. The skin is left for a few hours after which it is placed inside a plastic bag and kept in a refrigerator until the need for it arises during the mounting process.
Creating the mount
From the measurements taken of the animal before peeling off its skin, taxidermy forms will be made and the skin will be dressed onto the mount. The newspaper may be used to stuff the parts which require adjustment.
After adding artificial eyes and other tissues like the nose to make the animal more lifelike, sew the hide on the form using a thread of the same color as the animal’s skin. Once it is sewn in a proper manner, the taxidermy is done, and the product is ready to be showcased on a mantel.
Rather than doing the process all by yourself, you can also find taxidermy for sale and will be provided with an array of already immortalized animals waiting to be bought and placed in your rooms. You can choose from an array of options including American taxidermy, African taxidermy, and wildlife taxidermy etc.
History of modern taxidermy
While taxidermy finds its origin in merely stuffing up animals with wood and cotton, Carl Akeley was responsible for changing the task to an artistic project. One could say that he was the father of the modern taxidermy. Akeley was born in New York and was a naturalist and explorer by career. Before him, taxidermy was a revolting and smelly act of boiling bones and wiring frames. However, he turned the act into something more refined and lifelike.
By sculpting the bodies of the animals in their natural position via the help of clay, Akeley was able to attain a taxidermy form with such accurate anatomical structure that one could see the specimen’s muscles and veins before dressing the skin. Once the skin had been mounted, Akeley took it a step ahead by keeping his lifelike animals in a recreated habitat. He insured that for such a habitat, everything was true to the experience. Such was achieved by using leaves on the ground from the place that mounted animal was found.
Hence, what Akeley did was not only to change the practice of how taxidermy was done, but he also changed the mindset behind it. From merely being a one-animal show on a piece of the mantle, taxidermy then began to be done to narrate a story. His impact is clearly visible in places like Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and American Museum of Natural History. He gave a new meaning to the art of immortalizing animals. And such a meaning was much better than the story of how it all started.
Types of taxidermy
The process of how one approaches the task of taxidermy varies according to the animal in question. Taxidermy of small animals, for example, fish taxidermy, is a very tedious task. However, nothing can compare to the several months that are required to complete taxidermy of large animals like a black bear.
Fish taxidermy requires tools which can precisely clean crevices. When conducting fish taxidermy, it is best to keep the head intact and attached to the skin of the fish. The act of mounting the fish also requires precision and patience because of the small size of the specimen as well as the thin nature of the skin.
Not only is a fish’s skin thin, but it also tends to lose color at a very fast rate. Therefore, to combat this issue, some taxidermists prefer to paint the fish to make it look fresh while others choose to preserve the skin via alcohol.
Preservation of fish skin can be done via coating the pelt of the fish with borax powder and storing it in a container. The skin should then be kept in the dark and cold conditions for around four days to make sure the skin is dry and stiff.
Another popular specimen for the process is birds. They too are commonly small in size and therefore require high precision and skill. Such specimens are either used to recreate wildlife or to be placed as a decorative piece in gardens or houses.
Waterfowl taxidermy is quite common. Professional taxidermists make an effort to calk such birds to make sure that the mount is as durable as possible. Such a task also insures that the bird looks as natural and lifelike as possible.
Black bear taxidermy
Black bear taxidermy is a popular form of American taxidermy. The reason behind black bears are the most common animals that undergo this process is that many hunters in the US view such animals as their prized trophies worthy of being immortalized. Such bear mounts are often found in displays depicting wildlife taxidermy.
Once the fur is effectively removed from the carcass of the black bear, the hide is rubbed with salt to eliminate the remaining moisture. While the head of the black bear is used for the mount, its eyes and teeth are replaced with replicas made out of glass.
Most of us are proud owners of pets. And while some of us choose to let our pets go after they pass away, others wish to immortalize them via making them into taxidermy pets. Such a thought may feel repulsive to some of us. However, for some owners taxidermy insures that they could preserve their pets and hence the memories that come with them.
It is always a good idea to see the credibility of a taxidermist you have selected before sending off your beloved pet to be immortalized. While a skilled taxidermist can help you preserve everything your pet symbolizes, an amateur one can leave you traumatized. Therefore, always choose wisely.
Africa is the home of the world’s most beautiful and unique animals. It is a given that the wildlife taxidermy of such animals is bound to be just distinct. Hence, some prefer to give African taxidermy for sale a try. Here are some of the wildlife taxidermy animals you can choose from.
- African warthog
- Spotted hyena
- African impala
- Black-backed jackal
- Life-size yellow baboon
One does wonder, do animals get killed to be immortalized? Think about alligator taxidermy and mountain lion taxidermy. While hunting of animals is allowed in hunting season in various parts of the world, many believe that the process of killing an animal just to skin it seems to be unethical.
While trophy taxidermy still exists, in modern taxidermy, most animals used are not killed for the sole purpose of having their skin peeled off their body. Moreover, a variety of laws exists which prohibit the taxidermy of endangered animals; and taxidermists are required to provide paperwork to prove the natural death of the given animals. Such laws and modern methods have made the act of taxidermy less terrifying for animal rights advocates than the methods adopted in the older days.
All in all, taxidermy has come a long way from where it began. Not only are the results more lifelike but they also seem to be less aggressive in nature. The progress of the field to an art-like status is commendable.
The purpose and method of modern taxidermy seem to have more meat to it than the ancient methods and objectives.
Next time you see a taxidermy bear or fish in a museum, understand that the mere act is a symbol of the olden days. Try to imagine the narration the animals and the taxidermists wish to convey.
Make sure that you do not hunt animals for the sole purpose of using them for trophies. There are already various animals available for taxidermy for sale. Such options are better than taking the life of an innocent animal, regardless of how much joy it brings to you.
When you think, where can I find taxidermy near me, please read more here.