As surprising as it may seem, taxidermy has been around for a long time and is used throughout countries and cultures all around the world. Since the first archaic attempts at preserving animal skins, the art of taxidermy has come a long way and has had lasting effects on recreating natural, physical characteristics of animals.
What is taxidermy?
As one of the most extraordinary and effective ways to preserve animal skins, taxidermy is considered a scientific art in which a skilled individual goes through the process of fully preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of a variety of vertebrate animal species, including large and small mammals, reptiles, fish and birds. The end result of the taxidermy process is animal mounts ready to be displayed in private homes, exhibited in museums or studied in educational institutions. It’s a fascinating process, and one that can seem very mysterious to outsiders. Here are some interesting facts about taxidermy:
- It’s a Greek word: Louis Dufresne, associated with a French museum in Paris, is said to have been the first person to use the word “taxidermy,” which appears in an 1803 reference book. The word comes from combining two Greek words: taxis, meaning “arrangement,” and derma, meaning “skin.”
- Taxidermy started in England in the 19th century: It was early 19th century England’s desire for leather goods that led researchers of species to utilize the tanning technique in their favor. They could better preserve animal species as a way to catalog a variety of animals locally, as well as species brought over from other countries.
- A taxidermist has many skills: To be a taxidermist, one must have strong knowledge of the animal kingdom, plants and nature, and be able to draw, sculpt and even paint. He or she must be familiar with the tanning process and possess a great deal of experience received under the tutelage of expert taxidermists.
- Early mounts didn’t follow the same rules as present-day taxidermy: Most of the chemicals and tools we have today (which we know will work for taxidermy) were not available during the days of early mounting practices. Early animal mounts were not treated with the right chemicals for preservation, and improperly prepared skins were stuffed with sawdust and rags. This led to disfigured, terrifying-looking creatures not at all resembling the living animals they once were.
- You see it in museums: As a child, you likely visited museums with your family or on school field trips, but at the time, you may not have been aware that many of the animals on display were actually real animal skins. Most animal mounts are displayed in dioramas depicting outdoor scenes or set up in a replica of the animal’s natural habitat.
- The first American taxidermy completion happened in 1880: Taxidermist William Hornaday was awarded the highest prize for his recreation of two male orangutans in a battle over a female. Not only was his diorama scientifically accurate, but it was also artistic and very realistic in appearance. Other taxidermists began trying to live up to these standards.
It can be hard finding a skilled taxidermist who can create a truly life-like appearance for your hunting trophy. Fortunately, there’s Nature’s Design Taxidermy in Cody, WY. We’re here for all of your taxidermy needs!