Taxidermy, from the Greek for “arrangement of the skin”, is essentially the art of mounting and reproducing dead animals for display purposes. It is a controversial element of life that has long been popular, but with new philosophies springing forth out of new movements, taxidermy may be experiencing a significant decline. Some taxidermists actually arrange deceased animals for study, such as in museums or science labs, but for the most part, the industry functions on home sales and home display items.
The practice of taxidermy is generally limited to animals with backbones because the starting point of any taxidermist’s process relies on having a solid line to work with, such as the backbone. There have been instances, however, in which effective taxidermy has taken place involving insects or other smaller animals. These instances are very rare, though, and many taxidermists refuse to work with such small animals because of the complications involved.
The quality of taxidermy has certainly become more impressive over the years, with technological advances really adding to the professionalism of the industry. The main goal of a quality taxidermist is to produce life-like results from their work and to create an animal that is as close to replicating the living version as humanly possible. For this reason, preparing for the taxidermist should involve taking incredible care of your animal beforehand so that the taxidermist has as much to work with as possible.
One of the most common techniques that are utilized by a taxidermist is the freezing of the animal. The taxidermist typically uses a large freezer for this, usually something akin to the freezer of a butcher, and freezes the carcass of the animal totally. After this, the taxidermist will remove the skin and put it aside for later use. The skin will eventually be tanned by the taxidermist. The remaining muscle, bone, and tissue of the skinned animal is then put into a mixture of plaster that is usually known as “plaster of Paris”. This creates a virtual cast of the animal, from which a foam sculpture is created. The fur and skin of the animal is then placed on to the foam sculpture. Glass eyes, false teeth, and other implements are sometimes added to the finished creation, creating as much of a real effect as possible.
There is also something known as rogue taxidermy. This is the art of preparing animal replicas that are comprised of animals that do not, in fact, actually exist. The typical mandate of most rogue taxidermists is to “showcase the odd” and play on the imagination of a buying public. This interesting subset of taxidermy is often seen as being very creative and very interested in the showmanship aspect of taxidermy, trying to create the most interesting and engaging aspects of taxidermy possible.
Crypto-taxidermy is related to rogue taxidermy in some form. The key difference in crypto-taxidermy is, however, that it is based upon notions of animals that may exist or based upon notions of animals that may be long extinct. This refers to the notion of creating woolly mammoths, for example, or dinosaurs based on the bone structures. This type of taxidermy is also creative, but is mainly utilized for scientific study purposes and is found displayed in museums.
Hunters take animals to the taxidermist because they want to preserve the notions of their kill. This is common among big game hunters especially, as they can preserve the meat for food and can save the skin and fur for display in their homes. It is also popular to have simply part of the body of the animal sent to the taxidermist, such as the head. It is common to see large African animals displayed in the homes of the “Great Hunter” stereotype, as seen in many films and television programs, but this is typically a limited aspect of taxidermy. The real aspects of taxidermy involve a trades-person with expert skills working their magic to make a dead animal look more lifelike.