Everything You Need to Know About Taxidermy


Taxidermy has been practiced for thousands of years. Embalmed animals have even been discovered along with mummies in ancient Egypt. Taxidermy is done as a hobby as well as for professional reasons. Everything from skull cleaning beetles to freeze drying is part of the interesting process that is taxidermy. The following information includes everything you should know about this fascinating process.

What is Taxidermy?

In simplest terms, taxidermy is preserving an animal’s body. Some definitions even describe taxidermy as an art. There is an artistic element to creating pieces that often involve woodworking and molding. There are several ways taxidermy can be done.

  • One method uses just the skin of the animal. The taxidermist will discard the bones. This might include using scales, feathers, and fur.
  • Another form of taxidermy uses mostly man-made items when recreating an animal.
  • Finally, an individual may want to keep as much of the animal as possible. This would include the skull and other bones as well as skin and fur.

Why is it Done?

There are several reasons why people would want to preserve an animal, bird, or fish. Sometimes hunters want to preserve and showcase big game that they keep and mount as trophies. Zoos, universities, and museums will often have the bones and skins of real animals in their displays and exhibits. Keeping animals preserved in a variety of ways can be used for educational purposes. Sometimes individuals want to preserve a beloved pet to keep in their home.

How is it Completed?

The first step usually involves skinning the animal. This is also called caping. The skin must be cleaned and tanned. Cleaning the bones is sometimes part of the process. Some people will boil them until everything literally falls off. The melting fat, however, soaks into the bones when boiling. This leaves the skull yellow and greasy. Dermestid beetles are a type of skull cleaning beetles that are used to clean bones, especially skulls, for taxidermy purposes. It’s necessary to have thousands of adult beetles and larvae to adequately clean larger skulls. The result will be a clean skull that is natural looking.

Are There Unusual Aspects to Taxidermy?

Taxidermy isn’t your run-of-the-mill hobby and there are many things about it people would find fascinating. Some of the first taxidermy projects were stuffed with rags or sawdust. This meant that some of them often looked disfigured instead of realistic. Another interesting fact is that in 1880 the United States had the first taxidermy contest. The winner displayed two male orangutans fighting. Finally, arsenic was sometimes used as a preservative when creating displays.