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Taxidermy (from the Greek for classifying skins) is the act of mounting or reproducing dead animals for display (e.g. as hunting trophies) or for other sources of study. Taxidermy can be done on all species of animals including mammals, birds, nematodes, reptiles and amphibians. The methods that taxidermists practice have been improved over the last century, heightening taxidermic quality, and lowering toxicity. The animal is first skinned. This process is similar to removing the skin from a chicken prior to cooking. This can be accomplished without opening the body cavity so the taxidermist usually does not see internal organs or blood. The skin is tanned and then placed on a polyurethane form. Clay is used to install glass eyes. Forms and eyes are commercially available from a number of suppliers. If not, taxidermist carve or cast their own forms.

Taxidermists may practice professionally, for museums or as a business catering to hunters and fishermen, or as amateurs, such as hobbyists, hunters, and fishermen. To practice taxidermy, one must be very familiar with anatomy, sculpture, and painting, as well as tanning.


As the demand for quality leather and hides grew, the methods became more and more sophisticated. By the 1700s, almost every small town had a prosperous tannery business. In the 1800s, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops where the upholsterers would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton. The term "stuffing" or a "stuffed animal" evolved from this crude form of taxidermy. Professional taxidermists prefer the term "mounting" to "stuffing". More sophisticated cotton wrapped wire bodies supporting sewn on cured skins soon followed. In France Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturellemarker from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle (1803–1804). This technique enabled the Muséum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

In the early 20th century, taxidermy began to evolve into its modern form under the leadership of artists such as Carl Akeley, James L. Clark, William T. Hornaday, Coleman Jonas, Fredrick and William Kaempfer, and Leon Pray. These and other taxidermists developed anatomically accurate figures which incorporated every detail in artistically interesting poses, with mounts in realistic settings and poses that were considered more appropriate for the species. This was quite a change from the caricatures that were popularly offered as hunting trophies.


Taxidermists seek to continually maintain their skills to ensure attractive, life-like results. Although mounting an animal has long been considered an art form, often involving months of work, not all modern taxidermists trap or hunt for prize specimens.

Taxidermy specimens can be saved for later use by freezing. The taxidermist then removes the skin, to be tanned and treated for later use. The remaining muscle fibers and bones are measured and posed. The carcass is then molded in plaster, then a copy of the animal is formed using one of several methods. then a final mold is made of polyester resin and glass cloth; from which a polyurethane form is made for final production. The carcass is then removed and the mold is used to produce a cast of the animal called a mannequin. Mannequins can also be made by sculpting the animal first in clay. There are many companies that produce stock forms in many sizes that can be used. Glass eyes are then usually added to the display, and possibly also artificial teeth, depending on the subject's original dental condition.

An increasingly popular trend is to freeze dry the animal. This can be done with reptiles, birds, and small mammals such as cats, large mice and some types of dogs. Freeze drying is expensive and time consuming. The equipment is expensive and requires much upkeep. Large specimens can be required to spend as long as 6 months in the freeze dryer, although it is the preferred technique for pets. Animals that have been freeze dried may later be susceptible to being eaten by carpet beetles.

Rogue taxidermy

Rogue taxidermy is the creation of stuffed animals which do not have real, live counterparts. Many taxidermist do not consider this true taxidermy. They may represent unrealistic hybrids such as the jackalope and the skvader, extinct species, mythical creatures such as dragons, chimeras, griffins, unicorns or mermaids, or may be entirely of the maker's imagination. Some are made from parts of more than one kind of animal, or they may be artificially created. Rogue taxidermy is often seen in sideshows and dime museums among genuine freak animals.

When the Platypus was first discovered by Europeans in 1798, and a pelt and sketch were sent to the United Kingdommarker, some thought the animal to be a hoax. It was thought that a taxidermist had sewn a duck's beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal. George Shaw, who produced the first description of the animal in the Naturalist's Miscellany in 1799, even took a pair of scissors to the dried skin to check for stitches.

The term "Rogue Taxidermy" was introduced by the Minneapolis, MN based group, The Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists (or M.A.R.T.)[26857] in October of 2004. It was first coined by M.A.R.T. founders Sarina Brewer, Scott Bibus, and Robert Marbury. The term first appeared in print in a New York Times article about the group's debut exhibition on January 3rd, 2005. [26858] Since that time its definition has become more general, referring to many types of taxidermy that do not fall under the trade of it.

Art taxidermists such as David Blyth and Polly Morgan use taxidermy to create art either as its sole content or as part of an installation.

Anthropomorphic taxidermy

Walter Potter's Rabbit School
Anthropomorphic taxidermy is where stuffed animals are dressed as people or displayed as if engaged in human activities. This style was popular in Victorian and Edwardian times but can still be found today. The style was popularised by Herman Ploucquet, taxidermist in Stuttgartmarker, Germanymarker, when he exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

The most well-known practitioner in this genre is English taxidermist Walter Potter, whose most famous work is The Death and Burial of Cock Robin.

Another important practitioner was Edward Hart, whose The Prize Fight series depicts a boxing match between two red squirrels.

A modern anthropomorphic taxidermist is M. Cattelan who in his installation Bidibidobidiboo showed a squirrel that had committed suicide, dead at its kitchen table.

Alternatives to taxidermy

A sustainable approach to taxidermy is the creation of entirely artificial fish mounts from photographs, for fishermen who practise catch and release. This technique, called reproduction taxidermy, which is not really taxidermy at all, is gaining favor with both fishermen and animal-rights organizations. Another method of retaining the memory of an animal without controversial taxidermy is called digital taxidermy. The wildlife prints include an animal, of the same relative size and appearance of one provided in a photograph. Significantly less expensive than traditional taxidermy, it is also an animal- and environment-friendly alternative, particularly for fishermen.


File:Elefante_disecado.JPG|Stuffed elephant in Lebrijamarker.Image:Taxidermied_Bandicoot.jpg|A mounted bandicoot.Image:One of Pavlov's dogs.jpg|One of Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, Pavlov Museum, 2005.Image:Great BustardLg1438.jpeg |Great Bustard in Joseph Whitaker collection.Image:Passengerpigeon-cropped.jpg|Stuffed passenger pigeon at the Boston Museum of Sciencemarker.Image:Stuffed deer (Chateau de Chambord).jpg|Stuffed deer at the Chateau de Chambord.Image:Elefante disecado MCNM.jpg|Stuffed elephant in Madridmarker.Image:Grande galerie de l'évolution, défilé.jpg |Mounted mammals in Muséum national d'histoire naturellemarker in Paris.Image:Paris - grande galerie de l evolution - diversite du vivant - 2005-11-12.jpg|Mounted mammals in Muséum national d'histoire naturellemarker in Paris.Image:Taxidermy of Raccoon Dog-Morinji, Tatebayashi, Gunma.JPG|Japanese Raccoon Dog, wearing the waraji on feet and standing.Image:Taxidermy_brown_rat_wood_bionerd.jpg|Rat, mounted on wood.Image:Thylacine-tring.jpg|Stuffed Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) at Walter Rothschild Zoological Museummarker.Image:Smuseum 002.jpg|The Leeds Tiger of Leeds City Museummarker, stuffed with straw in 19th century.

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