From Preserving The Dead to Trophies: How Taxidermy Came to Be

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Taxidermy OtterThere’s more to taxidermy that just stuffing animals. Over the years, it has been a scientific art, as it requires practitioners to study the anatomy of the animals they’re going to work with prior to taking accurate measurements and tracing them. This is necessary to make their projects as life-like as possible.

History of Taxidermy

Apart from people, the Egyptians mummified animals, too. In a way, this was a form of taxidermy because they preserved their dead. Many of these were found along with what were presumed to be their owners.

By the Middle Ages, the preservation methods have improved greatly. Although the stuffing they used for the birds during falconry hunting were sometimes strange, the skin preservation had improved.

Taxidermy became widely popular during the Victorian era. They usually mounted animals or birds because people wanted them as mementos of their travels. During this time, museums started using mountings in their displays as well, which gave taxidermists a lot of business. The practice of anthropomorphizing stuffed animals became popular at this time, like the tableaus created by Walter Potter.

In the 20th century, with modern advancements, taxidermists focused on making their displays as life-like and realistic as when they were still alive.

Advancements in Taxidermy

Even with many museums featuring stuffed exhibits, there are still people who think that taxidermy pieces can get old, rot, or only accumulate dust. Dourlain.com says that taxidermy has faced and undergone a huge amount of advancement over the years.

Upholsterers did most of the preserving in the past. Their process involved sewing the skin and stuffing with whatever material was available – rags, sawdust, sand, or cotton. They also lacked the skill of replacing the noses, eyes, and tongues, which made the finished product more susceptible to damage and deterioration in the long run.

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In the Victorian Era, they started using wooden models for the skin to stretch over and they also used wood and glass to replace the eyes and other soft tissue.

During the mid-1970s, taxidermists had started using polyurethane foam instead of wooden frames. Its ability to hold the model in shape and be sculpted meant stuffing was no longer necessary. Now, modern pieces are more anatomically precise, natural-looking, and resistant to rot and decay.

If you want to see these specimens up close, then try going to museums. If not, there are specimens sold for decorative purposes, too.

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