Cowlicks on finished Deer Capes and skins

Submitted by Bruce Rittel on 9/24/1998. ( rittel@ici.net )

Even tanneries experience this problem, but I have never been able pinpoint the problem. Sometimes a cape will have unruly cowlicks, areas you are unable to comb out. Sometimes its only 1 or 2 among several of the capes processed together. At other times, it occurs once out of 40-50 capes over a period of time. I have a few ideas of my own - but I'd like to hear from the FORUM readers. Anyone out there willing to give some feedback for the benefit of all of us?

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Hair Problems

This response submitted by The Fur Dresser on 9/24/1998. ( )

Cowlicks could be a natural thing. Most of the time hair going the wrong way is caused in my opinion by several things, and possibly by several. Causes: 1)Skins with too much bacterial damage before salting. The hair folicile is damaged to the point when placed through the tanning process the hair itself literally turns in the shaft but does not come out, therefore you have a patch of unruley or turned direction of hair from the rest of the pelt. 2)A pickle that has risen too high in ph and the skin in various places causes the same problem, hair turning in the shaft because of too high a ph when the skin is in the pickle.3)a weak tan for the same reasons.I think these are some of the reasons. The Fur Dresser


A Natural Phenomenon?

This response submitted by John Bellucci on 9/25/1998. ( ArtistExpr@aol.com )

Well guys, I might as well add my two-cents worth... Having made it a strong point in my life to intently study mammals the way I have, I can say with a strong amount of certainty that many times cowlicks are just part of a particular animals' natural make-up of their hair pattern. Just as the human animal is individual with different eye color, hair color, and hair patterns, so are the animals of the four-footed, and in the case of primates - two footed varieties. Within the species of whitetail deer, for example there will be found variances of the "normal" brown eye-color. Some deer have near black eye-color, while others are a near rust or sienna brown color. The same is said of the hair and hair-patterns themselves. There are individuals that differ in their actual hair "patterns", as well as the appearance of cowlicks, curving swirls, erect-standing hairs, and other hair growths considered out of the "norm". Out of the "norm", but VERY normal for that individual. Just some more food for thought! Hope this shed some more light on the issue. John.


two more cents worth

This response submitted by Bill on 9/25/1998. ( byoxtax@frontiernet.net )

Bruce must be listening in on my phone conversations lately because in the past two weeks I've had two different guys call me about slippage/ cowlicks, and after talking to them, I had two capes in a row do this to me. I guess these things come in twos! Seriously, I agree with everyone about the natural cowlicks, such as the dorsal line starting behind the head and sometimes extending down the neck, the higher than normal brisket, the swirls ahead of the eyes, and the occaissional ugly one in the middle of the neck(yikes). I also agree with the thought with the tannery related slippage. But how does it get turned around in such a uniformed pattern? I had a deer come in during a recent October bow season that was here within three hours of expiration and it did this- before processing! And it's a real problem with short hair. Aaaaanyway, while mounting I usually handle the affected area carefully and when everything is where I want it, I'll back brush and go at it from different directions until it finally twists and lays down, provided the hair isn't too weak. You'll lose some hair but that sometimes helps the rest of it lay better. I also use foam mousse, the hair stuff, for longer hair. Talk to the "old timers" and they'll tell you how to mix dry clay into a mud and comb it into the hair and let it dry for days, then gently comb it out. I've had it work, but I also had one with short hair that did'nt. That one was a nightmare...and a re-do...ouch! Well, thats what worked for me, so in closing I'd suggest the preventive angle, being sure to take care of fresh capes, use a good tannery or tanning methods, and keep your fingers crossed that you don't get a curly one anyway. I think Bruce has a suggestion waiting for us, though.


It's Alien Crop-Circles!!!

This response submitted by John Bellucci on 9/25/1998. ( ArtistExpr@aol.com )

Gentlmen..... Item:... "Are alien crop-circles, or related patterns showing up on the hair of Americas' deer?" "Film at eleven." Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder! I agree with "The Fur Dresser" (dude - how 'bout letting us in on your real name?) as to the possible post-mortem causes, as well as my living-animal theories. Bill has given us some sound and proven methods for tackling these problems, thanx dude! He also spoke the plain truth when he let us in on how tough it can be to get them straightened out! My answer as to how they can be in such a uniformed pattern remains - look to the skies!!!!! The answer is out there. And so am I. Later. John.


let's just beat it to death

This response submitted by Bill again on 9/25/1998. ( byoxtax@frontiernet.net )

Three of my bucks are together this year against my better judgement so while I was counting antler scars this AM after writing the above response I'll be darned if the one buck has those lifted - twisted spots on his neck! I agree with the furdresser on his slippage answer but how doe you explain this one? Maybe it IS out there with John! I just wish my customer would accept it as accurate when it's HIS deer head. Oh well...


My Own Opinions

This response submitted by Bruce Rittel on 9/26/1998. ( rittel@ici.net )

Some very interesting ideas. I'm grateful to all of you for tackling this one. I obviously have no conclusive answer myself, but I do hear this complaint from time to time, and I have been trying to figure out why it occurs. I do agree with "Fur Dresser" - it may very well be in some cases that it could be natural. The only problem is figuring out how to at least see such damage at the point of skinning or when its salt dried before tanning. It would take some close scrutiny and tracking to prove it out. In the heat of the season, most of us arent quite that meticulous unfortunately. In talking with people that have this problem, I have noticed some habits that may or may not be coincidental. One is that a big majority of them tend to salt, and then freeze thier capes, they also tightly roll them for freezing. I'm a great advocate for folding skins like a bath towel instead of rolling. My theory is that it allows for better drainage, and less stress on the hair, particularly when freezing them. The other scenario which has come up several times, is using a pickle with too high an acid content. This is usually when the tanner inaccuratly measures his acid dosage, or spends a lot of time adjusting the solution, for whatever reason. Instead of .9 fl. ozs. of Formic acid/ 1 Gl. of pickle, he uses 1.5 or more - but how it directly would influence the hair and its folicle, I don't know. Again, it could be coincidental circumstances. I have also heard from other tanners that if you do add acid to your pickle, you should always first remove the capes from it, unless you're using a wet drum. There it recieves action as you feed the acid, statically, it doesn't. Removing the capes prevents the acid from pocketing in the capes. It also allows you to stir it well before reintroducing the capes, so its evenly distributed. The thing about the acid theory that bothers me, is I've always associated it with possible singing of the hair, but actually causing it to twist in the folicle is difficult to imagine, particularly since the cowlicking is usually confined to such small selective spots. Well - there you have all the information that I have managed to accumulate - nothing conclusive, only coincidental, but hopefully it may generate some more feedback on the subject. Many, many thanks to Fur Dresser, John, and Bill - come on out there, any other theories or answers on this subject, I'm sure we'd all love to hear from you and share your ideas. P.S. - John - I got a Hoot out of your "Crop Circles" !! It gave me a really good laugh. Thanks.