What is Taxidermy?
Taxidermy is a general term describing the many methods of reproducing a life-like three-dimensional representation of an animal for permanent display. In some cases, the actual skin (including the fur, feathers or scales) of the specimen is preserved and mounted over an artificial armature. In other cases, the specimen is reproduced completely with man-made materials.
The word "taxidermy" is derived from two ancient Greek words; taxis, meaning movement; and derma, meaning skin. Therefore, loosely translated, taxidermy means the movement of skin. This is a fairly appropriate definition as many taxidermy procedures involve removing the natural skin from the specimen, replacing this skin over an artificial body, and adjusting the skin until it appears lifelike.
The modern practice of taxidermy incorporates many crafts, such as carpentry, woodworking, tanning, molding and casting; but it also requires artistic talent, including the art of sculpture, painting and drawing. In a modern deer head mount, for example, the only natural parts of the animal used are the antlers and the skin. All of the other organs and tissues are recreated with man-made materials. The eyes are made from glass, the eyelids are sculpted from clay, the soft tissues of the nose and mouth are sculpted from epoxy or wax, and the mannikin or "form" (which incorporates the anatomy of each muscle and vein) is made from polyurethane foam.
Today, some taxidermy mounts (most notably saltwater fish) do not contain anyparts of the animal at all. They are completely re-created from man-made materials. This is ideal for catch-and-release anglers, who can release their gamefish unharmed, and can still have a life-sized trophy producedfrom a good color photo and measurements.
Works of taxidermy are displayed in museums, educational institutions, businesses, restaurants, and homes. There are many different methods for producing mounts (or re-creations) of different species. For an overview of the methods commonly used in the taxidermy of a particular specimen, choose from the following links:
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