1. Welcome to Taxidermy.net, Guest!
    We have put together a brief tutorial to help you with the site, click here to access it.

removing sheaths on a nature degraded/dried bighorn skull

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by oldblackgoat, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. oldblackgoat

    oldblackgoat New Member

    hello, there.
    i've had some experience cold water macerating, degreasing, and whitening skulls and bones and what not, but I have never had the experience of cleaning an animal with horn sheaths,
    i have a big horn skull that was given to me and it has massive horn sheaths.. most of the actual flesh material has degraded aside from some small fur bits around the horns adhering the sheaths to the skull.
    the skull was dry when i received it, and i'm curious as to the best method to get these sheaths off. i've tried to work a knife/flat head screwdriver under the sheath and have had minor luck.
    i'm currently soaking the skull to try to loosen up the dry flesh so i can take to it with some tools again, but i don't want to be soaking it for too long.
    there's still some brain matter inside the skull as well.

    in my preliminary searches i've found the sweating/steaming/rotting processes, but these have been typically mentioned for fresh/fleshy heads.

    a further question as well - once i've gotten these sheaths off, how should i go about cleaning them?
    salt and borax and let them dry?

    i apologize if this question has been asked numerous times before. i did some searching and couldn't find the right answer.
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The obvious "Search" window above rather sucks and gives poor responses. Using the "Advanced Search" does much better. Others will chime in but soak the head in warmed water to let it soak up and finish rotting (maceration). After a week of soaking, now try again to lever a thin knife between the sheath bases and the skull. Normally I would also drill a small hole through the horn on the back side in a discrete spot and into the core to allow water to enter easily and help to soften things up. I would be reluctant to do that with a real bighorn though unless discussing it with the owner first. Would love to see pictures of what you have to work on.

  3. oldblackgoat

    oldblackgoat New Member

    Hey Sea Wolf,
    thanks for the reply! it is a real bighorn! The damn skull is one of the hugest/heaviest things i've ever seen.
    I was able to pull the sheaths off yesterday with some help.. I had had the skull soaking in a bin outside to try to loosen it up, and with some careful prying, we pulled the horn sheaths loose and all it took was a butter knife and some flat headed screwdrivers. Smelled awful but now the skull is back macerating as there is still brain matter and some spinal nerves sticking out.

    i missed the oppurtunity to take photos. however i still haven't done much with the horn sheaths other than put them into their own bin. how best does one prepare them?
    i've heard that some people use salt/borax/alcohol.
    what would you recommend?
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The horns will probably stink a bit too. Give them the best scrub you can with stiff brushes and detergent all over. Inside and out. Pour in some alcohol and prop up the horns so it doesn't run out. Let that sit that way for a day or so then pour it out and fill with Borax and let that sit until you are ready to put them back on. Dump out the borax but leave the residue inside. It acts as an insecticide.
  5. oldblackgoat

    oldblackgoat New Member

    hey again Sea Wolf - i've scrubbed and soaked the horns.
    should i be concerned with the horns shrinking at all? have you encountered this problem?
  6. oldblackgoat

    oldblackgoat New Member

    this is a photo of the horns i was working on.
    i tried to take some of the ram skull today in maceration and it's pretty foul still.

    Attached Files:

  7. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Those are some really sweet looking horns even with the brooming on one. Hell, before you send them out you might even want to consider making a cast of them to make a replica set. The skull will be foul for a while. Sheep are greasy bastards too. You might even want to try soaking the entire skull in straight hardware store ammonia for a while. I do that with horses and it works well. Make sure you have the detergent heated to at least 115 degrees. 120 might be better. Sheep fat is a tallow fat like a wax and has a much higher melting point. Think of the fat on lamb and how it sticks to your teeth if the meat gets cold. :)