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Advice On Breaking A Bobcat Hide?

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Ben Gojer, May 12, 2022 at 1:06 PM.

  1. Hello forum members,

    I am brand new the taxidermy world and to this forum. I make puppets and creatures for movies and I am interested in exploring using real fur in my work. I usually use faux fur, but I thought real fur would look nicer and more realistic. I am building a cat puppet right now and got a bobcat pelt on EBay thinking I could experiment with using this fur. I am struggling to break the hide and seeking advice.

    The pelt arrived from EBay and the first thing I noticed about the pelt, aside from its beautiful coat of fur, is that the skin is very stiff. I need something soft, relaxed, and pliable that I can wrap around and glue to the cat body I have built. I did some research and I believe that I need to "break the hide" or "stretch the hide." I watched a few youtube videos on this process and read some forum posts and I am taking a stab at doing this on my own. I rehydrated the skin by massaging it with a cloth damp with lukewarm water, and I also rubbed mineral oil and mink oil into it. I got a 2"x2"x36" piece of hardwood from Home Depot, I think it's maple or oak, and I rounded off and sanded down the edges of it. I've spent a lot of time stretching the hide over this stake.

    It's really hard! I managed to get some of the hide to turn white, which I saw people do in the few YouTube videos I watched. But it's taking a lot of time. I spent about 4 hours on Monday and then 4 hours yesterday stretching it, and I've only managed to turn the hide white on part of one of the hind legs - I've worked on the skin on both hind legs and also all over the abdomen, but I've spent the most time on one rear leg and have gotten it to a place that seems pretty good. I'm feeling daunted by the idea of doing this for the rest of the body - at this rate it seems like it could take another 3 full days to get the flesh white on the whole hide. I thought I'd ask for advice first. I also messaged the seller on EBay and told them about all of this and asked if they have any suggestions - I wonder if I maybe need some information from them about what they did with the pelt before I received it. It was advertised as "Real Tanned Bobcat Pelt Fur Hide".

    One thought I had is - my research tells me that this stretching process is supposed to happen shortly after the tanning process. Maybe it's so hard because the pelt has been dried out for a while? I wetted it to the point where it feels soft and supple and stretchy, but maybe I should get it even wetter? I can't really stretch it as much as I see people doing in the videos, where it turns white before your eyes as they stretch it. So maybe it needs to be wetter?

    I read about people soaking it in a solution of salt, tepid water, and laundry detergent for 20-30 minutes, then hanging it dry, then putting it in a bag and letting it sit in the fridge over night. I tried this yesterday and am about to try stretching it again.

    Do you have any other tips? My research tells me that this process should be very laborious, and I'm up for the task, but I feel like I should have progressed further after sinking like 8 hours into stretching it.

    I want to mention - you can see some holes in the hide - they were there when I received it. I bought one on EBay that was listed as "slightly damaged" and at a lower price - I figured that would be good for my first time. I don't think I've added any holes while working, but the existing holes have maybe gotten a little bigger? Anything I should do while I'm stretching to prevent them from getting bigger?

    I have one other question - when I rehydrate the flesh, it smells kind of foul. Not super strong, but definitely noticeable. That' why I'm wearing a respirator when I work with it - it just makes me more comfortable. My end goal is to have a puppet that I can take to a movie set with other people, and if it smells bad, that would be a problem. Once I finish breaking the hide, is it reasonable to expect this smell to go away on its own? Is there anything else I should consider doing to make the smell go away?

    I am including some links to pictures of my bobcat hide and setup and also a video of my stretching process: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1dJ3v1RP90nhQBumbyy7d6xRQxWcoR-3T?usp=sharing

    Thank you for your time and any thoughts you can share!

    Attached Files:

  2. Looking at the photos, that hide does not appear tanned. That would explain the smell (a tanned hide should never smell foul) and the issues you've been having. Breaking leather can be laborious, but should not be this difficult with a properly thinned, tanned, and oiled skin. Those oils you have also do not work for softening leather. Mink oil is for conditioning the surface of the leather, it does not absorb into the fibers to aid in softening.

    To get the result you want with that particular hide, it would need to go through the whole tanning process. Assuming that your goal is just to have a nice tanned hide to work with and you're not interested in investing in learning how to tan, my suggestion at this point is to scrap that hide and purchase a new one from a reputable seller. Look for the terms "professionally tanned" or "garment tan" in the description. A professional garment tan will be very soft and supple. mills-hide-fur-1041 is an ebay seller I've personally purchased from and can recommend. You can also check glacierwear.com and fntpost.com

    I see you're in California so I should also warn that if there was no CITES tag on that pelt when you purchased it (usually a yellow plastic tag through the eye), it was not a legal purchase. Bobcat fur is illegal to buy in California without a CITES tag proving it was lawfully harvested from a different state, as bobcats are illegal to trap/hunt here

  3. Jenna T

    Jenna T New Member

    It appears to me as well that the hide you bought is not tanned but is instead just dried..it is not suitable for much of anything... If someone on ebay sold you this hide as tanned, ask ebay for your money back.. The hair will fall out or attract bugs that will eat the hide in time.. I suggest you buy one that is tanned !
  4. 13 point

    13 point Well-Known Member

    I believe it is tanned but a poor job , maybe a shop tan . Definitely not good but from what he was doing to break it if raw the hair would have already started to fall out and slip . JMO
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Not tanned as you were told and not even fully fleshed. That is what is causing the stink, the remaining flesh (and possibly the hide under it) decomposing. Cat hides are thin and can rip easily. If it is a full hide and you can wait, I would personally send it to a good tannery and ask for a dry tan on your hide. I do know The Wildlife Gallery will accept small orders of hides, even single ones if you give them a call and check first. Dry tanned hides I have gotten back from them have been very soft, pliable and smell nice .. like leather. Bobcats are generally not a cheap fur if you have bought a good one. The last one I bought was over $200 for a nice, spotted hide that was fully prepped for tanning. You don't want to use a raw hide for animatronic work or puppetry. It won't last before breaking apart at any bend point. A dry tanned hide is what you need.
  6. Thank you all for your replies; they are very helpful. I love learning things on the internet. It seems like this particular hide wasn't a good purchase for my situation. I did in fact notice some of the hair coming out as I stretched the hide over my stake. I didn't notice large patches missing on the hide itself, but at the end of each session I had a little pile of loose hair at my feet and it was all over my t shirt as well, sort of like what I would get after a good grooming session with one of the house cats I used to live with. Right before my account got approved and I made this post, I actually tried the rehydrating method that I mentioned above - I soaked it for 1 hour in a brine solution and wrung it out and put it in the fridge over night. The next day I tried stretching it again, and this time I noticed more hair coming out.

    It seems like I should just scrap this one and buy a different hide from a different source. I messaged the seller of this one on EBay and haven't heard back from them yet...I'll see if I can get any money back from them. It was listed as "Real Tanned Bobcat Pelt Fur Hide" - from your perspective, is that bad advertising? https://www.ebay.com/itm/3739624362...,osub=osub,crd=crd,segname=segname,chnl=mkcid

    I am kind of intrigued by the idea of trying to re-tan this hide, but maybe that's my tendency to go down rabbit holes. I guess for my purpose I'll probably just buy a new one that was fully tanned and broken like you are suggesting.
  7. From the photos in the listing, that pelt should have a decent quality tan, but I don't think that photo was taken by the seller. Looking through their store it appears they're stealing pics from other sellers.
    For example, these skunks from the seller you bought from:

    The pictures came from this listing:

    I recognize several different stolen pictures for various other shops as well. I'm not sure if they're buying the items from the original sellers and reselling them for profit, or just using the pictures to sell their own junk products. Either way, it's against ebay policy and what you got was almost definitely not any of the pelts in the picture. I wouldn't consider it tanned, even if did go through some sort of "tanning" process, if it was done poorly enough that it smelled foul and the fur was falling out then that's not a tanned hide. Because of that and the stolen pictures I'd definitely say it's false advertising and you should be able to get a refund.
  8. Thank you all for your advice. I am seeking a refund on the piece I got on Ebay and I'm looking for a new piece from another seller.
  9. 13 point

    13 point Well-Known Member

    Why don’t you just look on here , we have some great fur and critter salesman.