When people hear the word taxidermy, the first thing that enters the mind is that it is simply all about stuffing a dead animal in order to preserve it and display it as a trophy. However, taxidermy is more than that, at least for those who are interested in the craft.
Taxidermy is a scientific art – it requires scientific methods and skilled practitioners in order to achieve a successful end product. There is an accurate measurement to follow and they have to study the anatomy of the different animals that are commonly “stuffed” as the compositions and chemicals to be used differ for each animal.
All these, they have to achieve, in order to make sure that the product is as close to how it looks when alive.
Taxidermy started in England way back during the 19th century. The demand for leather grew, allowing tanning – the process of preserving animal skin to be turned into leather, to also grow in demand. This opened the door to the development of more tricks for more effective animal preservation, giving birth to the art of Taxidermy.
When it became a thing during the Victorian era, people started dressing up their real, stuffed animals. It even went as far as creating something now called “curiosities,” or extraordinary or unusual forms of creatures like giving them extra legs or heads.
Taxidermy is a word that comes from the Greek language “taxis,” which means “arrangement” and derma which we all know means skin. It was coined by Louis Dufresne from the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. Dufrense coined and wrote abou t Taxidermy in a book he wrote in 1803 entitled Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle.
Before, Taxidermy was kind of sloppy and dirty because it was only sawdust and rags that were used in stuffing the animal trophies. There was no science or art because anatomy was not given any regard. This resulted in disfigured products.
But with the advancement of technology, there are now numerous ways in order to make certain that a stuffed animal would end up looking the way a taxidermist desires. They can now use mannequins to help them sculpt the animal into a position they find artistic.
It has evolved so much so that now, there are also taxidermy competitions, the first of which was held in 1880. The first winner was named William Hornaday, for his piece entitled “A fight in the Tree-tops” which showcased two male Bornean orangutans fighting over a female orangutan. It was through this competition that the purpose of Taxidermy reached a whole new level – it now not only involves stuffing and preserving animals, but also depicting them in a way that is relevant to an issue or real to nature.
Taxidermy competitions consist of a category called “Re-Creations,” where taxidermists try to produce an animal without using any of its actual parts—creating an eagle by means of turkey feathers, for instance, or producing a lifelike panda using bearskin—or even reconstructing wiped out species based on scientific data.