Taxidermy, or “stuffed” animals, are specimens that have been specially prepared, preserved and posed to show what the creature may have been like in life, but the real and the not real here is difficult. The animal itself is, or was, a real animal; there are no taxidermy unicorns, for example. However, taxidermy in the modern world is very different. Although trophy taxidermy still exists, most taxidermists work with animals that have not been euthanized solely for the purpose of taxidermy.
Taxidermy is a way of preserving an animal for display or study. There are many different ways to do taxidermy, but they usually involve “mounting an animal's skin on a fake body”. The word taxidermy comes from the Greek words taxis (which means “arrangement”) and derma (which means “skin”). So taxidermy is all about fixing the skin, to make animals look alive again.
The modern practice of taxidermy incorporates many crafts, such as carpentry, carpentry, 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 other organs and tissues are recreated with artificial materials. The eyes are made of glass, the eyelids are sculpted of clay, the soft tissues of the nose and mouth are sculpted of epoxy or wax, and the mannequin or shape (which incorporates the anatomy of each muscle and vein) is made of polyurethane foam.
The methods practiced by taxidermists have been improved over the past century, increasing taxidermic quality and decreasing toxicity. In some cases, the real skin (including fur, feathers, or scales) of the specimen is preserved and mounted on artificial armor. It's possible that the skins were sent without any measurement and the taxidermist had probably never seen the animal in real life, so this is partly the reason most Victorian taxidermy looks a little strange. Indian exhibits included a stuffed elephant (although that animal was actually an African elephant found in a nearby museum).
Instead, detailed photos and measurements of the animal are taken so that a taxidermist can create an exact replica in resin or fiberglass that can be displayed in place of the real animal. It's the best place to meet other taxidermists and learn techniques through talks and demonstrations. Taxidermist Amanda Sutton does not use animals that were killed for taxidermy, instead she uses food for reptiles, road death and animals that died naturally and creates taxidermy to preserve the beauty of the animal (shown is a bath mouse from the Amanda's Autopsies collection by Mrs. Sutton).
In the 1970s, so-called animal stuffing stopped and taxidermists began stretching the animal's skin over sculpted molds, or mannequins, typically made of foam. This can be achieved without opening the body cavity, so the taxidermist usually does not see the internal organs or blood. Endangered animals, such as rhinoceroses, are highly protected and some animals, such as fish, are difficult to preserve, so taxidermists make these frames with materials such as fiberglass and plastic resin. I consider myself an ethical taxidermist, since I only use animals that have died from a natural cause or an accident.
One of the most prominent taxidermists, and the inspiration of Mrs. Sutton, it was Walter Potter, who was one of the first people to wear costumes to preserved animals (similar to the creature in the photo). There are also laws that protect certain species, which means that a taxidermist must obtain legal documentation to prove that they have died naturally. In the 1970s, so-called animal stuffing stopped and taxidermists began stretching the animal's skin over sculpted molds, or mannequins, typically made of foam.
The best-known practitioner of this genre was the English taxidermist Walter Potter, whose most famous work was The Death and Burial of Cock Robin. .