13 Tools of Taxidermy

Preserving dead animals is an art form that requires a deep understanding of biology—and a lot of gear.

This story appears in the October 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Taxidermy isn’t for the faint of heart. Widely considered an art form, the process of mounting animal skins can involve sawing through bone, scraping tissue, and slicing open ears and other features. The resulting hide is usually tanned, mounted on a mannequin, and sewn up. The goal is to preserve the creature in a lifelike state, for use as an educational tool or to commemorate a hunt. Timothy Bovard has preserved countless animals as the taxidermist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County—but some, he says, will always be off-limits: “I won’t do my pets.”

Preparation involves thinning the animal hide—sometimes with a shaving knife, more often with a fleshing machine.

Shaving knife

Preparation involves thinning the animal hide—sometimes with a shaving knife, more often with a fleshing machine.

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