The word taxidermy is derived from the Greek derma. Much like the term epidermis, derma relates to the external layer of skin. Since the process of taxidermy requires removal of the skin from an animal's shell, later transferring that skin to a precisely crafted replica of the animal's body, the term makes sense. While the process is sometimes seen as distasteful or even macabre by some people, taxidermy is a form of art, demanding a great deal of knowledge about animals, as well as talent, skill and expertise.
The artisan must remove the skin from the animal's remains, construct a realistic figure of the animal's shape, and create lifelike facsimiles of the eyes and any other organs. The figure is often made from polyurethane foam, while glass is typically used to design the eyes. Wax and clay are frequently used to recreate parts such as lips and snouts.
Taxidermy is a method of permanently preserving an animal to display its beauty. While some people have a taxidermist preserve their hunting quarry as a trophy, others may use taxidermy to preserve animals for educational or historical purposes. Taxidermy may be used in the event of the death of a creature on the endangered species list. It may also be used in other cases in which preservation is important, such as if the creature is unique to its species in that it's the largest, smallest, oldest or otherwise noteworthy.
Taxidermy is also the term used to describe synthetic recreations, which do not contain the skin or any other element of an animal or fish body. For this creative process, quality photographs along with accurate measurements are all that is necessary to create a mount or a lifelike trophy. A catch and release sportsman may use this method to recreate "the big one" without harming the fish.
If you would like to learn more about taxidermy, check your local phone book or look online for a taxidermist near you. You can visit the shop and see how lifelike the recreations are. Most artists are happy to answer questions about taxidermy.