Youtube clip – Taxidermists at Work

For training options in South Africa – scroll down


What is a Taxidermist?

The job of a Taxidermist is to preserve dead animal bodies by preparing, stuffing and mounting the animal skins to make them look alive for display.

Taxidermists may prepare all kinds of creatures eg: wild cats like leopard, various buck like sable, small creatures like mongoose and jackal, all kinds of birds and even fish.

Taxidermy is an art and Taxidermists need to learn many skills such as:

  • carpentry
  • hide tanning
  • moulding
  • casting

Taxidermists need to have talent in sculpture, painting and drawing.

In modern taxidermy only the natural parts of the animal are used (eg horns and the skin). All of the other organs and tissues are recreated with man-made materials. For example: the eyes are made from glass and the nose and mouth are often sculpted from epoxy or wax.

Taxidermists may use plaster-of-paris to create life-like moulds for wrapping the skins around or paint to add detail, so that the animal will look life-like.

Other taxidermy methods include freeze-drying the animal in a life-like position (eg running, climbing etc) and then extracting the moisture with a special vacuum. In this way the animal does not have to be skinned.

Today, some taxidermy mounts, such as fish, do not contain any parts of the animal at all. They are completely re-created from man-made materials. This is ideal for catch-and-release anglers, who release their game-fish unharmed, yet can still have a life-sized trophy produced from a good colour photo and measurements.

Taxidermists usually work for museums, private individuals who want hunting trophies, movie producers and set builders.  Taxidermists can also produce their own pieces of taxidermy ‘art’ that may be sold in art galleries.

What does a Taxidermist do?

  • meets with clients to discuss animals that need to be preserved
  • works out quotations
  • researches animal’s habitat, natural poses and movement, like running or climbing
  • makes moulds from plaster-of-paris, wood, etc
  • de-skins the animal carefully so no holes are made nin the skin
  • treats (tanning) the skin
  • stretches the skin over moulds and allows to dry
  • adds detail with paint, glass, textures etc
  • writes up invoices, keeps books etc

Are you … ?

  • artistic and creative?
  • interested in animals and biology?
  • willing to work with dead animals?
  • good with your hands?
  • observant and detail orientated?
  • patient?
  • willing to do research?
  • responsible?
  • healthy with no fur allergies?
  • willing to work in an environment with strange or unpleasant smells?

How do I become a Taxidermist?

There is no accredited training for Taxidermy in South Africa, however, some people learn the skills by working with an experienced Taxidermist or from reading books on the subject.

This institution gives courses in Taxidermy:


Courses offered include Short (day) Courses, Novice and Advanced Courses and Examinations.



  • CLICK HERE to check for a training institution near you to see what they offer.
  • Make sure you understand their entry requirements for each course.
  • To avoid scams, make sure your institution is registered with the Department of Higher Education. 
  • CLICK HERE to check accredited Private Higher Education Institutions. 


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER:  Animal Care Attendant … or … Animal Scientist

Is becoming a Taxidermist the right career choice for me?