Are the Animals at Natural History Museum Taxidermy?

If you’ve ever visited a natural history museum, you must have come across the lifelike animal exhibits. You might have wondered if these animals were real or just replicas.

Well, the answer is that they are both. The animals at natural history museums are typically taxidermy specimens.

What is Taxidermy

Taxidermy is a process of preserving animal skins and creating lifelike representations of them for display or study purposes. Taxidermy has been around for centuries, and it has played an essential role in our understanding of wildlife.

Taxidermy Process

The taxidermy process involves removing the skin from an animal’s body and treating it with various chemicals to prevent decay. The skin is then mounted onto a mannequin made of wood, wire, or foam to give it a lifelike appearance. Glass eyes are inserted into the head, and other details like teeth and claws are added to complete the look.

Why Use Taxidermy Specimens

There are several reasons why natural history museums use taxidermy specimens instead of live animals. Firstly, displaying live animals could be cruel as they require proper care, feeding, and living conditions. Secondly, using taxidermy specimens provides an opportunity to study animals up close without harming them or destroying their habitats.

Challenges with Taxidermy Specimens

Despite being lifelike representations of real animals, taxidermy specimens do have their limitations. One major challenge is that they can fade over time due to exposure to light and other environmental factors. Also, some parts like fur can become brittle or fall off over time if not adequately maintained.

The Natural History Museum’s Collection

The Natural History Museum boasts an extensive collection of over 35 million specimens, including animals, plants, fossils, and minerals. The animal collection alone has over a million specimens, ranging from insects to whales. Most of the animals are preserved as taxidermy specimens and are displayed in lifelike poses in their respective habitats.


In conclusion, the animals at natural history museums are indeed taxidermy specimens. While they may not be alive, they provide an opportunity for us to learn about different species up close and appreciate their beauty without harming them. With the right care and maintenance, these lifelike representations can continue to educate and inspire generations to come.