Practice of creating lifelike representations of animals by using their prepared skins and various supporting structures. Taxidermy began with the ancient custom of keeping trophies of the hunt. Beginning in the 18th century, a growing interest in natural history resulted in collections and exhibits of birds, beasts, and curiosities. Chemically preserving skins, hair, and feathers made it possible to recreate the appearance of live animals by stuffing the sewed-up skin with straw or hay. Constructing and sculpting anatomically correct manikins of clay and plaster are the basis of modern taxidermy.