Taxidermy evolved out of the tanning trade, whose practitioners preserved the skins of animals for use as clothing and blankets. In the early part of the 19th century, some of the first so-called trophy animals were crudely stuffed with scraps of fabric by upholsterers. Later in the Victorian Era, the art of taxidermy as we know it today evolved, pioneered by, among others, Carl Akeley, who worked at the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Although Akeley was one of the leading innovators of taxidermy, excelling in the realistic mounting of mammals, later in his life he would reject the practice of bagging animals such as gorillas just so they could decorate a museum diorama, let alone a hunter's study. By the end of his life, Akeley had devoted himself to protecting these creatures—Africa's first national park was established in 1925 in no small part due his efforts.

Today, collectors of taxidermy have a range of animals and pieces to choose from. Gameheads are perhaps the most well known form of taxidermy. These include zebras, kudu, and other African animals whose heads are attached to pedestals that are designed to hang on a wall.

In the United States, the practice of mounting deer heads is very common, especially if it's a buck with a full rack of antlers. Complete animals known as full mounts tend to be of smaller species such as bobcats and fox, as well as skunks and raccoons.

Mounted fish is another popular taxidermy type. Birds from peacocks to pheasants to roosters mount well, too, as do quail and falcons.

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