IV. Preparing Skins for Manufalure
MAMMALS which have a short, fine, soft coat of fur through which grows hair, usually of greater length, variously called overfur, water-fur, guard-hair, are known as fur-bearers. To provide more warmth for the animal, the coat of fur and overhair is usually thicker and longer in the winter; hence, furs taken in winter, or when prime, are more valuable than those taken in warmer weather.
When the skin is unprime, it has a bluish appearance on
Pelt of a the flesh side down the back and sides; when prime, it is Fur-Bearer
of a whitish or creamy colour. An experienced furrier
can by the appearance of the skin and of the overhair, determine the season at which it was taken. It is desirable to capture fur-bearers when prime, because the fur and overhair are fuller and heavier and will not fall out easily, as commonly occurs in `springy' pelts. It is also desirable to take skins shortly after becoming prime, which is usually about the first of December, immediately after the first winter weather. When taken then, the pelt is better coloured and less worn. In a climate like that of Prince Edward Island, where winter sets in about Christmas the last week of the year is chosen for killing the fox. The pelts of the majority of animals become prime late in November.
The fur, or, as it is called in relation to the hair, the underfur, consists of soft, silky, downy, curly filaments. It is usually short and thick, and towards the skin it grows lighter in colour. It is barbed lengthwise and hence is capable of felting—a quality not possessed to so great a degree by wool or silk, which is best handled by spinning and weaving. In a prime pelt the underfur is hardly discernible unless the overhair is blown apart. Then the light colour of the under f ur appears. If it were generally known that the undyed skin is whitish and that the underfur close to the skin is a light drab, or pale blue colour, it would not be so easy to sell dyed skins as natural."
The overhair is straight, smooth and, usually, comparatively rigid. It is scattered throughout the fur and, on the living animal, prevents the fur from felting. It serves as a protection against cold and storm as well as against injury. In the case of the fox, which lies out in the open, exposed to the coldest northern weather, the dense overhair, sometimes over six inches in length, protects the body, while the toes and face are protected by the immense tail, which covers them when the fox lies down. The beauty of a pelt is due largely to the overh air. It is the glossy black or the amphimaculated silver-black overhair that makes the silver fox one hundred times more valuable than his red