How do I Tell Furs Apart?

Written by anna graizbord
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How do I Tell Furs Apart?
Fur coat with hood. (woman in fur coat image by Vasiliy Koval from

Fur coats and accessories have hit an unprecedented resurgence in popularity just in the past 10 years. Though mink, fox, and rabbit are more traditionally used in women's fashion, other fur types include beaver, chinchilla, coyote, fisher, lynx, marten, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, sable, tanuki, weasel, ermine and, though not commonly thought of in this way, lamb. The question is: What's the best way to distinguish between the wide array of furs?

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  1. 1

    Look at the colour. Animals native to warmer climates tend to have fur that is more brightly or brownish coloured. Animals in colder climates tend to be black or grey. Sometimes aquatic animals can be an aberration. You may find various types and colours of the same animal.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    A mink blanket. (Mink Blanket Folds image by Towards Ithaca from
  2. 2

    Determine fur length. Beaver, fox, American marten, raccoon and tanuki tend to have long fur. Mink, opossum, rabbit and weasel are typically mid-to-short in fur length.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    Raccoons and its Japanese cousins, the tanuki, have long fur. (raccoon image by Xavier MARCHANT from
  3. 3

    Feel fur for density and thickness. Furs that tend to be more dense and/or thick are coyote, fisher, mink, opossum, raccoon, chinchilla and weasel.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    Coyote fur tends to be quite dense. (coyote image by Sue McMurtrie from
  4. 4

    Determine whether the fur is more soft or coarse. Denseness in fur does not necessarily indicate softness. Mink is a good example. It's one of the softest furs but can be quite dense. Lamb is the most distinctive as it doesn't resemble any other kind in texture.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    A black mink. (mink 2 image by Colin Buckland from
  5. 5

    Determine clothing type. Coyote, opossum and lamb are used commonly for men's jackets, while nutria and weasel are used in coat liners, robes or capes. Women's fur coats are typically mink, chinchilla or fox. Rabbit fur, though common in coats, is also used in casual wear.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    Nutria fur is often used in coat liners. (Nutria image by Petra Kohlstädt from
  6. 6

    Determine accessory type. Though fox is a popular fur for coats, it is more often fashioned for collars, cuffs, wraps and stoles. Similarly, lamb, being more distinctive when not used for men's coats, is typically used for many kinds of smaller accessories.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    Woman wearing a fox stole. (red-haired girl image by Vasiliy Koval from
  7. 7

    Look for where the fur is from or has been produced. Nutria can be farmed in the Czech Republic and Russia. Chinchilla can be raised in the Americas or Europe, but are usually from South America. Fisher, fox, lynx, and muskrat are typical of furs from North America. Tanuki are from Japan, while sable are native to Russia.

    How do I Tell Furs Apart?
    Lynx are usually from North America. (lynx image by R.Bauer from

Tips and warnings

  • If colour is difficult to determine, use the following as a general guide: coyote (tan, cream, or grey), fisher (dark brown or black), fox (red, crystal blue, grey, white, or silver), lynx (white with beige or cream), marten (a cousin of the sable, blue-brown, dark brown, some with golden variations). Some others include opossum (yellow grey or brown), sable (a cousin of the marten, silver, brown, or golden), tanuki (amber brown with dark brown accents) and weasel (generally grey, with ermine being the winter version, distinguished by its white colour with black tips).

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