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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/157

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are called prime; those taken out of season are, in common parlance, said to be stagy.

Other things being the same, the colder the climate the better the fur. Hence our best furs are generally obtained in the higher latitudes, or in cool mountain-regions, during the prevalence of snow and the severity of winter. Thus the hunter is exposed to much labor, fatigue, privation, and danger. They who, in the inhospitable clime of Siberia, hunt the sable, in the most inclement season of the year, undergo intense suffering and hardship.

Fig. 4.
PSM V04 D157 Mink.jpg

Sables are three or four times as large as the common weasel, to which family they belong. They are usually taken between November and February, in snares, traps, or pitfalls, baited with flesh or fish. They are then of a beautiful black color, but are brownish in summer. The fur of the Russian sable, by its richness and elegance, maintains its preƫminence. It may be distinguished from all other furs, by the hairs turning and lying with equal ease in either direction; which may be shown by blowing it. It is limited in quantity, only about 15,000 being caught yearly, and the price of the best is almost fabulous: a furrier suggests from $20 to $150 per skin. Fresh furs have what dealers call a bloomy appearance. Dyed sables generally lose their gloss, whether the lower hair has taken the dye or not; and the hairs are twisted or crisped. Some smoke the skins to blacken them, but the smell and crisped hairs betray the cheat. To detect dyeing or smoking, rub the fur with a moist linen cloth, which will then be blackened. The Chinese, however, dye the sables so that the color lasts, and the fur keeps its gloss; then, the fraud can be detected only by the crisped hairs.