Cleaning the skull of a cow is a lengthy procedure with multiple steps. Each step in this process works for a different purpose that will ultimately take you to the final goal of a clean and white cow skull.
Here we will learn how to clean a cow skull effectively and thoroughly.
Steps to Cleaning the Cow Skull
Step #1: Pre-treatment
In this step, you will remove as much of the soft tissue from the bones as possible. These include removing skin, fur, meat, and muscles. In case the skull is fresh and the skin is still on, then the first step would be to take it off.
The best way to skin a cow’s head is to start from up the nose and slide it up to the base of the horns, and then work around it. Use a sharp butcher’s knife to remove the skin with more ease and less struggle. Always keep the sharp blades of the knife far from the skull to avoid harming it.
After removing the skin, be cautious of removing any fat deposits or muscles that may still be attached to the skull. Spread the jaws of the cow skull using your hands as far as the jaws break open and then cut out its tongue.
In case you find some vertebrae still attached to the skull, make sure to remove them by cutting through the sinew tissues that are keeping them connected. At this point, you will also be extracting the eyes out of their sockets. You can do this by using scalpels.
Make sure to remove the whole of the eyes without leaving any tissues or membranes behind. Take extra care to remove all the meaty parts, membranes, or nerves that may still be attached to the skull. Use a high-pressure wash to rinse all the blood and unattached tissues off the skull.
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Step #2: Maceration
Maceration is a technique to prepare bones by leaving it to decompose in a controlled-temperature container. It is one of the simplest yet successful ways of removing all the adamant muscles, tissues, and fat from the skull.
There are two kinds of maceration techniques – ‘Hot Water’ and ‘Cold Water’ macerations.
- Hot Water Maceration
Hot Water Maceration is essentially boiling it in water to break down and soften any further protein that may still be attached to the skull. Firstly, you have to boil the skull in a large pot for one hour. Turn the stove off after an hour but leave the skull in for a few more hours and wait for the water to cool down.
Once the water is cool enough, take the skull out of the pot and remove the loose flesh that will now easily come off. You can also make use of a power washer for this process. At this point, the brain is most likely to be liquefied, so you don’t have to worry about it.
This method will enable you to get the skull meat-free. However, for a large animal like a cow, you may have to repeat this process a couple of times to ensure that all the protein is eliminated from the skull.
The positive of hot water maceration is that this process is much faster in contrast to cold water maceration. However, this procedure may cause some damage and a reduction in the size of the skull.
- Cold water Maceration
Cold water maceration is removing all the remaining flesh on the skull by soaking it in temperature-controlled water. Firstly, you have to fill a large bucket or any container with enough water so that the skull can be immersed in it with no part of it exposed. The optimum temperature of the water is around 90°F.
You can also add enzyme-based laundry detergent to remove the grease and remaining fat deposits from the skull. The quantity of this detergent should be not more than 2 tablespoons for each gallon of water. Leave this bucket to stand for about 10-14 days.
The number of days depends upon the size of the skull, and for a cow’s skull, it should be no less than 14 days. During this water-immersion, the remaining tissues and fatty acids on the skull will be eaten away by bacteria and enzymes inhabiting the water. After the specified amount of time, take the skull out of the water that will now be filthy and stinky.
Wash it thoroughly and carefully under running water, be sure not to damage the skull. You may also use a small-sized brush to remove any fat and greasiness. Once the skull is properly washed, let it dry on a clean cloth or paper. Be careful to leave the skull for one day at room temperature as patting it dry or sunlight may hurt it.
In contrast to hot water maceration, this procedure will do no damage to the skull and cause no shrinkage. However, it is more time-consuming, smelly, and may cause the teeth to fall out.
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Step #3: Whitening
Once the skull is completely clean and dry, it is time to beautify it by whitening. Always be careful not to use any bleaching agent for this purpose as that may destruct the bones by making them fragile and brittle. The best way to whiten the skull is by using Hydrogen Peroxide.
Firstly, take an appropriately-sized container and place your skull inside of it. Now pour in one part hydrogen peroxide and three parts water into the container. For best results, use a highly concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide.
The skull must be completely submerged in the liquid. Conceal the container, but make sure that it’s not too tight and just loosely covered. Leave it to stand for around 24 hours or longer if needed.
That’s all you have to do to clean a cow skull properly and effectively. Now this beautiful piece of nature is ready to be studied, mounted on the walls, or gifted to an animal lover.