How do I Tell Furs Apart?

By Anna Graizbord

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, racoon, 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?

Fur coat with hood.

Evaluating Fur

A mink blanket.

Step 1

Look at the color. Animals native to warmer climates tend to have fur that is more brightly or brown-ish colored. Animals in colder climates tend to be black or gray. Sometimes aquatic animals can be an aberration. You may find various types and colors of the same animal.

Raccoons and its Japanese cousins, the tanuki, have long fur.

Step 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.

Coyote fur tends to be quite dense.

Step 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.

A black mink.

Step 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.

Nutria fur is often used in coat liners.

Step 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.

Woman wearing a fox stole.

Step 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.

Lynx are usually from North America.

Step 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.