Animals of the Fur Trade

9_29_14 Student Response (Lower)

9_29_14 Student Response (Upper)



Last week students voted on what we should study this week. The vote was majorly in favor of studying the beaver and other animals that fueled the fur trade. Did you know that beavers are responsible for the exploration and settlement of Canada and large parts of the northern United States?


In the 1500s, European fishermen brought beaver robes purchased from Native Americans back to Spain. The Europeans prized the beaver fur because of its warmth and its ability to be made into felt hats. Imagine the top hat that Abraham Lincoln wore. That is the hat that was in fashion. Did you know that hat was made out of felt from beaver fur?


"ChapeauCastor" by Londres, E. Stanford, - Castorologia, Or, The History and Traditions of the Canadian Beaver: An Exhaustive Monograph…, Horace T. Martin, Montréal, W. Drysdale; Londres, E. Stanford, 1892.Bibliothèque nationale du Canada. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -
Different styles of beaver felt hats. Image source: “ChapeauCastor” by Londres, E. Stanford, – Castorologia, Or, The History and Traditions of the Canadian Beaver, Horace T. Martin, Montréal, W. Drysdale; Londres, E. Stanford, 1892.

Many Europeans took part in the quest to collect beaver fur from Canada and the US to sell back home. The Europeans hired French Canadians known as voyageurs to paddle huge birch bark canoes from Montreal to the villages of First Nation people (native people in Canada) to collect the beaver pelts. The Native Americans and First Nations did all of the trapping and the Europeans traded them blankets, weapons and beads for the fur.


The men who paddled canoes to trade and transport the furs were called voyageurs. Did you know that “voyageur” means “traveler” in French? The voyageurs traveled along the historic highway that Dave and I are now following. This trade route was opened in the late 1600s. Fur trade companies were founded, like the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670 and the North West Company in 1784.



Beaver populations all over North America decreased rapidly until the 1900s when regulations were set that limited the number trapped. The beaver is part of the rodent family. They are large brown furry rodents with small eyes, small rounded ears, large orange teeth, and a large flat, scaly tail. They weigh between 44 to 60 pounds. Beavers are like lumberjacks. They will chew the base of a tree until it falls down. They love to eat the bark and leaves from the trees that they fell. Their favorite trees are aspens but they will also eat birch, alder, willow, and mountain maple. Beavers live in lodges that they build along the shore of a lake, river or stream. Lodges are made out of mud, grass and branches. The entrance to a beaver lodge is underwater. You can learn more about beavers in our Wilderness Library.


Mary Harrison Key with fur muff
Mary Harrison McKee with fur muff


Other animals that were trapped for the fur trade were marten, otter, lynx, mink and fox. You can click on the link for each animal to learn about it in the Wilderness Library. The lynx and otter fur were used for fur muffs (used for keeping hands warm). Fur from the other animals were used to decorate coats and hats.


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17 thoughts on “Animals of the Fur Trade”

  1. Hi. I don’t really like the idea of the beaver pelts because I feel bad for the beavers. But there pelts make amazing things! I hope the beavers hide from all the people! I feel bad for all the Fox, Otter, Marten, and Minx. Thank you!

  2. Hi, I really enjoyed that post. I can’t wait for a new one. It’s really cool that they made hats out of beaver fur but I feel really bad for the beavers.

    Thanks Ainsley M

  3. Hello Amy The people who make beaver clothes should stop because. The beaver may become endangered. When will your next post be?

  4. It is fun to read about you. I read the story about beavers. They love to eat the bark and leaves of trees.

  5. The beavers love to eat the bark and leaves from the trees that they fell. The beavers put mud on there homes they piled and grass in it to stay warm and cozy.

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