and Steel Traps in Eastern North America," American Anthropologist 74.3 (1972): 479-84.
Beavers are believed to be wiped out in Britain hundreds of years ago due to the rampant hunting for their fur and castoreum
. They are nocturnal and thrives on eating trees' inner bark, aquatic plants, shrubs, and grass.
BEAVERS were hunted almost to extinction for fur and castoreum
, a secretion from the scent gland which has medicinal properties.
British chef and food activist Jamie Oliver ignited a firestorm in January 2011 when he mentioned on the Late Show with David Letterman that castoreum
, a substance used to augment some strawberry and vanilla flavorings, comes from what he described as "rendered beaver anal gland." (1) The next year, vegans were outraged to learn that Starbucks used cochineal extract, a color additive derived from insect shells, to dye their strawberry Frappuccino[R] drinks (2) (eventually, the company decided to transition to lycopene, a pigment found in tomatoes (3)).
That other whiff of animal in your perfume could be musk secreted from the sheath gland of the musk deer or a dash of castoreum
from glands in the groin of the beaver.
Vanilla and incense emerge over ambrette (a natural musk-like perfume material made from plant seeds) and undefined "animalic notes." These are not the heavy doses of civet or castoreum
one might have expected.
From their discussion and the reference in Schafer it appears that the first clear reference to civet in Chinese (as opposed to castoreum
from the beaver) is indeed to be found in the eighth-century text of Ch 'en Ts'ang-ch-i.
For while, as Dannenfeldt notes, castoreum
from beavers, musk from male deer and ambergris from the stomach of the sperm whale were all known in the ancient world as sources of or foundations for perfume, civet was only discovered by Europeans in the mid-fifteenth century, and only became widely available as a commodity from the early sixteenth-century onwards as colonial expansion into Africa and Asia took place.
But it is true that when beavers are trapped for their pelt two small glands near their anus that produce a territorial marker called castoreum
are removed and their contents extracted with alcohol for commercial use.
The hair trap and visual attractant were baited with a non-commercial scented lure (1:1:8 ratio of propylene glycol, glycerine, and beaver castoreum
, plus several drops of catnip oil and cougar or bobcat urine).
These inoffensive animals were hunted to extinction for their fur, meat and castoreum
. In these more enlightened times most of us wish to see them back in their rightful niche, enhancing our countryside - and our lives!
, a substance taken from large glands located by the beaver's tail is used in the making of expensive perfumes.