Fur farming represented nowadays the majority of pelts traded worldwide but the origin of fur trade is linked to wild fur, its use as a commodity against the cold, and the important economic and societal role played for centuries in the exploration, colonization, and development of different regions of the world.
Fur in Prehistory
Fur was critical for mankind survival during Prehistory. In the Stone Age, people used fur-bearing animals to get food and warm, windproof and waterproof clothing and develop different tool to work the skin. Fur remained an important item of clothing during Bronze Age, when people started using textiles for making clothes, and during Iron Age, when men and women wore fur capes and shoes from animals such as sheep, goat, wolf or deer.
During Antiquity, the Greek and Roman civilisations were more inclined to use wool or linen, reserving fur clothing mainly for poor labourers, hunters, foreigners, and the headgear of the Roman army standard-bearers. Nevertheless, rich Romans appreciated luxurious, expensive fur, which was traded in the Mediterranean area by Phoenicians and Assyrians.
Middle Age and Colonization
Russia was an important supplier of fur pelts to Europe and Asiatic regions since the Early Middle Age, with the German city of Leipzig and its main trade market. Later, during the 17th -19th centuries, Russia was the world’s largest trader of raw fur pelts (fox, beaver, marten, squirrel, wolf), playing a key role in the development of Siberia, the Russia Far East, and the Russian colonisation of the Americas.
During the colonisation period in North America, European traders exchanged manufactured goods with American Indian nations for valuable furs along the Mississippi River since mid-1600s for nearly two hundred years. After the Anglo-American War of 1812, there were primarily three parties dealing with the Upper Mississippi fur trade were American Indians -Dakota and Ojibwe -and the U.S government.
In 1627 the kind of France gave a fur trade monopoly to the newly created ‘Company of New France’, the condition to bring new settles to New France, in one of the First Nations in Canada. The French empire built fur-trade forts mainly around the Great Lakes, providing strategic locations to the Native to sell their fur.
Fur farming in Europe
The beginning of the modern fur farming goes back to 1895 when three Canadians started breeding silver foxes on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. Fox farming began in Europe in 1914, when the first silver foxes were introduced in Norway, being Finland at present the world’s largest fox farmed producer (1,800,000 in 2014).
Mink farming was initiated in the 1920s in Europe, originally in the Nordic countries, with Denmark as the current largest mink producer in the world with an annual production in excess of 17 million mink pelts. Moreover, fur farming is today the third biggest animal production in this Scandinavian country.