How to Decorate a Buffalo Skull

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Buffalo skull in the wild
Buffalo skull in the wild (Image: Stig Nygaard/Flickr.com)

Cleaned and painted animal bones can make beautiful additions to your household décor, especially in a room with a Western or ranch-style theme to it. The artist Georgia O'Keeffe painted buffalo skulls she found in the desert regularly, touched by the beautiful lines and symmetry of the skulls. Nowadays you'd be very lucky to find one such skull in the wild, but you can purchase one at most collector's shops and decorate it to accessorize your house.

Things You'll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Clear peroxide and cream peroxide
  • Soft paintbrush
  • Low-pressure garden hose
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Bleach
  • Wood or white glue
  • Colored paint, if desired

Remove any hair or meat still on the outside of the skull. You should also remove the horns at this point, since the treatments used for the rest of the skull would damage them. If you have difficulty removing any meat or hair, place the skull in a pot of near-boiling water along with 1/2 cup of baking soda until the meat or hair is loose enough to pull off. This may take up to an hour, but be careful not to let the water reach boiling point.

Whiten the skull with a mixture of 30 percent clear peroxide solution and 30 percent cream peroxide solution (sold in most beauty supply stores). Paint this mixture evenly over the surface of the entire skull. Once the skull has been coated in the mixture, place it in a clear garbage bag for 24 hours to set. This treatment will give you a clean, white look. If you'd prefer your skull retain its natural coloring, which should be a medium to dark brown, skip this step.

Wash the skull using a low-pressure garden hose. If necessary, use a soft toothbrush to clean the inner cavities of the skull, for example the brain and sinus cavities. Rinse the skull with warm water once it has been cleaned.

Disinfect the skull by diluting 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water and allowing the skull to soak for 10 minutes. After this, leave the skull to dry out of direct sunlight. Avoid ceiling fans and strong air currents as well. It may take a week or two to dry completely---you should notice that the sinus cavities and horn cores take longer to dry than the rest of the skull. Do not let the bone freeze.

Seal the skull with glue. Wood glue works best if you have decided to go for a natural, darker bone look. Use white glue if you have decided on the bleached white look. Mix your chosen glue at a solution of four parts warm water to one part glue. Take the soft paintbrush and apply liberal coats to the entire surface of the skull, both inside and out. Remember, you want to completely soak the bone so that the solution will penetrate as deeply as possible. Allow this to dry for one to two days.

Tips & Warnings

  • Seal the specimen with a thin coat of shellac if you want a glossy look to your skull. If desired, you can use colored paints to add a little spice to your buffalo skull. See the Two-Feathers Gallery in the resources of this article for inspiration on painting styles.
  • When treating the skull, do so in an area where the temperature is 60 degrees F or higher; otherwise you will wind up with chalky glue spots on the skull.

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