Long ago people in cold countries began wearing furs to keep warm. Later, kings and queens decorated their robes with fur to show that they were rulers. Now furs are common. Millions of people wear them for both warmth and beauty.
A great many animals have coats of fur. But the fur of some is much more beautiful than that of others. The fur of some, moreover, wears especially well.
The fur of the sable is the aristocrat among furs. The best sable comes from Siberia. At one time only the members of the royal family of Russia were allowed to wear it. Some animals change their coats with the season. The ermine does. In the summer it is brown so that it matches the ground. In the winter it is white so that it matches the snow except for a black tip on its tail. White ermine fur came to be a favorite for royal robes. Chinchilla is one of the rarest and most delicate of all furs. It comes from a dainty little animal of South America. The beaver, mink, musk-rat, fox, and seal also furnish us with excellent fur. Rabbit fur is not as durable as most furs, but it is much used.
Many kinds of fur are dyed and given trade names that do not tell what animal they come from. Rabbit fur, for instance, has been sold under such different names as "lapin" and "Alaska seal."
Fur trapping and trading have had a great deal to do with opening up new lands. Fur traders were the leaders in exploring much of North America.