Castoreum of Beaver (Castor Canadensis): Function, Chemistry and Biological Activity of Its Components

  • Dietland Müller-Schwarze


Castoreum, the paste found in the paired castor sacs of both sexes in beaver, Castor canadensis and C. fiber, has been used for medicines and perfumes since time immemorial. The Romans burned castoreum in lamps and believed that the fumes caused abortions (McCully, 1969). Trappers have attracted beaver to castoreum lures for a long time. As for the natural history of castoreum, Audubon first published a trapper’s report of mud piles topped with strong-smelling castoreum that beaver built at the banks of their ponds. Two neighbor colonies alternated in marking, accumulating mud piles up to five feet high (Audubon and Bachman, 1849). To this date, we don’t know the precise role scent mounds play in the behavior, physiology and population ecology of the beaver. Aleksiuk (1968) proposed that scent marks may warn transient beaver away from occupied territories and that scent mounding may be an epideictic display sensu Wynne Edwards (1962) that communicates population density.


Tree Shrew Scent Mark Spiny Mouse Male Hamster Castor Canadensis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aleksiuk, M., 1968, Scent mound communication, territoriality, and population regulation in the beaver (Castor canadensis KUHL). J. Mammal., 49: 759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Audubon, J.J. and Bachman, J., 1849 (1854), The Quadrupeds of North America,“ Vol. I, p. 347. Reprinted 1974; New York: Arno Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bollinger, K.S., 1980, Scent marking behavior of beaver (Castor canadensis). M.S. Thesis, Univ. Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
  4. Chapple, R.S. and Wodzicka-Tomaszewska, M., 1987, The learning behavior of sheep when introduced to wheat. II. Social transmission of wheat feeding and the role of the senses. Appl. Anim. Behay. Sci., 18: 163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clausen, T.P., Reichardt, P.B., Bryant, J.P. Werner, R.A., Post, K., and Frisby, K., 1989, Chemical model for short-term induction in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) foliage against herbivores. J. Chem. Ecol., 15: 2335.Google Scholar
  6. Drickamer, L.C., 1982, Acceleration of sexual maturation in female house mice by urinary cues: Dose levels and mixing urine from different sources. Anim. Behay., 30: 456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gosling, L.M., 1982, A reassessment of the function of scent marking in territories. Z. Tierpsychol., 60: 89.Google Scholar
  8. Graziadei, P., 1986, Injury and repair in the olfactory pathway of mammals, pp. 363–372, in: “Biology of Shange in Otolaryngology”, R.W. Ruben, ed., Elsevier Sci Publ.Google Scholar
  9. Harbourne, J.B., 1988, “Introduction to Ecological Biochemistry.” Acad. Press, London.Google Scholar
  10. Hodgdon, H.E., 1978, Social dynamics an3 behavior within an unexploited beaver (Castor canadensis) population. Ph.D. Dissert., Univ. Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
  11. Houlihan, P.W., 1989, Scent mounding by beaver (Castor canadensis): Functional and semiochemical aspects. M.S. Thesis, State Univ. New York; Coll. Envir. Sci. & Forestry, Syracuse.Google Scholar
  12. Johnston, R.E., 1986, Effects of female odors on the sexual behavior of male hamsters, Behay. Neur., 46: 163.Google Scholar
  13. Langley, W.M., 1988, Spiny mouse’s (Acomys cahirinus) use of its distance senses in prey localization, Behay. Processes 16: 67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lederer, E., 1946, Chemistry and biochemistry of the scent glands of the beaver, Castor fiber. Nature, 157: 31.Google Scholar
  15. McCully, H., 1969, Pliny’s pheromonic abortifacients, Science, 165: 236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Müller-Schwarze, D. and Heckman, S., 1930, The social role of scent marking in beaver (Castor canadensis). J. Chem. Ecol. 6: 81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Müller-Schwarze, D. and Houlihan, P.W., 1991, Pheromonal activity of single castoreum constituents in beaver, Castor canadensis. J. Chem. Ecol. 17: 715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Novotny, M., Jemíolo, B., Harvey, S., Wiesler, D. and Marchlewska-Koj, A., 1986, Adrenal-mediated endogenous metabolites inhibit puberty in female mice. Science 231: 722.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pearce, G.P. and Hughes, P.E., 1987, An investigation of the roles of boar-component stimuli in the expression of proceptivity in the female pig. Appl. Anim. Behay. Sci 18: 287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Perry, G.C., Patterson, R.L.S., Macfie, H.J.H., and Stinson, C.G., 1980, Pig courtship behaviour: pheromonal property of androstene steroids in male submaxillary secretion. Anim. Prod. 31: 191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Powers, J.B., Fields, R.B. and Winans, S.S., 1979, Olfactory and vomeronasal system participation in male hamster’s attraction to female vaginal secretions, Physiol. Behay., 22: 77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rowe, J.W., ed., 1989, “Natural Products of Woody Plants,” 2 vols., Springer, Berlin.Google Scholar
  23. Stralendorff, F.V., 1987, Partial chemical characterization of urinary signaling pheromone in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri), J. Chem. Ecol, 13: 655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Svendsen, G.E. 1980, Patterns of scent-mounding in a population of beaver (Castor canadensis). J. Chem. Ecol. 6, 618–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Webster, F.X., Rong Tang, and D. Müller-Schwarze, submitted, Isolation and characterization of phenolic constituents of castoreum from the North American beaver (Castor canadensis).Google Scholar
  26. Welsh, G.R. and Müller-Schwarze, D. 1989, Experimental habitat scenting inhibits colonization by beaver, Castor canadensis. J. Chem. Ecol., 15: 887.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wynne-Edwards, V.C., 1962, “Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behavior,” Hafner, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dietland Müller-Schwarze
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Environmental Science and ForestryState University of New YorkSyracuseUSA

Personalised recommendations