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Leather made from different animals

Leather from different animals

So your ready to get a quality, genuine leather jacket, fine. What type of leather are you going to get? Huh, I thought leather was, uh, leather, right? Wrong! The reason you see so many different prices for leather jackets is because of the different types of leather that they use to make them. There are 3 basic differences to leather.

One is how it’s tanned and treated. There are several different ways they do that, all of them having strong and weak points. Two is what part of the animal did the leather come from, and has it been split, sanded or stitched together. But before all that comes the most basic step, what animal did the leather come from.

Any hide of an animal can be called leather. You can take the feathers off of a chicken, tan the hide and call it genuine leather. But do you want a leather jacket made from chickens? No, I did not think so! Here I will discuss the most common types of animals used for good quality leather jackets and other leather products.

Cow hide

Cow hide is the most common type of leather used for leather jackets, vest, pants, dusters and biker bags. It’s made from,,,,,cows. All kinds of cows; dairy cows, beef cows, females and males. Often it’s made from cows we don’t normally see around the USA, because a lot of leather is made in different countries.

But for the most part a cow is a cow, pretty much all the same. They also use heifers, which are young cows. Leather made from an adult cow taken from the prime areas of the animal are some of the best leather you can find. It can be a little stiff, depending on how it was treated. But it is very durable, able to withstand a lot of abuse. A good cowhide leather jacket is a real prize.

Buffalo hide

Hide from a buffalo is thick and surprisingly soft. It often has a more pronounced leather pattern, that is deeper groves and cuts that make leather look the way it is. Buffalo hide is used in everything cow hide is, plus more rugged items like shoes and rugs. Full length leather dusters are often made from buffalo. A buffalo leather jacket will last a lifetime.

Pig skin

Most people are surprised to learn a lot of leather items and jackets are made of pig skin, not just footballs! It might not sound good to say you have a pig skin jacket on, but the fact is pig hide can be tougher than cow hide. It can be a little stiffer than cowhide, and is about the same strength. Pig skin is often used in leather jackets, and most people have no idea they are wearing pig skin. It really is a quality skin.

Sheep skin

The skin of a sheep is soft, smooth and light. Often it is used with the wool left on for wool coats and vest, as well as rugs. It is not as rugged or strong as the above mentioned hides, and should not be used to make a motorcycle jacket or other hard wearing items. However they do make great looking fashion jackets and trench coats, as well as pants and leather shirts (yes they do make leather shirts).

It also is used a lot for gloves, purses and so on. Cheap motorcycle leather jackets are made by using sheepskin hides. That is why you can find cheap jackets that are real leather and look the same as others much higher in price. It is because the hide is cheaper. However again if it is a fashion type of jacket made more for looks and not hard wear they are great.

Lamb skin

For some reason a lot of places tout “genuine lambskin leather” as a hard to find leather that must be great. Truth is lamb skin is very common, it’s very thin and very weak. It’s also very smooth and soft, so it is a good choice for small purses, driving gloves and other small, fashion type articles. But it’s way to weak for jackets, vest and bags.

Now then, those are the most common types of animals used for leather. However there are many other animals, reptiles and even fish that are made into leather, some of them very beautiful and quality. Here is a short list of them.

Deer and Elk skin

The hides from deer and elk goes way back to the Indians, so they have been very popular. They can be very soft and smooth. However deer skin is not as strong as cowhide, comparable to sheep skin. Elk hide is much stronger, but very hard to find anymore.

Crocodile and Alligator

Everyone has heard about crocodile boots and purses. They are very tough, very beautiful and can last a lifetime. The leather is hard to work with, making it more expensive. A great choice when you have money to burn and want to look classy!

Stingray leather

Yes, the hide of stingrays is actually a very popular and beautiful type of leather for people who can afford it. It is one of the most durable leathers you can find, used by the Japanese at one time as body armor. The texture is like many round pebbles, smooth and slick. It is also the most expensive, far out of reach of most.

Snakeskin leather

Hide from snakes can look very beautiful. It is thin and flexible, but not very strong. It is mainly used for decorations like hat bands, purses or trim for vest and other wear.

Shark skin leather

Another hide that is growing more popular, sharkskin is very durable and tough. It has a very beautiful and sleek look to it and feels smooth to the touch. Yes, it’s expensive!

That gives you a good idea of the different types of leather that goes into all those products you find out there. For the most part, any leather jacket, vest, saddle bags and stuff like that should be made from cowhide, buffalo hide or pig skin. For fashion jackets and trench coats, some vest, pants, gloves and purses, sheepskin is a good choice as well as the first ones.

The rest, well I don’t think you need to worry about, unless you really want to spend $5,000 on a pair of boots or a $3,000 briefcase! So now that you know what type of animal hide you should use, we will next find out how that hide is cut, split and processed, so stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Leather made from different animals

  1. The information you gave is fantastic n needfull.If u giv some information on other non-conventional leather,it will be of much help to me,like kangaro skin,ostritch skin,horse hide,elephant hide,camel hide.

    how ever i am greatfull for your information n i extend my thanks here.
    alokesh ray

  2. this information is very useful thank you so much

    venus kaur another miss india of 2018

  3. You didn’t mention horse skin or goatskin, how do they compare to the others?

  4. This is nice info to know. Maybe you can write about fur and how it is categorized. Thanks a bunch!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. at my age, i know so little about leather making but with these peice of information you shared, i can now teach/say/preach little about leather and its making……
    Thank you

  6. Very well written, very informative . I am re doing an old 4×5 speed graphic camera. I have removed all the old black cow hide and found out the wood to make the camera body, is Mahogany. Most of the metal is brass. I would like to put a new RED bellows on it to dress it up! The front of the cover door, I would like to make it out of RED leather. I have another very old camera, wooden, with a red bellows, they would go very well together. I am looking forward to the red bellows to go along with my other two cameras. Thank You Terry Longenecker

  7. Hi Terry,

    Sounds like those cameras will look very nice once they are done. I don’t sell raw leather, but if your in the US you can go to a Tandy Leather store and find some. If there is none in your area you can shop one online, or check out Etsy. You can find a lot of small leather crafters on Etsy. Good luck with your project,


  8. Great info for a layman not familiar with the intricacies of leather.

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