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According to the Tanner's Council of America, our industry uses hides from steer, cows, bulls, sheep, lamb, goat and kid, horses, goat, ass, mule, zebra, pig, hog, peccary and carpincho, land and water buffalo (not American Bison) and exotic and fancy feathers such as frog, ostrich, crocodile, lizard, snake, seal, shark, walrus, turtle, and camel to produce products.

This council also clarifies a number of definitions that are commonly used in the leather industry. We gratefully acknowledge the Council's Dictionary of Leather Terminology, as well as the organization's publication, "Leather Facts," as we highlight some of the words we use daily in our business


A general term for hide or skin with its original fibrous structure more or less intact, tanned or treated to be non-putrescible. The hair or wool may or may not have been removed. Leather is also made from a hide or skin which has been split into layers or segmented before or after tanning, but if the tanned hide or skin is disintegrated mechanically and/or chemically into fibrous particles, small pieces or powders and then, with or without the combination of a binding agent, is made into sheets or forms, such sheets or forms are not leather. Leathers may have surface coatings of a reasonable amount, but beyond this the resulting products shall be described as a laminate or composite. However, the term laminated leather shall not be used if the leather content is less than two-thirds of the total thickness.

In describing various classes of leather, the name of the animal from which the skin or hide was taken is generally used. Certain exceptions, which have become established trade practices, are cited in the definitions which follow. Otherwise, adequate explanations should be made.


Leather which has been colored by dyes as distinguished from other leather treated by pigments or other opaque materials.


Leathers which have been tanned with vegetable materials that are derived from certain plants and woods.


For the manufacturers of leather belts for transmitting power in machinery. Made from the butts of high grade cattle hides.


Leather which has been smoothed or sueded by mechanical sanding.


Leather made from the skins of the young cattle and characterized by distinct grain or fiber structure.


Term specifically applied to leather made from hides of cows, although it is generally loosely used to designate any leather tanned from hides of animals of the bovine species.


Hides or skins finished with designs stamped on by etched, engraved, or electrotyped plates or rollers. A mechanical process of permanently imprinting a great variety of unique effects to the leathers surface. Done under considerable heat and pressure. Embossed designs may be an imitation of the natural grain or different animal skins, or designs of an artificial nature.


Outer cut taken from the hair side of the hide from which nothing except the hair and the associate epidermis have been removed.


A leather with polished surface produced by heavy pressure of a roller of agate, glass, metal or other suitable material on a selected finish formulation.


The outer or hair side of the hide or skin. Also the pattern of the outer surface after the hair or wool and epidermal tissue have been removed.


Any leather on which the original grain has been highlighted by a finishing process.


Materials so made and finished as to resemble leather. Included are coated fabrics, rubber and rubber compositions, and plastic materials. Terms connoting genuine leather should be used in trade names, as for the example "plastic calf," "plastic leather," "Compo-leather," "leatherlike" or "leatherette."


Describes leather made from either lamb or sheepskin, in as much as the skin is identical in appearance after tanning.


Leathers which have been tanned by mineral substances, notably the salts of chromium, aluminum, and zirconium.


Vegetable tanned fancy goatskins having a distinctive grain produced by boarding or graining. Embossed imitation of natural goat grain on other kinds of leather sometimes is called Morocco grained.


Chrome, alum or combination tanned grain sheep or lambskin glove leather, drum colored.


Leathers tanned with certain fish oils. Produces a very soft, pliable leather such a chamois.


Leather with a finish which is mirror-like, flexible and waterproof. Also leather of this appearance made by film lamination.


An embossed-leather grain finish resembling a pebble surface, ranging from fine pebbled Morocco goat to heavy scotch grain upper leather.


Terms applied to calf leather of heavier weights, finished on flesh side, containing oils to make it more water-resistant than suede, used for shoes where a nappy leather is required. Originally called "Trench Calf" in England, the term "Hunting Calf" is also used in that country. The term "Service Leathers" is used but is generally applied to splits and side leather.


As used in the manufacture of harness and saddlery, this is a vegetable tanned cattlehide. The leather is usually a tan shade, is produced in various thicknesses and is also used outside the saddlery trade for leather goods of various types. In connection with other tannages, the term should be used to specify the leather as "saddle color," "saddle shade," or "saddle finish." "California Saddle Leather" is a registered trade name restricted to leather tanned by a tanner located in the State of California.


Genuine sharkskin leather is made from the top grain of the hides of certain species of sharks and is used principally in shoes, belts, wristwatch straps, luggage, fine leather goods and for industrial purposes. It has varying, natural grain markings, or fine, smooth mesh like grain similar to pin seal. The term "sharkskin leather" should not be applied to other leathers, such as horse butts, embossed with shark grain.


A term used to describe the under portion of a hide or skin, split into two or more thicknesses. Devoid of a natural grain, it may be either sueded or pigment finished and embossed. Under ruling of the Federal Trade Commission, a split must be so marked and cannot be called "genuine leather" or "genuine cowhide."


The grain split of a hide from which nothing has been removed except the hair and associated epidermis.


A general term for leather used in traveling bags and suitcases. It does not include the light leather employed for women's handbags. The staple material for bag and case leather at present is leather made from the hides of animals of the bovine species, but other skins, including heavy sealskins and goatskins, are also used for this purpose.


A leather which has been treated with any of several chemical compounds which repel the absorption of external water.


A method of finishing heavier weights of upper leather on the flesh side by working wax into the substance.

For more information on leather terminology, contact the Leather Industries of America, 1000 Thomas Jefferson St., N. W., Suite 515, Washington, DC 20007. Phone (202) 342-8086, fax (202) 342-9063

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I am curious as to how many of you have tanned hides? Right from skinning the cow to making a product from the leather, as I have.

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I currently have a plague of rabbits. Good because it means I have a supply of free dog food and I could possibly have a source of hair-on skins.

Anyone got a recipe/method for tanning rabbit skins with hair on? Got to be simple 'cos I am.


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I currently have a plague of rabbits. Good because it means I have a supply of free dog food and I could possibly have a source of hair-on skins.

Anyone got a recipe/method for tanning rabbit skins with hair on? Got to be simple 'cos I am.


You'l need Alum, cytric acid and normal table salt. get intouch with a taxidermist supplier, try these if there are still in business.




Phone: 01542 840176

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Thanks for that.

My timing's bad - I was up in Oldmeldrom yesterday and this morning so could have popped in.

Never mind. And thanks again.


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