Which animal skins are used to make leather?

Let's be honest, we all love leather. Its mysterious & aesthetic appeal create loads of pleasure to our life. Whether looking for the luxury or not, our ancestors from thousands of years ago adopted "cuir bouilli" (boiling leather) method to make their armour. Besides, the leather protected us from a wet of autumn or cold of winter.

While buying a piece of leather cloth or a portion of leather made for furniture, you may wonder: which animal skins are used to make leather?

According to research, 65% of leather comes from cows while 15% comes from sheep, 11% from pigs and 9% from goats. Less than 0.2% of leather comes from any other type of animal. (Camilla Shep, Mahileather).

In the mature leather industry, the majority of leather we encounter is from cattles. It's not only the byproduct of milk and beef we often drink and eat, but also resistant and waterproof. Cow skins are more widely made for leather. However, calves are the most expensive ones, their grain layers are thin and smooth, yet its thick corium gives the strength while the surface of a calf is rather small. 

The skin from sheep and goats are both characteristic. 

Sheep skins can be processed into woolskin or grain leather, yet most of the time grain leather. As you can imagine, sheep are very well protected from the intensive wools, which means they also have intensive hair follicles. This has limited the space for fibres to strengthen the leather. Moreover, sheep are fat, and their fat set apart the outer skin and corium, which makes leather tanning more difficult. While we remove this fat layer, an extra step compared to other leather processing, the grain leather is also weakened. Therefore, sheep leather is often made for clothes instead of a seat pad.

Goats don't have to produce wool; thus, their grain leather is as durable as cattles. Their fat also doesn't form into a layer between the outer skin and the corium. Instead, fat is found between the skin and the muscle tissue. The collagen fibre bundles are quite small, similar to sheep, enabling an excellent "suede" effect. Goat leather leads to a large variety of products, such as garments, lightweight footwear, gloving and small items of furniture (Amanda Michel, Scribe).


related posts

Za Nian - An Independent Craftmaker in Shanghai

Za Nian - An Independent Craftmaker in Shanghai

His studio is located in a quiet compound in the middle of the city center, a passionate wintersweet tree is blooming yellow flowers in a yard, as yellow as a...


Get the latest news you need, straight to your inbox.