In order to produce leather, virtually any animal hide or skin can be processed or tanned. The animal source used is often a by-product of the regional food chain and the skin’s mechanical and chemical processing makes it suitable for many different applications for a variety of characteristics. Leather offers a wide selection of textures, grains, durability, comfort, maintenance, cost, resistance to water, resistance to abrasion, weight, strength, softness, and appearance. Small animal leather is described as skins, while larger animals are referred to as hides. Often the terms are interchangeable.
Bovine or Cow hide
The most abundant and common source of leather is cowhide leather. For texture, appearance, durability and comfort, Cowhide offers maximum value. Because of its availability, cowhide is easy to care for, the least expensive and resistant to dirt and water. Cowhide is one of the heaviest leathers with a pebble grain appearance making it very hard to wear and durable. Although it may be somewhat stiff, it breaks easily. For virtually any leather product, including handbags, cow leather is used and can be natural or colored in a variety of fashion colors.
Calfskin is used with a soft, fine feel to produce a high quality, attractive leather. Calfskin has a dense, lightweight and abrasion – resistant smooth surface. Calfskin uses high luster and is used in the manufacture of small leather goods.
Pig or hog skin
Pig or hog skin leather is like dense leather similar to a cowhide with a soft, smooth feel and very good durability. Pigskin is very smooth, comfortable and resistant to water. Pigskin is used to make handbags, garments and its texture can be treated like stamping, perforating or embossing in many ways.
Goat skin leather is a smooth, fine grain that is economical, strong and durable. Slightly softer and tougher than cow leather, goatskin is lightweight, comfortable, supple, flexible and water – resistant. Kidskin is a very soft leather made from the skin of of a young goat.
Sheep and Lamb skin
The leathers of the sheep and lamb are extremely soft, comfortable and smooth. The finely grained leather with a buttery texture is thin and supple. Lightweight, warm and delicate, sheep leather absorbs water well. The low tear and tensile strength of sheep leather stretches well and reshapes after wearing, but with excessive use it can distort. It is often used to make high-end leather clothes, as well as handbags, because sheep skin leather drapes well and flows.
Bison or Buffalo skin
Bison or Buffalo skin is a leather that is heavy duty and durable and value priced. This leather is rough and strong, yet with a rubber waxy feeling soft and supple. Buffalo leather features thicker, more spaced fibers and evident hair follicles that create a pebbly look. Furniture, shoes, belts, bookbinding, rugs, gloves, jackets, and baseball gloves are made from bison leather. It may be too thick for conventional sewing machine stitching, but using saddle-stitching it can be easily sewn by hand.