Leather can be produced from the skin of any animal. Throughout history many leathers have been made across times, regions, and through different methods.
The most common today are cow, sheep, goat, and pig. Though, most any type can be obtained if needed for a project. Let’s explore some of the more common, and less common types of leather below.
In general, when speaking about animal leathers, those from larger animals such as cattle are referred to as “hides”. Those from smaller animals such as rabbits or pigs are referred to as skins. Also in terms of volume, cattle leather makes up about 67% of the total annual leather production around the world.
Cows are female cattle that have had calves. They are very common, and popular. Cow leather is a thick, soft leather that works well for most common leather needs.
Bulls are un-castrated male cattle. They have higher levels of testosterone and in general, thick, heavy hides. Bull leather is useful for thicker leather uses such as in heavy belts and show and boot soles. A low ratio number of male cattle are kept as bulls, to reproduce the breeds, so much lower amounts of bull leather are usually available than other types.
Sheep leather, also called sheep skin, is popular because it often has one side as leather and the other covered in wool. the wool naturally draws perspiration away from the wearer. This makes it an ideal leather for use in year-round seat upholstery, shoes, slippers, boots, and moccasins. Sheep leather, including lamb leather) makes up about 12% of the total leather production around the world.
Goat leather is a very soft, strong, and durable leather. It is used often in the production of shoes, boots, gloves, rugs, and bags. The skins are supple and flexible, making for a comfortable feel. Goat and kid (young goat) leather makes up about 11% of the total leather production around the world.