The most used leather origins from a goat, a pig or a cow. But there are much more types of animal leather. In this post, I will sum up the craziest types of animal leather and will try to explain how to recognise them all.
Exotic Reptile leather
- Crocodile leather (also alligator and caiman leather hides): crocodile leather is for the most of you probably familiar, since it is often seen in luxury brand products or embossed in cow leather like I have used for the sunglass case and notebook cover. The difference between crocodile/alligator and caiman is the size of the animal. Important when using this type of leather is to be sure it comes from a place which has been approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- Snake leather (python or cobra ): Also this type is leather is quite popular and well known. The advantage of using a reptile is the durability of the leather which is better than the mammal ones.
- Lizard: Lizard leather has an elegant look and a smooth texture. Since lizards aren’t very big it is often used for small accessories like watch straps and phone cases. The skin is very durable and therefore it is also possible to stitch multiple hides together.
- Toad: You might not have known that there also is toad leather, often from the cane toad or giant toad. The rubbery skin is transformed in the tanning process to a durable and strong, unique type of leather.
Exotic animal leather
- Elephant: This is a very thick type of leather and can be recognised by the rippled texture. For this type of leather also the CITES should be honoured.
- Ostrich leather: Ostrich leather is highly durable which has a uniquely bumpy texture, like goosebumps but they are referred to as quills.
- Buffalo: Buffalo leather is different compared to cow leather. Especially the thickness and the flexibility due to the fibres which are thicker and more widely-spaced. Therefore this type of leather is very durable and firm. The grain of the leather is also more pronounced compared to the cow grain. (check out the 101 leather guide if you forgot the whole grain, fibre theory over here….)
- Kangaroo: Kangaroo leather is very strong and very supple. Besides that, it is also very light weight, lighter than cow or goat leather. Kangaroos are harvest under a very controlled supervision of the Australian government to overcome overpopulation or extinction of the kangaroos.
- Stingray: This type of leather is very unique. Is is highly durable, some even say 25 times more durable than cowhides. The texture is supple and can be bumpy or flat. Which gives it a luxury feeling to it.
- Eel: Eel skins are provided as a by-product of the fishing industry. Although as you might imagine it takes a lot of eels to form a proper sheet of leather. The skin is soft and flexible and mostly used for clothing, footwear and also upholstery.
- Salmon: Also this is a by-product of the fishing industry. This way nothing will be wasted. Salmon skin is a very strong and flexible material. It has a unique 3D texture and can be compared to snake leather. Due to the processing, it has a soft and suede feel to it.
- Shark: Shark leather is also a by-product of the fishing industry for hi-end cuisine. The texture is rough and course, it feels a little bit like sanding paper. Not all shakes can be used since some of them are endangered species.
Less exotic animal leather
- Sheep (& lamb): Compared to cow leather, this type of leather has a fine grain and a great suppleness. Despite the suppleness, it is still very tough and durable. It has a very comfortable feel to it and is often used for clothing.
- Cow (& calf): Cow leather is the most common type of leather and a by-product of the meat industry. It is a very strong and durable type of leather. Due to the versatility in the tanning process a lot of properties are described in the 101- leather guide in this post.
- Deerskin leather: Deerskin has a lighter and softer feeling compared to the cowhides. Between the natural fibres air is trapped inside. Just like cow leather, deerskin gets, even more, softer over the years.
- Chicken leather: When you think of leather, the chances are that you didn’t get the picture of a chicken in mind… Although it does exist, it even is used for very exclusive luxury products. The paws of the chicken have a very thick and durable skin to process into chicken leather.
- Moose: Moose skins are comparable to the deer skin although it is usually much thicker and maybe the heaviest leather available. To use it in products it has to be split into thinner pieces.
As you can imagine in the early days of the world each nation made leather products from the animals from their surroundings. That gives us nowadays a very versatile choice of leather to make beautiful products with. Is there any type of crazy animal leather which I forgot, please let me know and I will add it to the list!