Hides, Skins and Leather

Hides, Skins and Leather


The importance of hides, skins and leather cannot be emphasized enough as nearly all humanity have made use of these materials in one form or the other. A hide is gotten from the skin of animals which is treated for human use. The leather, processed from hides, is produced either on a domestic or on a commercial basis. Hides and skin are made from animals like wild cats (furs), snakes (for shoes), cattle, goat and other livestock animals.  The method of processing hides into various leather materials is known as tanning. The processed leather has a number of uses including clothing, shoes, upholstery and horse harness.

Nowadays most leather is produced from cattle skin, though there are several durable products that are made from other kinds of animals. For soft leather, lamb and goatskin are used and are more expensive. Some other manufacturers prefer elkskin and deer skin for indoor shoes and gloves. Pigskin is used on saddle seats and in apparels. Other animal skins like kangaroos, oxen, alligators are equally used for leather.


 hides, skins and leather



Tanned leather from goatskin is very durable and is mostly used in making carpet bindings and rugs. It is commonly used for boots, gloves and products that usually require soft hides. Kid gloves which were popular in the Victorian era are still used today. Goatskin has been the basic material for leather book bindings for ages, and it is not surprising that the oldest European binding (the binding of Cuthbert Gospel) was made of goat leather. The goatskin is used for making kefir and wine bota bag, a container commonly used in Spain.


High quality goatskin rug


The process of manufacturing leather is divided into 3 fundamental stages: The preparatory step, tanning and the crusting stages, and all quality leather materials undergo these processes. The early stages include some processes like preservation, liming, fleshing, delimind, bleaching, pickling and de-pickling.  After the preparatory stage, the next step is tanning which involves the conversion of the raw hide proteins into a stable material that will not go moldy. The most frequently used material for tanning is the chromium which, once tanned, leaves the leather pale blue in color.

The third stage of the leather manufacturing process is crusting. This process involves thinning, retanning and lubricating the hides and sometimes a coloring operation is added to the crusting process. Crusting is culminated in drying and softening of the hides. Generally, the sub-processes involved in crusting of all animal skins include splitting, shaving, retanning, filling, rechroming, whitening, fixating, setting, stripping, staking, neutarization and buffing.

Global demand for hides and skin (especially the goatskin) has increased considerably within the past decade and current indication is showing it will continue as long as DI (disposable income) improves. Global production of goat/kid hides stood at 242,700 tons in 2000 and developing countries (mainly from Asia) accounted for 95% of total output. Leading producers of goat skin include Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Iraq, India and China. United States, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, France and Spain are top destinations of exports of goatskin.

Generally, quality of hides and skin are graded based on the kind of hide, thickness and condition of hide. The highest quality is regarded as grade 1 while second best is understood to be grade 2 followed by the grade 3 and so on. However, goatskin is highly regarded but is only going to make the grade one quality if it has a uniform thickness, limited patches and a wide surface. Of course, grade 1 hides are usually more expensive in the international market than other grade levels.


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