Different types of leather – What are they?

There are many different types of leather. We choose to work exclusively with Buffalo Leather (for the reasons outlined). But you could purchase a product made from any of the leathers on this list. Some are common, others exotic. Each different leather type has unique properties. Here’s a quick run down on what you can expect from each of them.

Cattle Leather

  1. Tear/puncture resistant
  2. Very common in US so cheaper than exotic leathers
  3. Good insulating properties
  4. Generally tanned through chemical processes

Bison Leather (or American Buffalo, not Asian or Water Buffalo)

  1. Equal to cow leather in its strength, durability and insulation prior to tanning
  2. Softer and more flexible than cow leather
  3. Features an earthy, rustic natural graining pattern most cow leather lacks.
  4. Not stretched during tanning so it can retain the characteristic and desirable graining
  5. Retained thickness gives it superior durability and strength
  6. Generally tanned through natural rather than chemical processes
  7. Learn the differences between the American Bison and other Buffalo.

Calf Skin Leather

  1. Technically cattle leather but harvested from younger cows
  2. Not as durable or tough as cattle but still tougher than other lighter animal leathers like goat, lamb or deer.
  3. Softer and lighter than leather from cattle

Fish Leather (seriously)

  1. Color is metallic to bright red
  2. Salmon is most popular
  3. Regular pattern where scales were

Deer Leather

  1. Very supple and soft
  2. Very thin
  3. Not as durable as cattle leather

Crocodile/Alligator Leather

  1. Protected species in most parts of the world, so must be harvested from farms.
  2. Skin used is from the soft underbelly
  3. Rare, so expensive
  4. Includes scales/bony material so wear and tear is on the membrane beneath.

Pig/Hog Leather

  1. Thin, yet durable
  2. Famously used to make footballs
  3. Soft but bumpy texture make it less popular than cattle

Ostrich Leather

  1. Ostrich Leather is very soft and thick
  2. Characteristic “goose bump” appearance where the feather quills once grew.
  3. Very strong, with naturally occurring oils that contribute to long-lasting suppleness and durability.
  4. “Full Quill” area with biggest feather or “socket” markings is most desirable/expensive.

Snake Leather

  1. Farmed from venomous sea snakes
  2. Very thin and flexible, but fragile.
  3. Unique color patterns and grains are highly desirable.

Goat Leather

  1. Goat leather is softer and more supple than cow hide but more fragile.
  2. Grain is characteristically “pebbly”.
  3. Lighter than cow.

Lamb Leather

  1. Very lightweight
  2. Most supple and flexible but very fragile
  3. Elegant

We hope you learned a bit about a variety of leather types, and what qualities those different types of leather have. If you’re looking to learn more, we’d recommend reading why we choose to use Buffalo Leather as our main type of leather in our leather goods.  You can also learn more about leather grades here, or just head back to our Knowledge Center to explore!