Interesting facts about leather – fun and educational

Interesting facts about leather

We all know what leather is, how it’s used, where it comes from, etc.  But, there’s a few interesting facts about leather you may not have known.  Read on, good reader, and enjoy!

NFL Footballs

  • Footballs are often called “pigskins”, but they are made from cowhide.  In the very early days, footballs were made from inflated bladders of animals…often pigs.  They were later encased in leather and the “pigskin” moniker just kind of stuck.  Don’t let it fool you though.  Today, all footballs are made from cowhide.
  • A single cow can make about 10 footballs.  The cow doesn’t actually “make” the football…I mean the hide of a single cow is enough to make about 10 footballs.  If you consider how many footballs are used in a regular NFL season, we can see that we go through a lot of cows.  The specific numbers aren’t available but Wilson (Pro sports ball manufacturer) did say that for every Super Bowl, each team receives 108 footballs, 54 for practice and 54 for the big game, so 108 per team, 216 total footballs for a Super Bowl.
    • Yep…about 22 cows
  • Do how many total in a given season? How does 24,960 sound?  Per the Operations website for the NFL, each team gets 780 footballs for the season for the games (24 each game for each team).
    • Yep, about 2500 cows
  • Ok, that’s just the NFL, what about College, high school, etc?
    • No stats on that but you can imagine the number is quite large.
  • Does anybody else now feel a bit strange hearing about NFL players that are Vegan?

Leather Books

  • Not all leather books are made from cowhide.  How about human skin?  Well, if leather is essentially the skin of animals (cows, goats, sheep, bison, elephants, etc) then humans would qualify.  In the “olden days”, leather bound books with human skin was not as rare as you might think.  Today there is a UK based company that is making leather products from human skin obtained from donors who bequeath their skin when they die.
  • The oldest leather bound book?  How about the Nag Hamadi Library?  Not only the oldest leather bound books, but considered to be the oldest surviving books period.  These leather bound papyrus codices that were found in 1945.  They date back to the first half of the 4th century.

Oldest leather item

This (approximate) size 7 woman’s shoe dates back 5,500 years.  it’s an excellent example of how leather can withstand the ages.  It was found mired in muck that preserved it, of course, but quite a statement nonetheless

Average adults

If you are an average adult, you are wearing four pieces of leather right now.  What are they?  I’ll give you a few minutes to think about it.

Rawhide isn’t leather

…or…leather isn’t rawhide.  One of the two.  Rawhide is just as it’s name suggests.  Hide that is raw (and dried out).  Leather, on the other hand, goes through processing steps to die it, smooth it out, make it soft, etc, etc.  Thinking of various uses of rawhide and leather, for applications where it has to come in contact with the skin, leather is preferred.  When less finesse is needed, and maybe even a rougher and tougher texture, then rawhide can be used.  Think of rawhide chaps to protect a rider from brush.

Leather making tools

From antiquity, working with leather has been a craftsman’s job or career.  The casual leather worker may do “ok” but for fine leather, a true craftsman is needed.  An interesting fact about leather working is that the tools these craftsmen use have been largely unchanged over the millenia and you’ll find very similar tools in every leather workshop.

Kangaroo leather

  • We mentioned earlier that the skin of any animal can be used to make leather.
  • Kangaroo leather is extremely strong – one of the strongest of all leathers.  It has 10 times the tensile strength of cowhide and is 50% stronger than goatskin
  • Kangaroo leather can be cut and split into small items that still retain their amazing strength
  • Kangaroo leather is resistant to abrasions and tearing so is often used for high-end motorcycle gear.
  • Kangaroo leather is often called K-Leather so people aren’t aware it’s coming from Kangaroos. Sorry to spoil that for you…but now you know.
  • If you feel sorry for the poor kangaroo, keep in mind that they are considered pests in Australia and are more populous than deer are in the states.  They are also incredibly hardy and can repopulate a given area very quickly, frisky creatures that they are. And, don’t forget, every piece of leather is made from the skin of a dead animal…are you wearing any leather right now?

Salmon Leather

  • Any type of skin, right?  Yep, salmon included
  • Quite common in Iceland and Norway although relatively unheard of in most other places
  • Ecologically friendly as the salmon skin is often the only part of the salmon that is discarded
  • Salmon leather is very strong pound for pound…stronger than cowhide
  • There is an almost 3d aspect to it, giving it the appearance of rougher types of leather (snake, for example) but retaining a soft feel.
  • You can see some interesting salmon leather products on the Tidal Vision website.

Average Adult (Part 2)

Which brings us back to the earlier point about the average adult wears 4 pieces of leather at any given time.  What are they?  They may be any or all of the following?

    • Belt
    • Wallet
    • Shoes
    • Watchband
    • Hat
    • Jacket
    • Purse
    • …etc

All right, we hope you enjoyed this little foray into the fun and interesting facts about leather.  The next time you see something marked as K-Leather, you can think back to this article…silently thank us…and buy the cowhide item instead.

Enjoy!