Pelt Glossary


Alligator - A general term for leather made of all aquatic species with a grain similar to the American alligator.
Alligator Grained Leather - Cattle or sheep leathers embossed with an alligator grain pattern.
Alum Leather - Leather tanned using a combination of alum, salt, egg yolk and other materials. Once the most common tanning method, now used mostly for glove leather.
Aniline-Dyed Leather - Leather dyed with transparent aniline dyes, as opposed to those colored with opaque pigments.
Antelope Leather - A rare, soft leather made from antelope skin.
Antelope Finish Suede - Lambskin, goatskin or calfskin, sueded and finished to resemble antelope.
Antique Grain - A surface pattern of markings or creases, usually irregular, in which the hollows are often given a contrasting color to produce a two-tone or two-color effect. The creases are produced by embossing, boarding or other similar means.


Back - Leather from the back of the animal. Usually the strongest piece of leather in the entire hide, with the least amount of stretch. The best leather for making belts and other items that will be subjected to much stress.
Bark tanned - Leather preserved with tannins derived from plant sources, as opposed to leather preserved with chemicals. Also referred to as Vegetable Tanned or Oak Tanned.
Bating - enzyme treatment to clean the inside of a skin and to help create a softer leather.
Belly - Leather from the underside of the animal. Usually weak and stretchy, but may be useful where stretchiness is desired, or at least not a problem. Often the most economical piece of the entire hide, therefore good for practice.
Belt Blanks -Pre-cut strips of leather intended for belts or other strap goods.
Blue - In the chromium salts cause the tanned hides to be light blue before they are dyed. Other similar terms include: In the Rough; In the Crust; In the White;and, In the Pearl. See also Wet Blue Skins.
Boarded Leathers- Sides or skins finished by folding with the grain side in and rubbing the flesh side with a cork-surfaced instrument known as a hand-board. Machinery is now also used. The effect is also imitated by embossing.
Bookbinding Leather -Leather used for binding books: skivers, splits, cowhides, sheepskins, goatskins, calf, etc.
Bridle leather - Vegetable tanned cowhide used for making tack.
Buckskin - Deer or Elk skin leather.
Buffalo Leather - Leather from the domesticated water buffalo (not the American bison).
Buffed Leather - Leather from which the top surface of the grain has been removed by an abrasive or bladed cylinder or, less generally, by hand.
Buffing - (1) The thin grain of leather removed from a cattle hide by the splitting machine. (2) The process of more or less removing the grain layer by abrasion. (3) Removal of the flesh side of the leather by mechanical abrasion to produce a suede effect, or to reduce the substance.
Butt - The part of the hide after the bellies and shoulders have been removed.
Butt Split - The under layers, split from the butt of a cattle hide.


Cabretta - Sheepskins having hair rather than wool. Largely used in the glove and garment trade.
Calfskin - A high quality, fine grained leather made from the skins of young cattle.
Capeskin or Cape Leather - Terms used for the glove and garment leather made from sheepskins with the natural grain preserved. Must be qualified as "Domestic Capeskin" if not made from South African hair sheep.
Casing - Soaking, or wetting leather to make it suitable for carving and /or tooling.
Chamois - A very soft, oil-tanned, suede-finished, leather, originally made from Alpine antelope, but now made from sheepskin splits. Known for its absorbency.
Chrome Tanned - Leather preserved using chromium salts, giving the tanned hides a blueish color. Makes the leather more heat resistant. Not suitable for tooling, due to its resistance to absorbing moisture.(See Casing)
Colorado Steers - Term refers to side-branded steerhides, not necessarily from Colorado.
Combination Tannage - Leathers tanned with more than one tanning agent, such as chrome and vegatable, to impart favorable qualities of both systems.
Cordovan Leather - Originally leather from Cordoba, Spain, this term now refers to a strong, nonporous shoe leather made from horse hide.
Corrected Grain Leather - Leather from which the grain layer has been partially removed by buffing to a depth governed by the condition of the raw material and upon which a new surface has been built by various finishes.
Country Hides - Term refers to hides removed by butchers and farmers. The quality is usually lower than meat-packer's hides.
Cowhide - Leather from any of the bovine species.
Crop - A "side" of leather with belly trimmed off, retaining both head and shoulder.
Crushed Leather - Leather which has the natural grain accentuated during manufacture by plating, boarding or another process. Term also applied to leather which has been "grained" artificially.
Crust - Leather that has been tanned but not finished.
Curried Leather - The process of incorporating oils and greases into leather after tanning for specific purposes such as for the manufacture of transmission belts, shoe welting, etc.


Deerskin - A leather with the grain surface intact, not removed like buckskins.
Degrained Leathers - Genuine suedes, finished on the flesh side of skins from which the grain has been removed after tanning by splitting or other process.
Doeskin - The soft, supple formaldehyde and alum-tanned skivers of sheep and lambs. The skin of a doe is rarely used.
Drum Dying - Also known as vat dying. This process assures full dye penetration. The hides are immersed in dye and tumbled in a wheel shaped drum for hours.
Drying - Makes leather unappetizing to bacteria which ensures skins keep indefinitely.
Dry salting - Adding salt to dry leather more quickly.
Dyeing - The coloring of leather using a penetrating, transparent or translucent, fluid, as opposed to painting with an opaque pigment.


Electrified Lambskins or Shearlings - Term applied to dyed and processed sheepskin shearlings finished to resemble furskins.
Elk- A trade term for cattlehide shoe leather of special tannage and finish. Genuine elk leather is made into one of several types of buckskins.
Embossed leathers - Leather upon which a design has been stamped with engraved plates. Usually the natural grain of another, more expensive, animal, such as ostrich or alligator.


Facing Leathers - A lightweight leather generally used for facing seams and binding the edges of shoe uppers. Terms also applied to lightweight smooth calf and lamb, and to skivers often used in the inner surfaces of wallets.
Fat liquor - A mixture of oils and soaps which make a leather flexible by lubricating the fibers.
Fat Wrinkles - Marks or wrinkles in the grain of the leather caused naturally by fat deposits. They are most prevalent in the belly and neck area of the hide.
Fifth quarter - Parts of the animal that cannot be eaten.
Finishing - Treating hide or skin for protection, color, fastness to light, abrasion or flexibility.
Flesh Split - The inner or under layer of a hide or skin separated from it by the splitting machine or the leather made of such a split.
Flesher - The flesh-side or under-cut of a sheepskin, split before tanning.
Fleshing - Removal of tissue and fat from the flesh side of raw hides.
Formaldehyde tanning - A tanning process which yields white, washable, leather using formaldehyde as the tanning agent.
Frizzing - A process for removing the grain by liming.
Full Grain Leather - First cut taken from the hair side of a hide from which only the hair and epidermis have been removed.


Garment Leather - Leather which has been tanned to have the softness and durability necessary for clothing.
Glazed Finish - a glossy, smooth, sheen imparted to leather by polishing with a glass roller.
Glove Leather - Leather from sheep, lamb, deer, pig, goat and mocha skins which are used for dress gloves. Horsehide, cattlehide, splits, calfskins, sheepskins and pigskins are used for work gloves.
Goatskin - The skin or leather from a mature goat.
Grain - The hair side of a skin(the outside of the animal), or the pattern of hair folicles under the epidermis.
Grained Leather - A leather which has been finished to accent the natural grain.
Glutaraldehyde Leather - Leather tanned with glutaraldehyde, usually in combination with other tanning agents, to make the leather more resistant to deterioration under moist conditions.


Hair-on - Leather with the hair still on it.
Harness Leather - Curried vegetable-tanned cattlehide which is made quite strong for heavy use.
Hide - The whole pelt of a large, mature animal.(Horse, cow, buffalo, etc.)
Hide Split - Leather made from the flesh split or middle split.
Horsehide - Leather made from any of the equine species.


Iron - A Term used in measuring the thickness of sole leather. One iron =1/48 inch.



Kangaroo Leather - The strongest known leather, weight for weight. Made from the skin of kangaroos.
Kid - The chrome-tanned skin of a goat or kid.
Kip - Skin from an animal of the bovine species between the size of a calf and an adult animal.
Kosher Hide - Hide of an animal which has been slaughtered according to Jewish religious custom.


Lace - Thin strips of leather, or sometimes vinyl. Used to stitch a project together, or to apply a decorative design, often both.
Lace Leather - Latigo, chrome-tanned, oil-tanned, vegetable-tanned, or rawhide leather cut into long, thin strips for the purpose of lacing.
Lambskin - Skin or leather from a lamb or young sheep. Can also refer to the skin of an adult sheep as the skins are almost identical in appearance after tanning.
Latigo - A soft, slightly stretchy, leather having a distinctive grey stripe in the middle(inside).Often used for tack and harnesses due to its resistance to absorbing moisture. May be stamped, but is not suitable for tooling.
Leather - The hide or skin of any animal which has been treated to prevent decay.
Leatherette - A manufactured product which imitates leather.
Levant - Leather from goat, sheep and seal skins with a characteristic shrunken grain pattern produced in tannage.
Liming - Treatment of hide or skin with lime and sodium sulphide to remove hair, fur and woolskins are not limed.
Lining Leather - Thin leather from almost any species, used for lining shoes, wallets, purses, etc. Most often purchased pre-finished.
Lizard Leather - Chrome-tanned lizard skins with a fine scale pattern. Often used in making cowboy boots. and as accents on wallets, belts, etc.
Loading - The process of adding glucose, magnesium sulfate, or other materials to condition vegetable tanned leather for working in modern shoe machinery. Also called "filling."


Milling - The process of massaging hides by tumbling them for several hours to ensure softness. Occurs after tanning, dying and finishing.
Mineral Tan - Leather tanned with chromium salts, alum, ziconium or other mineral agents, as opposed to vegetable tannages.
Mocha Leather and Suede - The former is produced from sheepskin, the grain of which is removed by liming. The fibers below are sueded. The latter is treated the same, but is sueded on the flesh side.
Morocco Leather - A distinctive grain of vegetable-tanned goatskin produced by boarding or graining.
Mouton - A sheepskin shearling tanned and finished to look like a fur skin.


Napa Leather - Chrome, alum or combination tanned grain sheep or lambskin glove leather, drum colored.
Nappalan - A suede leather with a very light coat of finish.
Natural Markings - Common leather markings include: shading variations, healed scratches, neck wrinkles, insect bites, barbed wire marks, stretch marks, vein marks and brands. Although useful in distinguishing real from fake leathers, and "naked" leathers from pigmented ones, new finishing techniques make it possible to simulate natural markings.
Nubuck - The grain surface of a hide or skin is sometimes abraded to give a very fine suede effect, sometimes referred to as degrained leather.
Nude Leathers - dyed leather without a protective finish.


Oak Tan - A vegetable tanning process employing ground oak bark as the tanning agent.
Oil Tan - A tanning process which commonly uses fish oils. Strong, light leather is produced.
Ostrich - The tanned hide of an ostrich. Prized for it's distinctive pattern of nodules where the feathers grew. Normally quite expensive and somewhat fragile.
Ounce - A measure of thickness. One ounce =1/64 inch. One square foot of 4 ounce leather(1/16 inch thick) should weigh 4 ounces.


Parchment - Partially tanned sheepskins that are dried and dewooled. Once used for writing instead of paper.
Patent Leather - A leather with a glossy varnish finish.
Patina - The luster or shine that develops on leather surfaces with time and use.
Peccary - A chrome-tanned, washable, very durable leather which is very fine and can be split quite thin. It comes from a wild Mexican boar.
Pickling - Soaking raw skins in a salt and sulfuric acid solution, which is the initial step in leather making.
Pickled Sheepskins - Unsplit sheep and lambskins, with the wool removed, treated in a pickling solution.
Pigment Finish - An opaque leather finishing material (paint), as opposed to a dye.
Pigskin Leather - The vegetable or chrome-tanned skins of domestic pigs. Known for the distinctive pattern of hair folicles,which pierce the skin, and are connected by a series of lines.
Pin Seal or Pin Grain - Name commonly given to a natural grain of high-grade sealskins. Also imitated on sheepskin, goatskin and calfskin. These are described as "pin-grain sheepskin," etc.
Premium Select - The finest leather hides available, exhibiting few imperfections.
Printed Leather - Leather bearing a surface pattern produced, usually by embossing, but sometimes by other methods, e.g. by silkscreen printing.
Pull-up - A full grain, aniline dyed leather that is waxed or oiled. When pulled, the oils/ waxes cause the color to migrate and become lighter in pulled areas. A look associated with quality leather.



Rawhide - De-haired, cleaned and dried cattlehide. Used in Native American crafts, and for decorative lacing in saddle making and other leathercrafts. Also used for dog chew toys.


Saddle Leather - Vegetable-tanned cowhide used in the manufacture of tack and saddles.
Sauvage - A mottled, tone-on-tone effect created by blending similar colors. Used to add depth and character to leather.
Sharkskin - The vegetable-tanned hide of a shark. Very rough.
Shearling - Sheep or lamb skins which were sheared before slaughter. The remaining hair is left on during tanning.
Sheepskin -The leather or skin of a mature sheep. See also, Lambskin.
Simulated sheepskin - May be made using a sueded leather from cattle or sueded sheep leather.
Shoe leather - Leather of nearly all types and weights, used in the manufacture of shoes.
Side - One half of a hide, divided down the backbone.
Skin - Pelt of a small or young animal.( calf, sheep, goat, etc.)
Skive - To thin down, by paring (shaving), a piece of leather. Done as an aid in joining two pieces or along fold lines to assist in making a clean fold.
Skiver - The thin, vegetable-tanned, grain side split of a sheepskin. Used for linings, and bookbinding.
Slunk - The skin of an unborn calf.
Sole - Ten to twelve ounce vegetable-tanned leather used for shoe soles.
Solvent Tannage - A tanning system utilizing organic solvents, such as acetone, in place of aqueous solution, to carry the tanning agents.
Split - The under portion of a hide or skin which is divided into two or more layers.
Staking - The manual or mechanical softening of a leather by working it over a blunt stake.
Steerhide - Heavy leather made from the hide of steers.
Stuffed - Leather into which wax or grease has been worked.
Suede - A finish (not a type of leather) produced by seperating the fibers, giving the leather a nap by abrading with sandpaper or emery wheel.


Tanning - The conversion of a raw animal skin to a stable, workable, long-lasting material.
Tawing - An old English term for alum tanning.
Top Grain - The grain side of a cattlehide from which splits have been cut.


Unhairing - The removal of hair, roots and epidermis.
Upholstery Leather - A general term for leather used to cover furniture, automobile and airplane seats.
Urethane - Urethane emulsion can be used to give flexibility, abrasive resistance and color to leather.


Vegetable Tanning - A generic term distinguishing the process of making leather by the use of tannins obtained from bark, wood and other plant and tree parts.


Wallaby Leather- Leather from a medium-sized species of kangaroo.
Walrus - An extremely thick leather, used most often for buffing wheels.
Washable Leather - Leather which may be washed without losing shape, flexibility or color.
Water Repellent Leather - Leather which is stuffed with oil, grease or chemical compounds to minimize absorbtion of water.
Wax Finish - Heavy leather finished by working wax into the flesh side.
Wet Blue Leather - Also called Blue Skins. Leather which after chrome tanning has not been further processed and is sold in the wet condition.
Woolskins - Sheepskins tanned with the wool on.