What Is Bovine Leather?

Bovine leather is the most common source of leather. In fact, “bovine” is simply the proper adjective for use with anything related to cattle. This is because it is the most common. But this is not to say that because it is common, it is of less value.

On the contrary, bovine leather is excellent for its appearance, texture, durability, and comfort. Let us take a closer look at bovine leather’s natural characteristics, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, and most importantly for every leather connoisseur, how to properly care for bovine leather.

What is Bovine Leather?

Bovine leather is, therefore, the leather that is produced from steers. Any leather – or any product, really, that comes from cattle is “bovine”. About 95% of all leather goods sold in the US are made with Bovine leather, simply because cattle is more widely-bred and easier to acquire.

Where Does Bovine Leather Come From?

Typically, only the surface skin of the bull or cow is utilized in processing leather. In most cases, this leather comes from animals that are being slaughtered for food.

Rawhide dealers store the skins from the slaughterhouse and are then sold to the tanneries. It is in the tanneries that animal skin is converted into leather by soaking in treatment chemicals.

In the tannery, a traditional hair-on-hide tanning method is effected to make sure that the hide remains soft and less vulnerable. The best-quality bovine leathers are usually kept with their natural colors, which are dependent on the bovine breed.

What Types of Leather Are Made from Cowhide

The finest Bovine leather is that where only the hair has been removed from the epidermis. The surface is natural and has not been treated to conceal the skin’s imperfections. This is known as Full Grain leather. The backs of full grain leather are left with their natural color.

Top Grain bovine leather, on the other hand, is leather that has been buffed and has typically been treated with full pigment color. This is to treat skins that bear scars and other defects due to environmental exposure.

Finally, there is Split Bovine leather which is derived from the middle and lower layers of the epidermis. This type of leather is reserved for producing suede or corrected-grain leathers (coated with fully-pigmented polyurethane). Here, the least desirable hides are utilized, thus making it less durable than full- and top-grain leathers.

Quality

One thing is for certain about bovine leather: it is very durable and will last longer than more-fragile leather from other animal skins.

If we compare a bovine leather product against leather from another animal, bovine leather will be the most affordable. Of course, that’s assuming we’re comparing similar grades – such as full grain bovine versus full grain from another creature. It’s not “exotic” but it’s still can be generally a high-quality product, depending on the tanning process and the grain.

What’s more crucial in buying leather than just finding out the breed of animal from which it came would be to scrutinize the craftsmanship of the material.

In the processing of leather, the best hides are separated from the ones that cannot be used in full – like those with cuts or injuries to the skin – and the pieces are likely sewed up in patchwork designs. The patchwork design is your first indication that this is poor-quality leather. Simply, it’s scraps sewn together.

There is no guarantee as to the grade of the leather because the leather itself could be of various grades.

Appearance of Bovine Leather

Bovine leather is popular for being very tough and durable. It is also distinctly heavy. This type of leather characteristically feels stiff or tough and this is why it is the leather of choice for belts, straps, holsters, and the like. It is also the leading material for rugged-wear shoes or boots.

The texture of bovine leather skin is noticeably grainy. Bovine leather materials are typically kept in their natural color as determined by the breed of the animal. Minor distinctions between species of cattle show up in the grain pattern and the feel of the product.

Products Bovine Leather is Commonly Used For

Bovine leather can be used for virtually any leather products, especially bags and boots, and is typically in its natural color.

It can, however, be dyed in a variety of fashionable colors, too. Bovine leather is likewise very common as uppers and soles of shoes, as car and furniture upholstery, as belts, straps, and saddles.

In apparel, it is used mainly for outerwear, particularly jackets. This is very popular material for casual, weekend ready-to-wear clothing.

Bovine leather is solid and firm, and therefore very versatile. The hides are also large enough to be used for wide areas – the surface of cattle leather skin averages about five square meters.

Advantages of Bovine Leather  

Leather from cows is relatively easy to maintain. It is known for being resistant to dirt and water. Bovine leather is very popular, both in fashion and furniture, since it is the most affordable. The relatively low cost of Bovine leather is attributable mainly to its availability.

Another notable reason why Bovine leather is very popular is that it is one of the heaviest leathers – making it very durable and long-lasting. And though it is tough-wearing, bovine leather “breaks in” easily. In other words, it will be comfortable in no time.   

Disadvantages of Bovine Leather

Bovine leather can stretch and shows stretch marks over time. However, this is typical for any leather type. But it is especially unsightly for leather in lighter colors. Being a heavy and sturdy leather, this type will typically be “hot and sweaty” during warmer weather and so lighter leather types might be considered if extreme temperatures are a concern.

Finally, another disadvantage of Bovine leather is that it tends to be presented in limited colors. While it may be dyed, this is usually done with lower grades of the leather.

How to Care for Bovine Leather

Bovine leather is hard-wearing and durable, but nonetheless requires careful cleaning with the appropriate products and tools to prevent damages and stains.

When cleaning the surface of Bovine leather, use a soft, dry cloth to dust off the leather item and remove surface dust and grime. If you are cleaning a sofa, use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove any trapped dust or debris from the nooks and crannies of the cushions. If your leather item has buttons, piping or other detailing, use a dry, soft toothbrush to dust them. Use a damp (not dripping wet, remember) cloth with a small amount of dishwashing liquid soap to wipe down the surface. Let the leather air-dry but watch out for stains and marks.

When removing stains off of your bovine leather, apply a dab of dishwashing liquid to a damp cloth. Rub this directly onto the stain, applying only gentle pressure. Wipe the soap off with a damp cloth, taking care not to saturate the leather. Allow it to air-dry.

If the stain persists, put a small dab of toothpaste directly to the stain and rub it in with a damp cloth. Rinse the cloth with clean water and wipe away the toothpaste. Allow the leather to air-dry. Again, if the stain persists after this, you might try a non-acetone nail polish wipe to gently rub the stain. Allow the leather to air-dry. If this doesn’t work, it’s best to go to a professional.

Comparison

We know bovine leather is rugged and durable, yet easily broken in. Over time, it will conform to the shape of the wearer’s body. So the more you wear it, the more comfortable it becomes. Sheepskin, on the other hand, is more supple, softer, and lightweight. This is why sheepskin is preferred for more garment materials than Bovine, overall. Garments like pants are much more comfortable to wear in Sheepskin than in Bovine, but one has to ensure a perfect fit because Sheepskin will stretch out more easily over time, resulting in sagging clothes. Bovine leather is thicker, heavier and less prone to rips or tears than Sheepskin. This thickness of bovine leather makes it more resistant to dirt and water, thus easier to care for, relative to Sheepskin.

Conclusion

Leather from cows is probably the most common and therefore most affordable type on the market. But it’s still a quality product. Bovine leather is sturdy and long-lasting and is more suitable for rugged style and function. It is still more elegant than fabric, yet it is the most affordable among its leather counterparts. So, bovine leather is a great pick for its comfort, style and durability when you don’t need something exotic or don’t want to break the bank.

Other Similar Leathers

  • Calfskin
  • Pig or Hog skin
  • Goatskin
  • Sheepskin