I was researching new leathers when two pieces of hide from the same animal came across my workbench. One is a piece of Buffalo Hide with its fur still on. The other is a piece of tanned Bison Leather. For as different as they are, they come from the same animal.
Buffalo Hide is a strong, durable leather with a pebbled grain. Sold in multiple colors, weights and sizes, it is used to make many things including coats, gloves, moccasins, wallets, buffalo robes and throw rugs. Aka: Bison Leather, it can be conditioned for better water resistance.
New technology, utilizing Buffalo hide’s natural hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties as well as its soft gentle texture is being created to make this once nearly extinct species a viable, renewable natural resource for warm weather clothing. Let’s talk about the fundamentals of Buffalo Hide from the American Bison.
What Is Buffalo Hide?
Buffalo Hide (Bison Leather) is the treated/cured skin of the American Bison. It is available for purchase from almost any leather supply company and can be ordered with/without the fur still on it. Hair-on hides are used for making fur coats, long robes, throw rugs, bed coverings or native-syle outer-wear for cold climate conditions.
New technology is utilizing Buffalo Hide’s natural antimicrobial and hypoallergenic properties. The finer, softer fur is being used to create the wool which is going into things like winter jackets, gloves, hats and socks. The more coarse fur is being used to create the insulation known as B100 Fill. The Fill, used in combination with other natural fibers, is quickly replacing down feathers as the go-to filler for both soft and warm product lines.
Qualities of Buffalo Hide Leather
Tanned Buffalo Hide Leather is a strong durable material that can be produced in a wide range of color options. Buffalo hide is not stretched in the same way that cowhide is which leaves a more pebbled grain texture than other leathers have. Durability and thickness depend entirely on the curing process at each individual tannery and how the hide is split after it dries.
Common Uses for Buffalo Hide
Buffalo Hide can serve a multitude of purposes for a leatherworker. The first thing that comes to mind are big winter robes, and footwear such as moccasins worn by Native Americans and outdoorsmen in cold climates. Large buffalo hides can also end up on the floor as rugs. Bison leather without the fur can be used to make incredibly beautiful leather goods including wallets, gloves, belts, purses, clutches, handbags, and more.
Buffalo Hide Coats
Buffalo Hide Coats were once extremely popular, sold in the hundreds of thousands. Today, a handcrafted buffalo hide coat is a bit more rare and can cost in excess $4000 usd.
Buffalo Hide Rugs
Buffalo Hide Rugs can be found at a wide range of prices online. To preserve them, fur rugs need to be kept out of high humidity, direct sunlight and high traffic areas. They are very popular for their rustic appeal among log cabin owners and many trophy hunters
Buffalo Hide Moccasins
Buffalo Hide, aka, Bison Leather Moccasins can be made by hand or purchased online. They are strong, durable and beautiful. If they are cared for regularly they should last a very long time..
Buffalo Hide Wallets
The pebbled grain of Bison Leather makes for an extremely beautiful leather wallet. The strength and durability of Buffalo Hide makes it long lasting as long as the leather is cared for.
Buffalo Hide Gloves
Buffalo Hide Gloves can be found in two varieties. Buffalo Hide, fur-on mittens are warm, insulated, water resistant protection against temperatures. Bison Leather Gloves are strong, durable, and more abrasion resistant than other, more expensive leather gloves.
Buffalo Hide Robes
A long fur coat, Buffalo Hide Robes were more common and more available into the mid nineteenth century when buffalo were hunted to near extinction. Today a handcrafted Buffalo Hide Robe can cost more than $4000 usd.
Buffalo hide is not stretched in the same way that cowhide is which leaves a more pebbled grain texture than other leathers have.
Buffalo Hide Insights
Buffalo Hide typically refers to the fur-on pelt of the American Bison. Bison Leather is created through a chemical process to remove the hair, strip the natural oils/fats from the skin, and preserve it creating what we know as leather.
How Much Does a Buffalo Hide Cost?
Prices vary from retailer to retailer. Depending on the amount of leather being ordered, prices can range from about $6 to $10 per square foot (12” x 12”).
Are Buffalo Robes Warm?
Yes, but the answer is relative in that it depends on how the robes are made. The hide by itself will keep someone warmer than not having anything on, however there will need to be some added insulation to provide a layer of extra protection from the cold.
Is Buffalo Hide Better Than Cowhide?
Yes and No. The answer is relative because it depends on the quality of the hide, the tanning method, and what will be required of the leather. Buffalo hide does have certain benefits over cowhide; for instance, it is not stretched during the tanning process, giving Bison Leather a more pebbled grain pattern than typical cowhides have.
How Much Does a Buffalo Hide Weigh?
There are a number of factors to take into account when inquiring about the weight. A fur-on pelt will weigh more than the tanned leather hide. Typically, the average Buffalo Hide fully processed weighs 17 – 20 lbs.
Is Buffalo Hide Waterproof?
Unfortunately, the process of curing fur pelts into leather hides makes them porous. There are waxes and oils that can temporarily provide a water resistant nature to the hides but frequent, repeated application of these products over the life of the hide will be required to maintain it.
Buffalo Hide Care and Maintenance
Like everything else that comes from natural sources, Buffalo Hides / Bison Leather needs to be cared for regularly. Fortunately Bison Fur is hypoallergenic. Science has found no known human allergies to it.
How to Clean Buffalo Hide
Cleaning Buffalo Hide rugs and coats is fairly easy. Rugs can typically be vacuumed much the same as cow hide can. For longer fur, gently brush the hide. There are a wide variety of leather cleaners on the market today formulated specifically for the different leathers and pelts that are made. I recommend doing some research depending on what exactly needs to be cleaned.
This informative video offers several options for cleaning and conditioning bison leather:
How to Condition Buffalo Hide
Just like cleaning, Buffalo Hides require the occasional conditioning. There are many to choose from and some are better than others. I strongly recommend staying away from petroleum based conditioners and mineral oils in favor of more natural options. Conditioners made with natural beeswax, and options such as Mink Oil are much better for preserving the beauty and extending the life of your Buffalo Hide goods.
How to Store Buffalo Hide
Buffalo Hide Rugs, Mittens, Coats, Robes, Hats, etc., need to be out of direct sunlight in a low traffic area with climate controlled humidity levels for the best storage options.
There is nothing better than discovering and working with new materials. There are unlimited options for this durable, beautiful, versatile leather. Go find or make something to make you both look good and stay warm at the same time.
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