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Global Leather Production Overview

I started to think about all the different leathers in the world, where they come from, and all the different types. The use of animal hides by mankind has been in practice since around 400,000 years ago (that is so long ago!) It also speaks to the value and usability of leather, which is very popular today. For more details, check out the history of leather craft. I also wondered about where the leather comes from; I did a little research and learned a lot about global leather production. The volume is fascinating.


Top Leather Producing Countries

According to the Leather Council, the top leather producing countries in 2015 were:

China (5,962 million square feet)
Brazil (2,260 million square feet)
Russia (1,652 million square feet)
India (1,516 million square feet)
Italy 1,503 million square feet)
Korea 1,144 million square feet)
Argentina (804 million square feet)
USA (719 million square feet)
Mexico (642 million square feet)
Turkey (529 million square feet)

The top three producing countries make about 40% of the global leather supply. Tanning companies generally purchase leather from the meat, dairy, and wool industries (about 5%-10% of the overall value of an animal), then work to tan it to produce a specific type of leather. This specialization allows them to be competitive in the marketplace as they can focus on a type or few types of leather production, and related markets. 50%-60% of the overall cost of leather production for tanners rests in the raw hides and skins, with the rest on production costs. The tanners are also in an interesting position as they don’t always know the quality of the hides until they remove the hair or wool.

The hide quality can be influenced by the animals’ lifestyle, including health, climate, how they were cared for, how they were transported, and even how the hide was removed and preserved. There are so many variables that go into producing great leather.


Global Leather Production - Moroccan Tannery

Global Leather Production – Moroccan Tannery


Types of Leather Raw Hides

There are about as many types of leather raw hides as there are animals. Some animals where hides come from include:

  • Alligator
  • Alpaca
  • Antelope
  • Armadillo
  • Bear
  • Buffalo
  • Caiman
  • Camel
  • Cow (about 65% of all leather produced)
  • Deer
  • Dog
  • Elk
  • Frog
  • Giraffe
  • Goat (about 11% of all leather produced)
  • Hippo
  • Horse
  • Kangaroo
  • Moose
  • Mules
  • Ostrich
  • Pig (about 10% of all leather produced)
  • Rabbit
  • Seal
  • Shark
  • Sheep (about 13% of all leather produced)
  • Snake
  • Wallaby
  • Walrus
  • Yak
  • Zebra

There are many other exotic types., it would be interesting to see/feel the different types of leathers. So, there we have a little bit of insight to global leather production, and my curiosity satiated about where some of the great leather comes from.


If you’re interested in more details about the leather industry, click here to view an overview article I wrote.