Cowhides are one of the oldest interior design items. They are appreciated for their unique patterns and color. Their angular shapes soften a room. Their low profile, approximately 1/8 – 1/4 of an inch, is less of a trip hazard. They can take heavy traffic.
Thinking about buying a cowhide rug? Check out my guide below for tips on what to look for when purchasing a cowhide rug. Need help? Contact me, give me a few details about your project, and I’ll do the shopping for you.
More than Just the Floor
The last time I went to the Dallas home market I saw many different ways to use cowhides. They look great hanging on a wall. Pillows on the sofa. Use them on chairs as an accent with fabric. Small hides were used as table runners.
The quality is based on how the animal was raised, the quality of food it ate, curing and tanning process. Cowhide rugs are a by-product of the dairy and meat industry. A quality cowhide can be scrunched up and when released will spring back without wrinkles. It will smell of fine leather without any chemical smells. The coat should be soft and shiny. Check the leather on the reverse side for clean edges that do not curl.
Curing and Tanning Process
Curing is the first process to insure the hide does not smell or shed. Curing takes approximately two weeks where the hide is salted and washed. There are two types of tanning. Chrome tanning is a quicker method but comes with a bigger environmental impact. Vegetable tanning is a more environmentally friendly process.
This will depend on the size of the animal it came from. Typically, the largest size is XXL which is ~8’ x 7’. The largest cow in the world is a Chianina, it is white, so your largest choices will be white in color.
Cowhide rugs are very durable and will outlast any other rug you have in your home.
Cleaning and Care
Regular vacuuming (without the beater bar) in the direction of hair growth or take outside for a shaking. Cowhide repels stains. They are not meant to be soaked in water. Spills and spots should be cleaned up as soon as possible. Always check in an inconspicuous spot before using any cleaner. Check with the company you purchased from for their expert recommendations. Avoid placing next to a heater or direct sunlight.
Most of the manufacturers that I have dealt with say that the rugs are 100% hypoallergenic. There are no residual chemicals left after the tanning process. They are a natural product and contain no synthetic materials. They are less likely to contain pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals. Cowhides don’t trap dust, pollen and animal dander like a synthetic rug would. Use your own judgement on this. A couple of years ago I entered a large showroom with many vendors of cowhides. By the time I was in the middle of the showroom my nose and eyes were watering. There was a strong smell of moth balls. I started sneezing and decided my body did not like what I was exposing it to and I left. I was better within 15 minutes. I do not have any known allergies. Always listen to what your body is telling you.
Are cowhides cruel?
I found this comment from MAHI Leather. Whether or not animals are treated with cruelty depends on the legislation of individual countries, however, there is nothing inherently cruel about the use of Cowhide which comes from an animal which has been slaughtered for meat production or because its useful life as a dairy producer has reached an end.
Want to dig deeper?
Here is an interesting article from the Los Angeles Times in 2019.
It is estimated that each year 80 billion land animals are slaughtered for food.
One cowhide skin can produce 20 American footballs! Estimates vary, but one cowhide can make quite a few footballs, soccer balls, or basketballs. Footballs used in the NFL are still made of cowhide and are individually handsewn. These come from the Wilson company, who distributes 108 cowhide footballs to each NFL team at the start of every season.
Cowhides are sourced from the meat and dairy industries where the hides would otherwise be discarded. This leather byproduct of cattle farming represents about 5-10% of the cow’s value, while its meat and milk account for the remainder. In the United States, animal welfare laws prevent the slaughter of animals for purposes of making leather.
Cowhide has been a popular material for centuries and has been used to make books, mugs, and even wallpaper.
Meat consumption is increasing. It has been steadily increasing since 1961, and is projected to continue.
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