Goatskin vs. Cow Leather

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For about as long as people have been on the Earth, they have been tanning the hides from hunted animals and livestock to make shoes, clothing, tents and more. Goatskin -- Moroccan leather -- was exported from this North African country in the 16th century to serve as a binding to many of the world’s rare books and bibles.

Goatskin, like cowhide, can be cured, tanned and crafted into a variety of products. Cow leather is more durable overall when compared with goatskin because of its thicker hide, but each have their own uses, advantages and disadvantages, especially when using them in craft projects.

Goatskin Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Costs about 25 percent less than cow leather 
  • Goatskin can be split and shaved
  • Can be softer than leather when finished correctly
  • Offers a more nimble fit
  • Less durable than cow leather

Cowhide Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Softer, smoother grain
  • Thicker hide
  • Stronger leather
  • More abrasion resistant
  • Not as water resistant as goatskin

Craft Leather Comparisons

For the crafts person, goatskin may offer a more workable choice over cow leather. Because goatskin is not as thick as cow's hide, it makes it much easier to sew on a machine. Sewing cow's leather generally requires a heavy-duty machine capable of punching through the thick hide or at least a considerable amount of leather-working tools to handle the stiff hide.

Goatskin Products

After tanning, goatskin or kidskin hides can result in a leather with a pebble-like grain. With its thinner, softer hide, goatskin is very pliable and flexible, making it an excellent choice for hand-crafted book bindings, handbags, garments or gloves. In fact, the U.S. Air Force and Navy prefer goatskin for their leather bomber jackets. Goatskin is also more water resistant than cow leather because of the lanolin inherent in the skin. You'll find it used as drum skins and as a rug-binding material. Many of the leather laces available for use by craftsters come from goatskin.

Cowhide Leather Crafting

Traditional craft uses of cowhide include belts, cowboy hats, wallets, knife sheaths, saddles and upholstered goods. Cowhide offers an advantage to the artist that goatskin doesn't: it's thick enough to allow you to add hand-crafted and tooled designs on its surface, which is why you see it used for belts, boots, saddles and wallets. But tooling leather requires a whole set of tools not required when working with goatskin: awls and hafts, chisels, cutting tools, creasers and folders, punches, hammers and mallets and more. Between the two, leather-crafting projects using cowhide is a more expensive prospect than working with goatskin.

The Leather Choice

In the end, the leather you choose for your craft project depends on the item you plan to make and the thickness needed for it. Leather thickness is measured in weight or ounces. For items that require durability and greater thickness, use cowhide. But if you want to make a pair of soft moccasins for a newborn, or make a soft leather shirt, goatskin offers the better choice.

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