A lot of people only distinguish leather as real or fake. When you really start getting an interest in leather items, you will come to learn that there is so much more to it.
The manufacturing process can change the quality of the leather, and even the tanning process can affect it. In this guide, we will cover all the different types of leather used in wallets with reference to the type of animal which the hide comes from.
Types Of Animal Leather Used For Wallets
The leather type largely depends on the type of animal that is used to make it. With this in mind, the type of animals used to make leather for wallets are cows, sheep, goats, buffalo, pigs, deer, eel, snakes, kangaroos, ostrich, stingrays, and crocodiles.
Before getting into the types of leather which are used to make wallets, let’s go over some basics about leather.
Where is leather obtained?
Leather can be obtained from the hides of different animals. Some examples of such animals are cows, goats, sheep, snakes, and pigs. The word hide usually refers to the skin of larger animals, for instance, cowhide, while for smaller animals, the word used to refer to them is skin, like calfskin.
Are there different types of leather?
The short answer to this question is yes, there are different types of leather. The differences in leather come from a couple of things.
For one, there are a couple of different animals whose skin is used for the purpose of making leather. This means that the final outcome will be different, depending on the type of animal which the skin comes from. Animals that are usually used for this purpose are:
Another thing that differentiates one leather from another is the leather grain. Depending on which layer is used to make the product after the splitting process, the types of leather are divided into the full grain, top grain, and genuine leather.
Even the tanning process, which is based on different types of chemicals, can make a difference in the leather. Derived from this, there are two types of leather, one is chrome-tanned and the other is vegetable-tanned leather.
Is there a difference between hide and leather?
A lot of people use these two words as synonyms, even though they have different meanings. The animal hide is basically unprocessed raw skin from animals which is afterward sent to undergo a tanning process. Leather is the material that comes after this process is done.
What are some of the properties that leather has?
It’s no surprise that leather is one of the main materials used worldwide for the creation of durable accessories, clothes, furniture, and other similar products. Some of the main properties which it offers are:
- resistance to stretching
- resistance to tearing
- resistance to fire
- puncture proof
- resistant to chemical exposure
- insulation to heat
- good flexibility
- soft to the touch
- develops a beautiful patina over time
What is the difference between natural leather and artificial leather?
Faux leather or otherwise known as artificial leather is made from a plastic base that goes through dyeing processes and wax treatments so that the final product has a color and texture similar to leather.
Different types of animal leather
As I mentioned above, leather can come from many different animals, all of which have unique characteristics.
Buffalo leather is a tanned hide that comes from 74 species of domesticated buffalos. The leather has a unique look and comes in many different colors and finishes.
The fastest way to create this leather is by using a method called chrome tanning, but this method is very harmful to the environment because of the toxic chemicals which are used in the process. Luckily there is a chrome-free method that is a bit more lengthy, but not as harmful.
If you take the necessary steps to care well for your buffalo leather, it will develop a rich and beautiful patina which is characteristic of this type of material.
The most amazing thing about this leather is how strong and durable it actually is. Its epidermal layer is as much as three times thicker than cowhide. Due to this, it isn’t stretchy so it doesn’t get damaged easily.
Buffalo leather characteristics
Some of the main characteristics that buffalo leather possesses are:
- develops a beautiful patina over time
- it has a very thick hide which makes it a strong leather material
- comfortable and soft
- has a natural and authentic look
- it’s environmentally friendly
For the purpose of making pig leather, manufacturers use domestic pigs. One interesting characteristic that this type of leather has is grouped holes in the hair pores.
In quality and appearance, pig leather is similar to goat leather, but compared to it, it’s more affordable.
An interesting fact that you should know about pigskin leather is that it is artificially grained. This means that the grain pattern is imprinted into the fabric so that it gives the surface a more pleasant look.
Pig leather characteristics
Much like other leathers, this one also has unique characteristics which set it apart from others, and those are:
- it’s softer than most leathers
- it can withstand moisture without getting stiff
- repellent to stain, oil, and water
- it has great abrasion resistance
- easy to maintain
Sheep leather has a soft touch to it and it is probably the lightest out of all the available commercial leathers.
While in the process of tanning, the wool is still intact and stays on the lambskin. The skin of sheep has fleece on one side and leather on the other. The side which is wool-lined is the one that usually goes on the inside of clothes because it offers warmth, insulation, and softness.
The best quality sheepskin is one in which the pelt (the back of the hide) is visible and there is no seed contamination. Seed contamination happens when seeds from briars and other plants get stuck in the skin itself, which damages and scars it.
The coolest thing about this leather is the breathable properties of sheepskin fibers. What this means is that the leather will be adaptable to the temperature, so it will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
One thing I don’t quite like about this leather is that it isn’t that resistant to tearing and staining, so you will need to take extra care of anything made from it.
Sheep leather characteristics
The characteristics of leather made out of sheep are:
- soft to the touch
- has good insulation
- requires high-maintenance
- best for apparel
Cow leather is the most frequently used leather for manufacturing purposes and consists of about 70% of worldwide production. The hide which comes from it is big enough to be used in many different areas, which is why a lot of furniture is made from this leather. The cowhide which is used to make the leather is the natural unbleached skin and hair of the cow.
This type of leather is commonly used because its production is cheap and simple. This doesn’t mean that cow leather is of low quality – on the contrary, it’s durable and long-lasting.
Cow leather characteristics
Cowhide leather is known for the following characteristics:
- size ranging from 40-60 square feet.
- it can undergo superficial finishing
- doesn’t tear easily
- resistant to heat
Deerskin leather is known for its pliability and softness. The natural habitats of deer have a thorny nature, so the skin itself is tough and strong because of this.
This is one of the rare leathers that can get wet multiple times and still contains its natural form afterward. Being this resistant to water gives deer leather a good advantage over the other leathers.
Deer leather characteristics
These are the characteristics of deer leather you should know about:
- spongy feel
- resistant to water
Goat leather is made from the hide which comes from domestic goats. This type of leather will last you a long time if you properly take care of it and maintain it.
Leather made from this animal is greatly appreciated because of its texture and flexibility. It’s also very soft due to the lanolin that’s produced by the skin.
On top of being soft, it also offers great strength, which makes it the perfect material to be used in making leather goods.
There are a couple of steps in making this leather. First, the rawhide is cleaned from excess flesh and hair. The next step is washing out the fat, tissue, and oil before sending the hide to get tanned. After the tanning is done, the leather material is ready to be used.
Goat leather characteristics
Some of the characteristics of goat leather are:
- gets better with age
- has a nice feel to it
Kangaroo leather is one of the strongest leather types currently available o the market. When the leather from a kangaroo is split into thinner substances, it maintains a lot of its original strength and thickness. Its strength mainly comes from the unique structure of collagen fibers in Kangaroo skin.
Products made from this leather perform well in the long run because the leather is resistant to abrasion and scuffs.
Good protection from water is something that kangaroo leather cannot offer you on its own. It will need an extra layer of water-repellant leather conditioner in order to do this job.
You can always use a good cleaner and conditioner to maintain this type of leather, which will be very beneficial to it and will ensure that it lasts a long time.
Kangaroo leather characteristics
The characteristics of kangaroo leather are:
- fine grain
When you see ostrich leather you won’t be able to miss it due to its unique look. Its appearance has raised points that are mainly positioned in the center of the hide. They basically look like little bumps which are formed in the laces where a feather used to grow.
Compared to other hides, this one is a small area and it’s rarely used for making bigger leather items. Most commonly, it is used to make luxurious leather accessories such as bags and wallets.
Ostrich leather is also referred to as one of the highest-quality leathers in the world. It also sells at a very high price because it undergoes an expensive and specialized production process.
Ostrich leather characteristics
This exotic leather has the following characteristics:
- has characteristic bumps that no other leather has
- rich in natural oils
Another name for stingray skin is shagreen, which is the upper part of some sharks and rays.
The only similarity between regular leather and this one is that the flesh side is made out of collagen fibers. What’s unique about it is that the surface has small spheres, also known as pearls, that are bigger at the center and smaller at the edges of the skin. The spheres have a very hard substance that the stingray usually uses to defend itself.
Due to its strong skin, it is very hard to manufacture and make it as you please. This is why it’s better to design products that complement this skin’s properties, rather than trying to tame it and make a design against its strengths.
Stingray leather characteristics
Stingray leather has some great properties:
- high durability
- widely available
- can be bumpy or flat
- not very flexible
- hard to damage
In the world, there are 23 species of crocodile from which the hide for crocodile leather is made from. There aren’t that many leather items made from this material since it falls within the exotic leather group.
Crocodile skin is so expensive because it takes a longer period of time for the crocodile to grow and the cost of keeping an adult crocodile is also high.
The most distinguishing feature of this leather is the umbilical scar. This scar has a shape like a star and a webbing pattern.
Crocodile leather characteristics
The main characteristics of this leather type are:
- luxurious look
- distinguishing scales and patterns
Another exotic leather that is used for making wallets is eel leather. What’s great about it is that it comes in matte and glossy finishes and can be made in different colors.
The feel of this skin is very natural and luxurious, so the leather is also quite expensive. Another thing about this leather is that it is 150 times stronger than cowhide which has the same thickness.
Eel leather characteristics
Some things that are specific about this leather are:
One of the main reasons why snakeskin is used to produce leather is because it comes in a variety of patterns and colors naturally. This makes leather items made from snakeskin a unique and one-of-a-kind product.
Similarly to crocodile skin, snakeskin is considered an exotic leather that undergoes a complicated manufacturing process. Species that are most popular for leather extractions are Cobras, Ayers, and Pythons, because of the beautiful morphs and well-structured grains they offer.
Another thing about these leather items made from snakeskin is that they are much more shortlived than other leather accessories.
Snake leather characteristics
Characteristics of snake leather are:
- has unique patterns and colors
Leather grades indicate the quality of the leather, as well as specific practices used in the manufacturing process.
There are five main leather grades:
- full grain leather
- top grain leather
- split grain leather
- genuine leather
- bonded leather
See my guide on leather grades to find out more.
Best leather wallets
These are some of the best leather wallets currently available:
- Hammer Anvil
- Travando Trifold
- Crazy Horse Card Holder
- Bellroy Zip
- Coach Zip Card Case
- Bellroy The Low
- Airo Collective Stealth Carbon
- Airo Collective Stealth Leather
- Bellroy Travel