How Are Cowhides Made?
We all know what cowhides are and what they are made of. Most of us have seen them and experienced their soft feel under the feet. We also know how a good cowhide rug can make even the most ordinary and the bleakest of rooms look beautiful and trendy. Using them, we can add an element of quality to the floor they are laid on, augmenting the overall decor and ambiance.
Cowhides, or more generally animal hides, and they have been used by man for a long time. In fact, ancient tribes like the Zulu from Southern Africa still continue to use various animal skins in their traditional as well as daily modern clothing. They haven’t lost their utility or their grace. As an indication of this, they continue to be featured in countless home decor style guides.
Now that we’ve enumerated their praise, here are the steps involved in the making of cowhide rugs.
Obtaining the skin
The skins come obviously from dead cows. But the important point to note is that the cows are not slaughtered specifically for obtaining the skin. The skins, from which the rugs are ultimately made, are a coproduct of the meatpacking industry. If anything, making rugs from this source saves the utile skin from being garbage.
Since Brazil is the biggest exporter of cow meat, it is also where the skins for the rugs come from. In fact, the finest quality cowhides are sourced from the South American nation.
After the skin is received at the leather processing plant, also called the tannery, it is cleaned by washing. All pollutants in the hair side are removed and the other side is scraped to ensure that the skin is free from fats and any leftover meat.
Depending on the manufacturer and the process, the skin, only the leather part, may be cured with salt for two to three days. To remove the salt that may have been absorbed during the cure, the skin goes through a few cycles of soaking in plain water.
In a natural setting, if an animal skin is left on its own, it starts decaying as the bacteria starts decomposing it. When preserving the skin for long utility, it is treated with a solution that renders the dead cells immune to decay. This process is called tanning. Again, depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the final product, a natural method, like vegetable tanning or brain tanning, or an artificial mixture of chemicals, like trivalent chromium, might be used.
After the hides are tanned and trimmed, they are subjected to processes like deodorizing, conditioning, and printing. Sometimes, the hair is also bleached in the process and different animal prints are artificially offset to the plain hide. This is why we see hides with zebra and even leopard prints. The hair may also be treated with an anti-stick conditioner for the soft feel and prolonged utility.
Now you know how the beautiful cowhides are obtained, treated, and made into rugs that are ready for decorating the floors of your living room or drawing room.