The Galloway Hide

The Galloway hide makes ideal leather and is a valuable by-product for the Galloway cattle producer.


Background 

The leather industry is one the oldest industries; and as beef producers we sometimes forget about such value-added industries that sit alongside agriculture. Leather production today is substantially different; it is scientifically based with continual process improvement to ensure consumer demands are met.

Because of its durability and comfort, leather is widely used for footwear; and, of course, has been used for seating purposes throughout the history of transportation and furniture.Estimated use of leather

The early leathers were made from cowhide, calfskin, pigskin, deerskin and goatskin. Today, most upholstery (corporate, domestic, automotive, aviation and marine) is made from cattle hides as it is readily available and best lends itself to the modern demands of designer, producer and consumer.

Why is leather popular? 

The physical properties which make leather a unique and valuable material for upholstery purposes are:

High tensile strength

Thermostatic properties

Resistance to tear

Mouldability

High resistance to flexing

Resistance to wet and dry abrasion

High resistance to puncture

Resistance to fire

Good heat insulation

Resistance to fungi

Permeability to water vapour

Resistance to chemical attack

 What make a good hide? 

Leather is a natural product; it will carry the marks of its natural origin such as healed scars, growth marks, areas of differing fibre density and hair pore structure.

For the tanner, the raw hides represent 50-60% of the cost of producing a piece of leather. The quality of the hide or skin is, to a large extent, related to the amount of damage to the grain (or "outside") surface. The damage may be due to skin parasites that affect the live animal, related scratch, husbandry practices on the farm or in transport of the live animal (scratches, bruising, or dirt contamination); it may be due to damage during slaughter or removal of the hide; or it may be caused by inappropriate handling or inadequate preservation techniques. Most types of damage can be reduced or avoided altogether by better management of the animal or the hide.

The value of the hide depends on the end use to which the leather goes. This eventually has to be reflected in what the tanner pays for the raw material.

How is leather made from a hide?  

Hides are comprised of three layers: a hairy outer layer, a thick central layer and fatty inner layer. The process of making leather, called tanning, involves removing the fat, the hair and working a change on the thick middle layer to preserve and strengthen it while giving it flexibility.

A hide removed from a slaughtered animal begins to decompose within just a few hours. So, the first step in tanning is to preserve the hide. This is usually done by salting. The hides are simply laid down, thoroughly covered with salt on both sides and the next hide stacked on top.

Then, the preserved hide is treated in any of a number of ways to remove the hair and dissolve the fat. It is then treated with agents that work on the collagen, a fibrous protein making up most of the middle layer of the skin. The word tanning derives from tannin. Tannin is found in many plants, and it reacts with collagens to strengthen its molecular bonds. When tanned, the original hide becomes strong, elastic, and durable.

The basic technique of tanning leather dates back to prehistoric times, when primitive peoples apparently tanned hides with plant matter. Today, many hides are still tanned ‘naturally’; however, it is more common for hides to be ‘chemically’ tanned.

The Galloway Hide  Splitting Hide

The Galloway hide from a mature animal is very thick when compared to other cattle breeds; some 5+mm. It is therefore ideal for making sturdy boots, belting leather, harness leather, saddle leather, straps and is commonly split for suede and other uses. The middle split can be separated into multiple layers until the thickness prevents further splitting.

A common use for Galloway hides is floors rugs. There is a simple reason for this: a Galloway hide will not tear as easily as a thin-hide mainstream cattle breed. They will outlast the hides of other cattle breeds; putting up with far more punishment.

 

We can help you source Galloway leather (and finished products such as Galloway and Belted Galloway floor rugs) from our members.

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