Exotic leather

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Exotic leather

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The earth has more than 5,000 species of mammal, about 50 of which provide hides for leather production. Most of the world's processed leather comes from animals that are reared for meat and/or dairy consumption and/or wool. Besides other uses, the hides and/or skin from animals such as cows, zebu, water buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs are used for by-products. This makes up more than 99% of the world production. Leather that comes from other animal species can usually be called exotic leather.


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Cow leather - goats - pigs


animal husbandry in billion percentage global leather production percentage global meat production (weight)
cows/calves/buffalos 2020 1.5 billion (+15.6% compared to 2000) 2017 approx. 69% (2013 approx. 64%) 2020 21.1% (2013 22%)
sheep 2020 1.3 billion (+18.5% compared to 2000) 2017 approx. 13% (2013 approx. 14%) 2020 4.7% (2013 4.5%) sheep + goats
goats 2020 1.1 billion (+48.7% compared to 2000) 2017 approx. 12% (2013 approx. 10%) data in sheep
pigs 1 billion (-6% to 2000) 2017 approx. 7% (2013 approx. 12%) 2020 32.2% (2013 36.5%)
poultry, thereof chickens 33.1 billion (+130% to 2000) very low 2020 38.9% (2013 35%)
exotics - quantities not known < 1% 2020 11% (other animal species)

The global population of livestock can only be estimated and, depending on the source, sometimes deviates by several hundred million animals. Irrespective of this, there has been a widespread increase in animal husbandry, with the exception of pigs. However, since pigskin accounts for only a small amount of leather production, the total number of animals potentially used for leather production has increased from 2000 to 2020. Despite the increase in people who eat vegan or vegetarian food, there is no decrease in animal husbandry.

Exotic leathers are either made from relatively rare animal species or from skin parts of animals that are rarely processed into leather. Some exotic leathers are protected by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora). Crocodile or snake skin leathers are commonly addressed as leather. However, other exotic leathers like fish leather, leather from chicken legs or from cow belly/stomach also exist. Depending on the culture, the definition of exotic leather, can differ.

Is exotic leather better than other standard forms of leather? Some exotic leather surfaces may feel softer, hence making them more appealing, or they might have a very different look. Fur for instance can be particularly soft or have a unique colour. However, demand for leather is generally satisfied by the hides from animals that account for 90% of world meat production. In recent years, there seems to have been a growing trend for artificial man-made leathers, such as vinyl leatherette. None of the exotic leathers offer superior quality, durability, resistance or other practical properties. Mostly, exotic leathers are unique mainly because of their texture, look and colour which makes them more valuable.

Water buffalo leather, buffalo leather, deerskin, beaver fur, reindeer leather or elkskin are not very common, but they are not exotic leather in the strict sense.


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Bison - Water buffalo - Deer


Animal species of exotic leather

The leather of the following species are "exotic leather":


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Horse - Ostrich - Salmon


These leathers are not necessarily exotic leather in other countries and cultures: Kangaroo leather, horse leather or ostrich leather.

From a lot of species, the skin is processed to leather, while the hair is obtained (hides, furs). For example, cow hide, sheepskin, rabbit fur, sealskin or beaver fur.

Video about leather of different animal species

Leather of different animal species - Exotic leather

The cleaning and care of exotic leather

Exotic leather is usually processed for special objects which are treated with care. A careful treatment is the best for the longevity of exotic leather. The cleaning and care of exotic leather not only depends on the type of animal, but in particular on the finish process by the tanner. The tanner can make a variety of different types of leather from one anilmal species. From porous aniline leather to gold leather. Therefore, the correct procedure for cleaning and care can only be determined on an individual basis.

COLOURLOCK is specialized in all matters relating to leather and helps with all questions about the correct cleaning and care of leather. In case of doubt send complete and detailed photos of your leather object to info@colourlock.com. We will have a look at the objects and give you free advice.

Fish leather often requires special solutions for leather cleaning and leather care.

Additional information