The harvesting of animal skins evolved from 5,000 BC. AD to today | Chroniclers
In the past, animal hides were processed to provide essentials such as shelter, clothing, and footwear. Today, they are often produced as luxury items.
Obviously, the cavemen used animal skins. Paleolithic cave paintings show figures dressed in furs and skins. Excavated tools, some of wood and flint, were apparently used to prepare the skins.
Leather production has evolved. Egyptian artifacts in tombs and wall paintings dating back to 5,000 BC. AD indicate that leather was used for clothing and military equipment. The Romans produced soft leather for gladiator sandals and tough leather for protective armor. Native Americans relied on buffalo hides for tipi coverings and rawhide (leather that is not tanned) for parfleche containers.
In the leather industry, hides refer to larger animals; skins refer to small animals, cowhide and snakeskin. After preparation, tanning takes place to ensure durability and reduce susceptibility to decomposition.
Traditional vegetable tanning, still used by dedicated master tanners, uses tannins from tree bark, which gave tanning its name. Also applied are various agents, such as roots, leaves and smoke. Now, industrial tanneries use chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
Cowhide, one of the heaviest leathers, is common and inexpensive. It is suitable for shoes, jackets, furniture and automotive upholstery. A substantial amount of leather is recycled from the skins of waste animals raised for meat and dairy products. Horseskin is common in jackets and leg warmers for motorcyclists, and it is the source of high-end Cordovan footwear.
The fashion industry promotes leather goods of exotic animals, including alligators, crocodiles, eels, elephants, kangaroos, and sharks. The cowboy boots are splendid in python or rattlesnake skins.
Some of these exotic animals are bred. The furs come from animals such as chinchillas and mink. Unfortunately, they are reared in cages. Another problem is the poaching of wild animals valuable for their furs, such as the snow leopard and the Bengal tiger.
Animal welfare policies vary. Austria occupies a special place in the protection of animals. Animal welfare in the United States is inadequate and lacks accountability and transparency.