Bovine Leather: Everything You Should Know

The term “bovine” refers to all members of the Bovinae subfamily including cattle (cows), buffalo, and bison. So when you hear of bovine leather, it comes from any of these animals.

Cow leather – is the most common type of bovine leather, which occupied more than 65% of the US leather market. That is why the common name of bovine leather is cowhide leather. It has been used for centuries in clothing and other goods, including furniture, perfume bottles, bookbinding, and shoes. Cowhide leather can be made into various textures depending on how it is treated before it’s made into a product.

The most popular grade is Top Grain, which has a sanded surface, free from any natural imperfections such as scars and scratches. Bovine leather can also be treated with different dyes or waxes to give it a variety of colors and finishes. While bovine leather can be polished to give it a glossy sheen, its natural texture makes it easy for dirt to get caught in the pores over time.

The main benefit of bovine leather is strength and durability. That is why bovine leather suitable for many uses, including luxury items like handbags and shoes.

Bovine Leather Appearance

Bovine leather is known for its unique texture with a distinct grain pattern. From belts to jackets, this grainy texture adds depth and character to any leather garments they’re used for. But worth to notice that only Top Grain and Full Grain bovine leather have a look that many are familiar with. Other leather types, such as Genuine bovine leather have more smoother texture.

It also comes in a variety of colors: from classic browns and blacks to brighter tones like reds, and even blues and greens. Each color has its own unique character and appearance. Brown is the most popular due to its timelessness and natural look, while brighter colors add a vivid pop to any design. Greys are ideal for creating a modern look that won’t date quickly. Matte finishes offer a more subtle texture than glossy ones. Colors also affect the overall feel of the material. Warm tones like red and yellow give off an inviting comfort. Colder shades such as black or blue lend themselves to sophistication and elegance.

Bovine leather appearance: grainy texture and many colors

Is Bovine Leather Real Leather?

Bovine leather – is indeed real leather (not to be confused with “Genuine leather“) because it is made from animal hides and not from artificial polymers like polyester.

But some people think that only the highest quality grade of leather can be called “real” real leather. If you support this opinion, there is also good news: Full Grain leather also can be made from cowhide. Therefore, bovine leather is totally real leather, no matter how you look at it.

The main difference between cowhide leather and other types of real leather is that bovine leather is the strongest and most durable. It can withstand more wear and tear than other types of leather, making it a good choice for products that need to last a long time.

Bovine Leather vs Genuine Leather

Many people ask, what is better, bovine leather or Genuine leather? The thing is, most people don’t know that Genuine leather is made from bovine leather in most cases.

Bovine leather simply means is made from the hide of cows, bulls, or oxen. And Genuine is one of the leather qualities, like Top Grain or Full Grain. So Genuine bovine leather means that is made from the lowest layer of cowhide and therefore has the lowest quality among other cowhide leather types. So instead, it’s better to compare different Grain type (leather qualities), and not bovine and Genuine leather.

Is Bovine Leather Real Leather

Types of Bovine Leather

Bovine leather comes in different types, each offering unique advantages that make them ideal for specific applications. The most popular are:

  • Full Grain leather has an unprocessed surface that contains all the natural grain and markings that were present on the hide when it was first tanned. This makes it extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear, making it an ideal choice for high-end items such as bags, wallets, or even furniture upholstery. Full Grain also has a beautiful texture that develops a patina over time, adding to its charm and sophistication.
  • Top Grain created by sanding the outer layer of animal hide to remove imperfections. This layer has the tightest fiber structure, making it stronger and more resistant to wear than other lower-grade layers. The hides are then tanned using traditional methods to achieve a high level of softness with a supple texture. This type of leather also has a rich appearance that gives it an elegant look suitable for many applications. Top Grain – is the most common leather type.
  • Suede gained immense popularity due to its soft texture and modern look. This type of leather comes from cowhide that has been buffed down to create a velvety finish on both sides. Suede is extremely versatile and can be used to create shoes, jackets, bags, and other accessories with a fashionable look. Because it’s very delicate in nature, special care must be taken when cleaning or handling suede material to ensure it stays looking new for years to come.
  • Nubuck is made from specially treated cowhide or calfskin, with the hide being buffed to create a soft texture. This unique texture can be created by sanding down the top grain layer and allowing some of the inner fibers to stand up above. The result is a velvety feel that makes nubuck extremely tactile and luxurious when touched. Nubuck is not as luxurious as Suede, but more durable.
  • Veg Tan stands for vegetable tanning and offers a long-lasting result that will age gracefully over time. It involves soaking hides in tannic acid found naturally in plants like mimosa bark or quebracho tree bark, which helps preserve the material while also giving it its desired coloration. The Veg Tan process produces strong yet flexible bovine leather that can then be further treated with oils and waxes if desired.


Bovine leather is often considered to be an eco-friendly product because it is made from natural animal materials that would otherwise go unused. However, how cowhide leather is created can negatively impact both people and the environment. For example, the tanning process used to create leather can release harmful chemicals into the air and water.

Bovine Leather is Soft

In general, it’s difficult to say whether or not bovine leather is an eco-friendly product. It depends on how it’s made and what kind of environmental impact that has. Some people might argue that the ecological effects of tanning are worth the benefits of using cowhide leather. Others might prefer to use a different type of real leather that doesn’t have as much of an impact.

Bovine Leather Uses

Bovine leather is often used in high-quality products like shoes, handbags, wallets, and belts because it’s strong and durable. It can withstand more wear and tear than other types of leather, making it a good choice for products that need to last a long time.

Cowhide rugs are often made from bovine leather. It can withstand more wear and tear than other types of leather, making it a good choice for products that need to last a long time.

How to Care

Bovine leather is easy to care for. It is best to gently clean it with a soft, dry cloth, avoiding excessive moisture. If it does become wet, it’s crucial to blot it with a clean, absorbable cloth and allow it to air dry. Do not expose it to direct heat as it can cause the leather to become brittle or crack. It’s also important to avoid harsh chemicals or solvents that can damage the leather surface. For storage keep it in a cool, dry place to prevent any moisture damage. Over time, your bovine leather item might get scratched or torn, but these issues can be fixed with a bit of leather glue. When using leather glue, ensure the area you are repairing is clean and dry. Apply a small amount of glue, press the torn or scratched parts together, and give it enough time to dry. Regular conditioning is also important to maintain its durability and appearance over time.

Here are some care tips:

  • Clean with a soft, dry cloth.
  • Avoid getting the leather wet. If it does get wet, blot with a clean, absorbent cloth and let air dry.
  • Never use harsh chemicals or solvents.
  • Store in a cool, dry place.


  • Sheepskin leather is made from sheepskins that have been tanned with either vegetable or mineral oil to create soft and supple products. It’s great for handbags because they can be shaped into different styles without being stiff like other types of animal hide.
  • Pig leather is an attractive alternative to bovine leather for those looking for a cheaper option, but almost with the same durability. Pig leather, also called pigskin, is considered the third most widely used animal skin in the world after cow and sheep hide. It has a unique look that is easily recognizable due to its grain pattern with tiny holes distributed all over the surface.
  • Goatskin leather is a thin, lightweight leather that’s perfect for wallets and other small accessories. It’s also water-resistant, making it a good choice for products that might get wet.
  • Deerskin leather is soft and flexible with a natural grain pattern. It’s often used in high-end products like gloves, jackets, and boots.
Bovine Leather Alternatives

Comparison With Synthetic Materials

Bovine leather has a distinct set of properties that distinguishes it from other materials. Compared to synthetic leathers such as PVC or PU, bovine leather is generally more durable, breathable and ages better over time, gaining a patina that many find aesthetically appealing. However, synthetic leathers are typically less expensive and can be a good choice for those looking for a vegan-friendly alternative. In comparison to other natural hides, bovine leather tends to be more robust and has a characteristic grain that sets it apart.


Does bovine leather smell?

New bovine leather products often have a distinct smell that many people find appealing. This smell comes from the tanning and treatment processes that the leather undergoes. Over time, the smell will gradually diminish.

Is bovine leather good?

Yes, bovine leather is a high-quality material that’s strong and durable.

How long does bovine leather last?

With proper care, bovine leather can last for decades. It is known for its high durability and can withstand significant wear and tear. The longevity of bovine leather products also depends on their use and how well they are maintained. Regular cleaning and conditioning can significantly enhance the lifespan of bovine leather goods.

Is bovine leather waterproof?

While bovine leather is somewhat water-resistant, it is not completely waterproof. Overexposure to water can cause damage over time, making it essential to avoid such conditions when possible. However, there are treatments and sprays available that can enhance the water resistance of bovine leather products.

What is Full Grain bovine leather?

Full Grain bovine leather is the highest quality type of cowhide. It’s made from the hide’s top layer, which has all of the natural grain and markings.

How do you clean and maintain bovine leather?

You can clean bovine leather with a soft, dry cloth; avoid getting it wet. If it does get wet, blot with a clean, absorbent cloth and let air dry.

Is bovine leather vegan?

No, bovine leather is not vegan because it’s made from animal hides. However, some types of synthetic leather are vegan-friendly.

Related Video: Leather Grain Comparison – Bovine vs. Deer vs. Bison vs. Shell Cordovan