Buckskin (leather)

A deer skin at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Buckskin is the soft, pliable, porous preserved hide of an animal – usually deertanned in the same way as deerskin clothing worn by Native Americans. Some leather sold as "buckskin" may now be sheepskin tanned with modern chromate tanning chemicals and dyed to resemble real buckskin.

Buckskin is preserved with a dressing of lubricant, physically manipulated to make it soft and pliable, and usually smoked with woodsmoke. Smoking gives buckskin its typical dark honey color, and is highly recommended. Smoking prevents the tanned hide from becoming stiff if it gets wet, and deters insects from eating it as well. Unsmoked buckskin is lighter, even white, in color.

Clothing made of buckskin is referred to as buckskins.

Shirt for Chief's War Dress, 19th century, Sioux, Brooklyn Museum


Media files used on this page

Shirt for Chief's War Dress, 19th century, 50.67.1a.jpg
Author/Creator: Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund, Licence: No restrictions
Sioux (Native American). Shirt for Chief's War Dress, 19th century. Pony beads, porcupine quills, buckskin, maidenhair fern stem, human hair, horsehair, dye, feather, 44 x 68 in. (111.8 x 172.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund, 50.67.1a
Deerskin, Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow - DSC06237.JPG
Author/Creator: Rept0n1x, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
A deer skin on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.
Leather-making is an ancient craft, but it's met up with some state-of-the-art technology. Electron beam radiation, we've found, can replace the salt solutions now used to kill bacterial growth-much to the benefit of the environment. Not only is brine curing corrosive to equipment; it contributes to water pollution. We also found a way to reduce the number of poor-quality hides that make their way into leather processing. Laser light-scattering photometry can be used to evaluate hides according to the orientation of their fibers. High-tech detective work has tracked down a cause of shoemaking woes. One type of leather, which broke under the stress of manufacture, was found to have a genetic defect that's specific to certain Hereford cattle. It was ARS researchers who identified cockle, a seasonal flaw of sheepskin, as the work of a parasitic insect called keds. Once they realized that keds not only lowers the value of the skin but also causes sheep to grow more slowly, sheep farmers began treating their herds to control infestations.