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January 05, 2023 3 min read

by Monique Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.


The terms leather and pelt are often used interchangeably. Although both come from animals, these are not the same thing. In fact, each of these terms describes a stage of the hide after removal from an animal. So, what’s the difference between leather and pelt? Let’s find out.

What Is Pelt?

Pelt refers to the unprocessed hide or skin of an animal. It hasn’t the fur, hair, or wool removed, though it may have been dried and cured to prepare for tanning.

Where Pelt Comes From

A pelt can come from any animal. The most common are cattle, bison, sheep, goats, and deer. There are also more exotic options, like alligators, pigs, snakes, or fish, though these are hairless and usually referred to as skins.

Pelt Characteristics

Pelts are completely unprocessed, so they still contain the hair, fur, or wool of the animals they are taken from. In this state, they will slowly decompose unless they are processed to prevent deterioration.

Despite the eventual decay of untreated pelts, they are still durable, resisting punctures and tears. They can also be molded, stretched, dyed, and tanned to increase longevity.

Pelt Pros

As mentioned above, pelts are ready to be processed to create the perfect piece. This includes altering the shape and color. During processing, the fur, hair, or wool can be removed or left on for a warmer piece. Even in their unprocessed state, pelts can handle rough use without falling apart.

Pelt Cons

Untreated pelts are the flesh of an animal, so they won’t last very long before they begin to decay. Even if the fats and oils have been removed and the pelt is dried and cured, it’s still susceptible to decomposition until it’s been tanned. Sun and heat can also damage a pelt, so it needs to be stored carefully to remain usable.

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What is Leather?

Leather is what a pelt becomes after tanning, so it’s no longer at risk of decomposition. The hair, fur, or wool has been removed, leaving the supple, treated skin behind. Leather can then be used for various products, such as clothing, furniture, bags, shoes, wallets, and much more.

Where Leather Comes From

Leather is a pelt after the tanning process is complete, so it comes from the same animals. These include cows, bison, sheep, lamb, goat, deer, alligator, kangaroo, ostrich, and snakes.

Leather Characteristics

As the finished product after a pelt is cleaned, dried, cured, and tanned, leather has a unique look that is as beautiful as it is eye-catching. The material is durable and soft, though its texture can vary depending on the animal it comes from. For instance, cow leather is stronger, though rougher, than the suppleness of sheep or lamb leather. Leather can also be dyed in almost any color and may have added features, like pebbling or embossing.

Leather Pros

Leather is one of the most rugged materials around, so it can last for decades if properly cared for. It feels fantastic and has a distinctive scent that no other material can compare with. Leather is also extremely versatile and can be used for almost anything, including clothing, accessories, furniture, and saddles.

Leather Cons

Despite its durability, leather is still prone to damage if mishandled. It needs proper conditioningabout once a month to maintain its moisture levels and strength and prevent cracking and brittleness. Leather can also be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight, heat, or moisture, so it needs proper care and storage for the best-looking piece possible.

Leather and pelt difference

Final Word

Pelts and leather may come from the same place but are not the same material. A pelt is the hide or skin of an animal before tanning, while leather is the finished product. Though they have the same resistance to tears and scratches and can be shaped and dyed as needed, leather won’t decompose the way a pelt will and can last for decades.

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