Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A History Of Cowhide Rugs

When it comes to home design accessories, few have the kind of history that comes with cowhide rugs. Throughout history, people have taken animal skins and used and manipulated them to serve a variety of purposes – stretching from a design element such as a rug, all the way to creating a saddle for their horse so that they were able to ride more comfortably.

Either way, natural cow hide rugs have quite the history.  Of course - natural hair-on hides come from real animal skins, so after someone killed an animal they would skin the “hide” off of the carcass. It was important to do this quickly before the body heat left the tissue or else the skin would become too tough and rugged to use.

The native Americans had this truly nailed to an art form.  They also used hides very efficiently - using each hide to it's full potential - they would wear hides, use them for protection and shelter, and even document historical events on their hides. (see the "Battle of Little Big Horn" depicted above, left from Encyclopedia Brittanica)

Once a skin was obtained, it was to be taken to a tannery for a process called tanning. Tanning is when the skin would undergo an intense curing process that uses protein substances, salt and a variety of other chemicals to prevent the skin from decomposing and to increase its longevity. In medieval times, tanners were often poor and their tanneries were often foul smelling, making them outcasts in their own community.

However, regardless of their smell, these tanneries paved the way for bags, harnesses, armor for soldiers and footwear that would prove valuable in the years ahead. There’s more to hide than what meets the eye.

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