Leather Guide: Learn About Raw Cowhide

Cowhide is a common raw material for leather products. It is tight, with a clear grain and fine pores, has good breathability, folding resistance and wear resistance, and is widely used in the production of clothes, shoes and bags. What is raw cowhide? What are the types of it? What are the main origins? Learn with Bessteven!

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What is raw leather

A leather that has been removed from the body of an animal after slaughter and has not been tanned to make leather. Raw hides for tanning and fur, often also known as raw hides. Most of the raw hides of use are mammalian skins.

The classifications of raw cowhide

1. According to the types of the raw cowhide, it can be divided into:
salt wet Raw cowhide,
air-dried Raw cowhide,
salt-dried raw cowhide,
brine impregnated raw cowhide (such as Australia, New Zealand and some parts of the United States Raw cowhide).

2. According to the condition of the leather surface, it can be divided into:
(1) with or without marks.
(2) Puncture wounds, open or healed.
(3) Lice bites.
(4) Gadfly eyes.
(5) Knife wounds and holes.
(6) With or without hair loss.
(7) Quality of curing salt.
(8) The integrity of the skin shape.

3. According to the way of skinning, it can be divided into: hand skinning, machine skinning and semi-machine skinning.

4. From the cattle breed, can also be divided into: unbred cowhide, cowhide, bull hide, cowhide, calf hide, buffalo hide and bison hide. Different cattle breeds of cowhide, its flexibility, integrity, processing difficulties and so on different, leather value are not the same. Such as the same kind of place 1 kg of calfskin and 1 kg of buffalo skin, the price can be 5, 6 times different.

The division of raw cowhide parts

The International Leather Industry published the Standard Cowhide Body Part Chart (see below for details) as follows.

Head: A
Neck and shoulder: B + C (neck and shoulder B + C is the second highest quality part of the whole sheet)
Half back: D or E
Abdomen: F or G
Half skin: A+B+D+F or A+C+E+G
Half front shoulder-back skin: A+B+D or A+C+E
Half back shoulder skin: B+D or C+E
Full back skin (leather core): D+E
Full back shoulder skin: B+C+D+E or A+B+C+D+E
(Full back hide D+E or full shoulder back hide B+C+D+E is the best quality part of the full hide)
Standard whole cowhide: A+B+C+D+E+F+G

row cowhide

The approximate area (or weight) ratio of each part of the whole cowhide is: according to the total weight or total area of the whole cowhide, the heart part of the cowhide accounts for about 45%-55%; the neck and shoulder (including the head) accounts for about 20%-25%; the abdomen accounts for about 20%-25%.

Grading of raw hides

1. Grading standards for raw cowhide slaughterhouses in the United States
(1) First class hide
The skin is intact, well cured, without holes, without holes cut by the skinning knife, without knife wounds or wounds caused by machinery to a depth of more than half the thickness of the skin, and without visually visible grain wounds or broken surfaces of more than 1 inch.
(2) Secondary hide
The original skin may be incomplete or may have holes within the main part of the skin, holes cut by the skinning knife, or wounds of more than half the depth caused by machinery or the skinning knife, provided they do not exceed 6 inches in length, and there may be visually visible granulation wounds or lumps concentrated in one place, provided they occupy less than 1 square foot.
(3) Grade III hide
The original skin is dehisced, has five or more holes, or has been cut by machinery or a skinning knife to a depth of more than half, or has been cut through with any one of the holes exceeding six inches in length. Poorly cured. Concentrated gadflies, lumps or other injuries exceeding 1 square foot in area.

Quality control standards

For such special products as Raw cowhide, in addition to the grading standards of the United States leather is more standardized, other origins of raw cowhide actually do not have a very standardized grading standards, generally take T/R grade (i.e. uniform grade), etc. outside the way to grade, some large suppliers also take spontaneous grading to grade. In addition, in terms of variety, high-grade leather will be divided into cowhide, cowhide, bull hide and other varieties are quoted separately, but the low-grade leather in addition to the quotation shows that the uniform grade, except for the external products, the varieties will not be distinguished, because most of the low-grade leather procurement and sources are mixed, such as bulls, cows, cows from the general category of cattle breeds, the supplier as long as the yellow cowhide and buffalo hide can be separated. As for outcrossings, they are usually specified in the offer. The following grading is for reference only.
(1) Class A hides
The skin type is complete, no more than 3 knife holes, no rotten hair loss, no obvious gadfly bottom gadfly eyes, allowed with lice bites, open thorn scratches, can be regarded as Class A hides accordingly.
(2) Class B skin
The skin type is basically intact, with 3-6 holes, slight hair loss, slight gadfly eyes, lice bites and open sting scratches are allowed, and can be regarded as Class B skin accordingly.
(3) Category C skins
The skin type is incomplete, with more than 6 holes, with decay and hair loss, but not the whole skin is decayed, with a large area of gadfly bottom and gadfly eyes, with lice stings and open sting scratches, can be regarded as Class C skin accordingly.
(4) Out of standards
The skin is very incomplete or badly decayed (at least more than 60%), with a large area of gadfly base and gadfly eyes, or with serious lice bites and open sting scratches.

The price unit and weight of raw cowhide

In international trade, such as the sale of raw cowhide in North America, commonly used to “U.S. dollars / piece” as a trade unit of value. By dividing the total weight of imported hides by the average weight of each piece, the approximate number of imported pieces and the average price level can be calculated, so as to determine whether the declared price is reasonable and whether there is an under-reporting of quantity.

Ultra-lightweight castrated hides 14-21KG
Light weight castrated hides 21-26KG
Weight castrated hides 26KG or more
Hip branded cowhide 26KG or more
Lightweight unbranded cowhide 14?-24KG
Weight unbranded cowhide 24 KG and up
Branded cowhide 14 KG and up

Major defects in raw hides

1. Disability defects during the growth of the animal
(1) Scalding marks (branding): the letters, symbols and other marks branded with a branding iron on the tail (rump) of the animal. Multiple scald marks are often found on American skins, and those left on the grain surface can still be seen after the leather has been formed, some even through the entire dermis. As most of the branding is done on the rump of the animal, it greatly affects the utilisation of the finished leather. (2) Fat wrinkles: neck, armpits, limbs, etc. (3) Gadfly eyes: During the feeding period, the gadfly larvae burrow into the skin and eat the leather, forming small cavities or unhealed gadfly holes called gadfly eyes; when the gadfly eyes heal, they form scars called gadfly bases. The gadfly eyes are mostly concentrated on the back of the buttocks. (4) Scars: Scars are formed by scrapes from stalks, whips and sticks. (5) Pigmentation. (6) Ringworm and mange: skin diseases and eczema. Caused by parasitic scabies protozoa (mites), the affected area is rough, shiny and dull, or even lacking in surface. (7) Lice bites. (8) Lying fence injury: defects caused by faeces and urine.

2. Disabling defects caused when the skin is opened and peeled
(1) Blood spots. (2) Stroke wounds (stripping wounds). (3) Residual blood stains in the hide (blood bands).

3. Defects in the preservation of raw hides
(1) Salt hides: iron spots, copper spots, naphthalene spots; decay; contamination of the flesh surface with coloured substances produced by bacteria; salt cells; mould spots. (2) Lightly dried hides: heat injury and natural layering phenomena; sun-dried hides; crustacean or insect injuries; creases (fractures); defects that tend to occur in freeze-drying. (3) Acid-impregnated naked skins: creasing; mould spots; reduced tear strength.

The main source of raw cowhide

United States
The United States is the world’s largest exporter of cattle hides. The export of this country is mainly monopolised by several large companies such as IBP, NBP, EXCEL, OUTH WEST, etc. Because most of the American cattle are centralised captive breeding, commercial breeding, suitable environment and advanced slaughtering methods (mostly machine skinning), the supply of American raw cowhide is stable, high priced and high quality, and is the favoured raw material of powerful tanneries around the world. American hides have a relatively complete grading standard and trade specifications.

Central and South America

Within this region, Brazil is the second largest producer of hides in the world. In addition, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and Mexico are also important producers of low to medium grade hides. Due to the hot and humid climate of the region and the tropical jungle environment in which they are kept, the raw hides produced in this region have visible thorn scratches on the surface (mainly caused by cattle normally being scratched by thorny plants and trees) and have lice bites and gadfly eyes (mainly caused by cattle being bitten by gadflies and lice), and the cattle are mostly humped. These defects will have a significant detrimental effect on the integrity, surface utilisation and use of the Raw cowhide, directly affecting the commercial value of the hide. Therefore, in addition to the southern Argentina Pampas grassland climate is suitable, cowhide quality is better, the other countries in the region raw cowhide quality is medium to low grade.


Europe is the world’s most important raw cowhide exporting country, the main exporting countries are Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Russia, France, Germany, Portugal and so on. Europe in general, the climate is suitable for grazing, advanced breeding methods, so the region’s German Raw cowhide, British Raw cowhide, French raw cowhide is a better raw material for leather production. In contrast, Belgium, Portugal and Ireland are much inferior. Russia and Eastern Europe, because of the difference in breeding methods and geographical climate, the price is low and the quality is poor, but the production is larger. Europe has a traditional leather trading history, Italy, Britain and Russia have many raw cowhide traders who have been buying raw cowhide for years and years, and concentrated in Italy or Russia curing, grading and then sold to the world.

Australia and New Zealand

This region is an important producer of hides and skins in the southern hemisphere. Australia has a large export volume of hides and skins, and has an important share in the world hides trade. Australia is a vast and sparsely populated country with different natural environments, and prices vary greatly from place to place. For example, the price difference between raw hides from Queensland and Victoria is 0.50-0.70USD/KG.


This region is the world’s most important source of low-grade hides. Due to natural grazing, tropical jungle, hot climate, artificial skinning and other factors, the hides here generally have knife wounds, stab wounds, gadfly eyes and lice bites, most of the cattle with hump, and due to the residual influence of the colonies, African raw cowhide trading and import and export so far by some European traders control, trading chaos.

The above five regions are the world’s main raw cowhide production and export areas, is also the main source of China’s raw cowhide import.

The types of sourcing organization of raw hides

  1. Self-produced and self-sold by meat factories

In the United States, Europe and Australia and other developed countries, raw hides and skins are concentrated in large meat factories, the original leather sales department personnel sell themselves, the sales object is generally some large tanneries. In addition to this, they also have very close business relations with traders of good integrity. Some of the major tanneries are NBP, IBP, Excel in the USA and A.I. Toper in Australia, while others are Mohawk in the USA.

  1. Area-based procurement

Large raw cowhide traders in the USA and some European and Australian countries adopt a zonal sourcing model. They buy most or all of the hides and skins in the region on a year-round contract basis for small and medium-sized meat plants and slaughterhouses, and concentrate them in their designated plants for grading, sorting, trimming and then packing for shipment. For example, in Southwest, USA, it buys almost all the hides and skins from meat plants in the region along the west coast of the USA, from Washington State in the north to southern California. In addition, they organise loose alliances with United Hides and Skins to distribute a small percentage of hides and skins to United Hides and Skins. ANAMAX, on the other hand, buys in the north-eastern part of the USA, in the Great Lakes region, where the dairy hides produced in the Great Lakes are the main product of ANAMAX. In addition, some small and medium-sized raw cowhide dealers take the way of contracting some smaller-scale meat plants and slaughterhouses, and some even smaller raw cowhide dealers buy hides from meat plants in the way of selling to production.

  1. Compulsory monopoly to organise the supply

In Central and South America, Africa, parts of Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, many large hides and skins dealers have a government background and use special methods to control and organise their supply. For example, in Central America, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and several other countries, the source of hides and skins is controlled by one or two major families.

  1. Pyramidal acquisition

It is mainly concentrated in some underdeveloped areas and in the countryside. Many poor areas and the vast majority of rural areas, is based on natural grazing or small-scale farming, which makes in the acquisition and concentration of raw hides and skins this by-product, can only take the pyramid type of organization acquisition. Namely.

Small slaughterhouses → small hides buying points → regional hides traders → international hides traders

Finally only a certain amount of cowhide supply is concentrated and offered to the corresponding buyers. In most rural areas of China, raw hides are bought in the same way.

The marketing model of raw cowhide

In the eyes of farmers raw hides are just a by-product of the slaughtering process of cattle, the economic value is not comparable to that of beef. However, through the process of slaughterhouse (butcher) → buyer → raw cowhide dealer → tannery, hides become an indispensable raw material for tanneries. As cowhide is an animal product, relatively speaking, the quality is unstable due to the influence of factors such as the climate of the area where the cattle live, the breeding environment, the slaughtering technology and the breed of cattle. Therefore, the sale of raw cowhide is very dependent on intermediaries and agents.

In general, large raw cowhide buyers in the USA, UK, Brazil, Australia and other European countries have established and developed their own sales points or agents around the world. These salesmen or agents frequently visit each other, communicate, trade and complete general claims with the tanneries in their area and provide after-sales service.

In addition, some small and medium-sized hides and skins buyers form alliances or loose groups with each other, take friend introduction, customer exchange, participate in Bologna Leather Fair, Hong Kong Leather Fair, Shanghai Leather Fair and other world-wide various leather trade fairs, or through the network to promote their own hides and skins products.

Payment methods for raw cowhide transactions

1.Like other international trade, letter of credit is the basic common payment method.
2.Because of the existence of agency system, agents and foreign buyers have a high degree of trust, in order to reduce bank costs, in many operations, wire transfer (T/T) is often used.
3. Delivery of Payment (D/P) and Delivery of Acceptance (D/A) are used to a small extent.

Main factors affecting the price of raw cowhide

1. Slaughter volume
Slaughter volume is the main indicator of the price of hides. When the slaughter volume of a regional slaughterhouse increases, stabilises or decreases, it will cause the price of hides in this region to show a decrease, stabilisation or increase.

2. Origin

According to the basic division of origin, the world’s regions of raw cowhide prices are generally compared between the same breed of cattle: the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, etc. for the first class; Argentina, Britain, France, New Zealand for the second class; Brazil, Ireland, Belgium, Chile for the third class; Uruguay, Venezuela, South Africa, Portugal, Russia for the fourth class; Africa around the fifth class (only a simple reference basis ).

3. Supply and demand

If and leather processing related to the production of shoes, clothing, bags and other industries, then the leather processing industry will increase the purchase volume, raw cowhide prices rise accordingly; sometimes, a specific finished product varieties market reflects well, then this finished product corresponding to the price of raw cowhide will also rise.

4. raw cowhide quality

raw cowhide hide surface is good or bad is to judge the main standard of raw cowhide commercial use. In general, the skin surface is intact, no branding, gadfly eyes, lice bites, stab wounds, knife wounds, machine skinning, has been removed from the flesh trimmed raw cowhide prices will be higher. In addition, the condition of the cattle when they are slaughtered is also an important reference basis, such as whether they are old or pregnant cows, whether they are hauled off after slaughter, whether they are sick or otherwise unnaturally dead, etc. These will all affect the quality of the raw hides and thus the price.

5. Human factors

As an important raw material material, there is a huge group of raw cowhide traders around the world. Due to the raw cowhide in the slaughter → curing → export → to the shore, the process time is long, in addition, because the raw cowhide trade in the purchase of relative to other commodity trade is more primitive (such as some areas in Africa, or rely on from the village to buy one by one, while Asia and Europe exist to control the purchase of the phenomenon), raw cowhide prices are often artificially high and low.

6. Exchange rate

Because the vast majority of the raw cowhide trade is in US dollars as the currency unit, so the trend of the US dollar has a certain influence on the price of Raw cowhide.

7. The processing cost of raw hides for export

The level of labour and processing costs differ between different origins, which also affects the price of Raw cowhide. For example, curing a raw cowhide in Europe takes about 8 euros, in South America it takes 2-3 dollars. In some parts of Asia or Africa, the labour costs for curing are even negligible.

Pricing methods for raw cowhide hides

1. Verbal pricing
If the buyer and seller are regular customers, there are cases of verbal pricing for raw cowhide transactions. Traders recommend our products, available quantities, prices, shipping dates and payment methods to buyers by sending quotations or verbal presentations on a regular basis. Buyers generally counter-offer to the seller according to their own needs and market conditions, and after several rounds of haggling, the deal is finally concluded verbally. The supplier then makes and issues a contract based on the verbally agreed terms and both parties begin to execute the contract.

2. Written quotations

The supplier sells its products to the buyer on a regular or occasional basis in the form of a written offer. In the case of repeat customers, the price is simply negotiated over the telephone. This is because the buyer already knows or has used the seller’s products. In the case of a new customer, the seller will quote a written price and then sell to the buyer at a later date.

Issues that you may should beware of when trading raw cowhide

1. Adulteration of hides and skins
Beware of dishonest merchants adulterating poor quality raw cowhide or raw cowhide of questionable quality.
2. Loss of weight in hides and skins
In the raw cowhide trade, long distance transport often results in weight loss. The International No. 6 contract states that the normal range should not exceed 5%. However, only some reputable suppliers supply goods and some large buyers receive goods that fall within this range. More often than not, the weight loss of the buyer’s goods is between 8-10%, especially for some low and medium grade skins and some skins of unregulated origin.
3. Mixed breeds, multiple grades or uniform grades offered and sold
As meat plants slaughter animals according to the demand for meat, the original skin merchant is not selective when buying from the slaughterhouse beforehand, i.e. he cannot ask the meat plant to slaughter animals under an order without meat because he has received an order for bull skins. Also, as the seasons change and some festivals come around, the number and variety of hides slaughtered will change accordingly.
Usually the original hides dealers only sort some of the high grade hides, such as castrated bulls, unbred females (these two breeds are also often sold together), females and cows. Mid-grade hides are often mixed, such as cow hides, of which there are 20% cow hides, or bull hides, of which 15% are stamped cow hides. Low-grade hides are generally only divided into yellow hides and buffalo hides, and within yellow hides include bull hides, castrated bull hides, cow hides and cow hides, and generally low-grade varieties are also mixed, and only buffalo hides can be divided out. This is not only true in some backward cowhide producing areas, but also even in North America where the operation is standardised. For example, dead hides, machine-wounded hides and No. 3 hides, as long as the quality of the hide is not up to standard, regardless of the breed, then they are classified in these products.

In addition, suppliers do not have a pre-selection of meat plants in terms of grade, so suppliers will select some high grade skins after receiving skins from various origins or meat plants. However, for the middle and low grade skins, they will sell them as a uniform grade after selecting the outliers.

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