With over 5000 different species of mammals, we gain hides of leather from an approximate 50. Leather, for production and processing, is derived from animals that are reared for meat or dairy consumption.
In addition to being used as hides for leather, derived from cows, water buffalo, goats and pigs are acquired to produce by-products. So what exactly is exotic leather? It is the leather that is acquired from animals, mostly reptiles, that are purely hunted for their skins, to make leather. Unlike cattle that are already slaughtered for food.
Exotic Leather Origins
Hides and skins acquired from animal breeds other than cattle are known as exotic leather sources. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora are responsible for the protection of exotic leather. You may also find leather that is peculiar and unique in nature. In this category, leather derived from chicken legs, cow belly and fish are included.
Is Exotic Leather Better Than Other Types Of Leather?
There is no standard for any leather form. While some leather surfaces tend to be softer and mattifying along with a unique and charming color, others are more rough or slimy. 90% of the meat production is fulfilled with the cattle (goatskin, cowhide, sheepskin, etc) and that is exactly where the need for most of the leather is met. And so, exotic leather is rarely used, adding to its hype and appeal.
In fact, in the last few years, advancements have been made to produce man-made leather from vinyl leatherette. You can’t confirm whether or not exotic leather is superior to regular leather; in terms of durability, resistance, or quality. If exotic leathers are any different, it is because of their color, look and texture that is considered to be highly valuable.
There are some animals that are quite rare in numbers but the hides acquired from these animals are not called exotic leather. These animals include deerskin, water buffalo, beaver fur, reindeer leather or even elfskin.
- Alligator leather
- Alpaca fur
- Antelope leather
- Armadillo leather
- Bird leather
- Caiman leather
- Camel leather
- Carpincho leather
- Cat fur
- Chicken leather
- Crocodile leather
- Dog leather
- Donkey leather
- Elephant leather
- Fish leather
- Toad leather
- Giraffe leather
- Hippo Leather
- Kangaroo leather
- Llama Fur
- Lizard leather
- Ostrich leather
- Pangolin leather
- Peccary leather
- Rumen leather
- Sealskin leather
- Turtle skin
- Walrus leather
- Yak leather
- Zebra hide
Types of Exotic Leather
There are several types of exotic leather that you can find in the world. Some of the best exotic leather are mentioned below along with their properties and details.
American Alligator Leather
Alligator leather comes with a scaly texture and surface and it’s hide is stronger than cowhide but same in terms of durability. The leather extracted from an alligator belly is gorgeous looking with a lot of flexibility. To extract the softest hides, the gullet of the alligator is deemed best. The alligator leather comes in numerous finishes and colors. Usually, alligator leather is used in producing wallets.
Elephant leather is considered to be illegal by some; it’s not entirely true and for now, the leather is completely legal. No wonder elephant hide has so many eyes as it is considered one of the toughest and most supple to crack. The texture of elephant leather is slightly dense and bumpy. You might even find wrinkles on it. As for the color, it is available in earthy tones and molten black.
Hippo leather is one of the softest hides you will find. It has a subtle, peach-like texture and that is probably because of the time it spends in water. The leather acquired from hippo is water proof and easily repels water like cowhide. You can find hippo leather in brown and jet black. The price of this leather is more on the costly side.
The texture of ostrich leather is unique. The famous quill bumps of the leather are properly spaced out and spread all across the material. You will especially like the feel of the hide on your hands. Ostrich leather is available in pure white, blue, tan, brown and black. The leather extracted from the knees of an ostrich is actually one of the best. In fact, it is often compared to dinosaur leather because of the quality and strength. This section however also comes with a lizard-like scaling pattern.
Two types of python leather are available that are extracted from snakes. One is known as reticulated python and the other is called Karung snake. Both hides have a scaling pattern and come with a slick touch. Depending on where you extract it from, the visibility of the leather will be seen.
For example, the one extracted from the belly or back has a diamond-like pattern. They are also darker. You will find them in white or coffee colored hides. Karung hides are two toned and come with fine scales. In comparison, Karung is more flexible and has a beige color.
The tanning procedure removes the block prints on the skin of the giraffe. They are durable and dense in terms of appearance. Giraffe leather is available in tan and grey shades and used in classy and elegant products.
Stingray leather looks like glass beads. It’s material and texture is similar to fingernails; translucent. The hide is dyed in many shades and tones. You can use it for brighter products because of the texture. Real stingray leather is capable of reflecting light, especially the one extracted from black stingray leather. This leather type is heavier than any other type of leather as well as strong.
Real Leather vs Exotic Leather
Leather is found in many types and variations and exotic happens to be one of those. Real leather can be identified as soft and flexible. It has a grainy feel along with inherent warmth that has an oaky scent. Most real leather is extracted from cattle; cowhide, sheepskin, calfskin, etc. You may also find more luxurious options. In this category, you will find exotic leather that is acquired from special hides and skins of animals, like elephants, alligators, python, etc.
Bison Leather Vs Cowhide Leather
Bison leather, one of the most exotic and rare leather since the animal species is almost extinct, is durable and has a high level of strengh. The only drawback of bison leather is that it isn’t that flexible. In comparison, bison leather is more durable and thicker than cowhide.
Cons of Exotic Leather
There are many types of animal leather and most of them are extracted from cattle. However, there are exotic leather or exotic hides from which you can make exotic leather goods like exotic leather wallets, leather jackets, belts and watch straps. But there’s an issue with some exotic leather types. Some exotic animal skins like, alligator leather skin, are unsustainable. The waste, flesh and other body parts produced from the tanneries lead to a massive unsanitary output that impacts the environment; mostly groundwater and agricultural habitat.
Exotic Leather and Sustainability
There are hundreds of exotic leather types with some being harmful for the environment in terms of sustainability. Thus, the correct approach to use exotic leather is to consider fish leather first after which one can move on to crocodile and snake hides as the last resort. Even though fish leather comes with its own set of baggage, it is considerably more beneficial and even great for the fishing communities.
American Alligator is by far the most exotic and luxurious leather. It is also extremely expensive.
Genuine leather is real leather but of the lowest grade. Hence, genuine exotic leather is extracted from an exotic animal which has been embossed with artificial grains.
American Alligator is extremely expensive.
Skins are linked to small-sized sources such as python, fish, toad, bird leather, etc. Whereas hides are linked to large-sized sources such as crocodiles, alligators, elephants, etc.
To conclude this subject, exotic leather is expensive and extracted from exotic animals. It often has a slimy look and matte finish. Some of them happen to have scales as well. Exotic leather is most often used to produce wallets, belts, jackets and watch straps.