All You Need to Know About Buffalo Leather

Table of Contents

    What is Buffalo Leather?

    Buffalo Leather, also referred to as English Saddle Leather, is the tanned hide of one of the 74 species of domestic buffalo.

    Where Does Buffalo Leather Come From?

    Buffalo were first domesticated in Asia over 6,000 years ago.  Today there is a global population of 194 million domesticated buffalo, 97% of which are reared in Asia.  Domesticated buffalo are used to pull carts and ploughs and in India, more milk is produced from buffalo than from cows.  At the end of their working life, the hides of buffalo are tanned to produce buffalo leather.

    What does Buffalo Leather Look Like?

    Buffalo leather has a more distinctive grain than bovine leather.  It comes in a range of colours and finishes, characterised by rich, deep tones which give it a striking appearance.

    How is Buffalo Leather Made?

    The fastest method of tanning is chrome tanning, which can be completed in a matter of days.  This method, however, utilises toxic chemicals and is harmful to the environment.  MAHI English Saddle Leather is produced using an entirely chrome free method which takes four weeks to complete and is much more environmentally friendly.

    How Does Buffalo Leather Age?

    With appropriate care, buffalo leather will last a lifetime, developing, over time, a rich patina which enhances the beauty of the leather.

    How Strong is Buffalo Leather?

    Buffalo leather has an epidermal layer up to three times thicker than cow hide which means that it is extremely strong and durable.  The buffalo hides are not stretched during the tanning process, unlike cow hide, and therefore they are thicker and more resistant to tearing.  Full grain buffalo leather is some of the strongest leather that you can buy.

    Is Buffalo Leather Good Quality?

    Buffalo leather is soft and flexible and yet strong and durable.  Full grain buffalo leather is beautiful in appearance and durable enough to withstand a lifetime of use, it is top quality leather.

    What is Buffalo Hunter Leather?

    ‘Buffalo hunter leather’ is a phrase used to describe buffalo leather articles, usually bags, which have a deliberately distressed, matt appearance, an appearance intended to evoke traditional American leather work and the outdoors men of the wild frontier.

    What is Water Buffalo Leather?

    There are three main types of buffalo: American Buffalo, which are really bison, African Cape Buffalo and Asian Water Buffalo.  There is a global domestic buffalo population of 194 million and 97% of these animals are the Asian Water Buffalo.  Water buffalo leather is the leather made from the hides of water buffalos which have been reared for agricultural work or dairy production.

    What is ‘Genuine Buffalo Leather’?

    The phrase ‘genuine buffalo leather’ is a marketing technique intended to make inferior quality leather sound better than it is.  Full grain leather is the best quality leather available; nothing has been removed and it retains the markings and imperfections of the original hide intact.  Top grain leather has had the imperfections removed, giving the leather a more regular appearance but weakening the leather compared to full grain.  Genuine leather’ is the third layer of leather which is the thinnest and weakest.  It is stamped and dyed to give the appearance of top grain leather.

    What is Italian Buffalo Leather?

    Italy has a long tradition of leather work based around Florence and the country is famous for the quality of its craftsmanship.  Imported hides, including buffalo hides, are tanned in Italy and transformed into high quality leather goods. Over two-thirds of European leather is produced in Italy.

    What is Buffalo Embossed Leather?

    Embossed leather is a method for transforming low grade leather, ‘genuine leather’ into something which appears more desirable.  The leather is stamped with a new pattern, using heat and high pressure.  Thus, the appearance of an exotic animal such as snake or crocodile can be stamped onto a buffalo leather base.

    What is Top Grain Buffalo Leather?

    Top grain leather is full grain leather which has had its imperfections sanded away to produce a regular finish.  Buffalo leather is up to three times thicker than cow hide so top grain buffalo leather is still an extremely strong and durable product. All of our Buffalo Leather products at MAHI use top grain. 

    What is Buffalo Mix Leather?

    Buffalo mix leather, also referred to as buffalo split leather, utilises the bottom layer of the hide, which is given a coating to make it smooth.  This type of leather is much less durable than full grain or top grain leather, but it is also much cheaper.  The term buffalo mix leather can also be used to describe bonded leather, the process by which scraps of leather are glued to polyurethane sheets and then embossed to simulate top grain leather.

    What is Pull up Buffalo Leather?

    Pull up buffalo leather is aniline dyed to create a rich colour and then finished with a mix of transparent waxes and oils.  This makes the leather very soft, but the most attractive feature of this treatment is that when the leather is stretched, the colour becomes lighter.  Pull up leather assimilates marks and scratches to create a unique patina and the high concentration of oils and fats make it harder for dirt to penetrate.  Pull up leather is a popular choice for furniture, shoes, bags and watch straps.

    What is Full Grain Buffalo Leather?

    Full grain leather is the top layer of hide with all the natural imperfections left intact.  It is the best quality leather you can buy and because buffalo hide has an epidural layer 2 to 3 times thicker than cow hide it is one of the most durable leathers on the market.

    Buffalo Leather verses Genuine Leather

    ‘Genuine leather’ is a term which describes the lowest quality leather which you can get.  It may be ‘split leather’ which is the bottom layer of the hide which has been coated to give it a smooth appearance or it may be ‘bonded leather’ which is comprised of scraps of leather pulped and glued to a polyurethane base.  Compared with full grain or top grain buffalo leather, ‘genuine leather’ is a vastly inferior product, it is weaker, lacks durability and does not have the natural beauty of buffalo leather.

    Buffalo Leather verses Cowhide Motorcycle Leather

    Leather motorcycle clothing needs to be flexible and strong.  Buffalo leather is stronger and more flexible than cowhide.  It has a high resistance to ripping and its fibres resist penetration by dust and dirt.  It is the best leather for motorcycle clothing.

    Buffalo Leather verses Sheep Leather

    Sheep leather is thin and lacks strength.  It is used for items where its thinness is a virtue, such as book covers, gloves and lightweight clothing.  Buffalo leather is thick, supple and extremely strong, making it ideal for weight bearing products such as bags.

    Buffalo Leather verses Calf Leather

    Calf leather, also known as calfskin, is a high-quality leather, prized for its softness and fine grain.  It is used for lightweight items such as book binding, wallets and the uppers of shoes.  By contrast, buffalo leather is a much thicker leather with a coarser grain, it is much stronger and much more durable.  Consequently, buffalo leather is better suited to items which will have to work hard such as saddles, motorcycle clothing and bags.

    Buffalo Leather verses Cowhide

    Cowhide is the tanned hide of a cow with the hair left on.  Every cowhide carries its own unique pattern, but cowhide can also be dyed and printed with new patterns.  Cowhide is used as decorative floor or wall covering and for furniture, bags and shoes.  Cowhide draws attention to its animal origin and is therefore much less widely used than cow leather.  Buffalo leather is used for similar purposes to cow leather because it is strong, durable and attractive.

    Buffalo Leather verses Cow Leather

    Cow leather is the most widely used leather in the world and accounts for 65% of all leather production.  There are 1.5 billion cattle on the planet and cow leather is a by product of the meat and dairy industry.  By contrast the global population of buffalo is only 194 million, 97% of which are reared in Asia.  Buffalo are used for agricultural work and milk production and like cattle their hides are used by the leather industry.  Buffalo hides are two to three times thicker than cowhide and have a more pronounced grain, consequently buffalo leather is stronger and more durable than cow leather and is an attractive alternative for all the items for which cow leather is used.

    Buffalo Leather verses Lambskin Leather

    Lambskin leather is a finely grained leather with a soft buttery texture, it is prized as a material for high end small leather goods like the handbags produced by Chanel and Dior.  It is a fragile leather and prone to stains, unlike buffalo leather, which is thick, coarse grained and very durable.  If the item in question is required to work hard, then buffalo leather is the obvious choice.


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