Guide To Cowhide Rugs: What, Where, How and Why?

What is a Cowhide Rug?

A Cowhide Rug is the complete skin and hair of a cow, cured using either a chrome tanning method or by the more environmentally friendly, vegetable tanning process. The result is a soft durable rug which retains the unique markings of the animal, although sometime hides are re-dyed to create exotic prints.

What sizes are available?

The size of your rug will depend on the size of the animal from which it came, usually somewhere in the region of 20 to 50 square feet, although there are outsize rugs on the market which are created by combining two or more hides.

Where do Cowhide Rugs come from?

All major leather producing countries produce Cowhide Rugs. The world’s top four leather manufacturers are: China, India, Brazil and the USA. Cowhide Rugs are made predominantly from cows raised as part of the dairy and meat industry. Hides used for leather production would otherwise be a waste product and consequently an environmental problem.

How are Cowhide Rugs made?

Cowhides selected for rugs are chosen for their patterning and their intact condition. They are cured to ensure that they do not moult or retain any unpleasant odour. The first stage of preparation is the curing, which involves salting and washing the hides and takes about two weeks. The second stage is tanning: Vegetable Tanning uses tannic acid from tree bark and takes about six months; Chrome Tanning is a much faster process but is damaging to the environment.

Is Cowhide humane or cruel?

If you regard the killing of any animal as wrong then you will necessarily be opposed to the meat, dairy and leather industries. In excess of 56 billion animals are slaughtered each year; the leather industry is a by-product of the meat industry, without which there would be catastrophic environmental pollution. Whether or not animals are treated with cruelty depends on the legislation of individual countries, however, there is nothing inherently cruel about the use of Cowhide which comes from an animal which has been slaughtered for meat production or because its useful life as a dairy producer has reached an end.

Where to put your Cowhide Rug

Every Cowhide Rug has unique patterning and colour. You may buy a rug because you love its appearance, or you may choose a rug specifically to augment an existing colour scheme. Cowhide Rugs can be used to provide a focal point on a wooden floor or create a cosy warmth in a bedroom. Their curved lines can be used to soften the angularity of a straight sided room and because of their durability they can even be used in areas of heavy traffic, such as hallways.

What to put under a Cowhide Rug

Large, thick rugs are far less likely to slide than small, thin rugs. If you place your rug on a carpet, you are likely to experience some movement as the fibres of the carpet will ‘walk’ the rug over time, though the denser the pile, the less movement you will experience. Cowhide rugs probably work best on a hardwood floor or on non-gloss tiles. There are a variety of ways in which you can prevent the movement of your rug: a self-adhesive foam rug underlay, a spray on non-slip backing, a rubber underlay or speciality tapes. If your rug is in a position of little traffic, you will probably be quite content to simply readjust its position occasionally.

How durable are Cowhide Rugs?

Leather is an extremely durable material and Cowhide Rugs are no exception. Your Cowhide Rug is likely to last far longer than any other form of rug.

How do you keep them clean?

A regular light vacuuming, in the direction of the grain, is a good way to prevent the build up of dirt or grit in your rug. Light steam cleaning is also a good way to keep your rug looking fresh, although you should never allow the rug to become drenched in water. Alternatively, you may wish to take the rug outdoors and give it a good shaking or traditional rug beating. Spills are best treated as soon as possible: soak up excess liquid and then use a damp cloth with a little gentle soap or organic shampoo. Apply a little vinegar afterwards and this should prevent the stain from reappearing. Grease stains can be removing by the use of Eucalyptus oil.

Do Cowhide Rugs lie flat?

If your rug has been folded in transit, it may arrive with wrinkles. These can be removed by using a damp cloth and a hot iron on the leather side of the rug, ensuring that the iron is in continual movement. You can then turn the rug over and iron the damp cloth on the hair side, take care to protect your floor from damage by the iron and never leave a hot iron in one position. Thin cowhide is more likely to curl at the edges than thicker, good quality cowhide, this is sometimes known as ‘cigaring’. Lightly spray the affected area, both top and bottom, with water. Place an old towel or clean porous material, both top and bottom, then pile on some heavy books and leave overnight. Even good quality cowhide will curl if the fibres of the top surface dry and consequently contact, faster than those underneath. This might be caused by exposure to strong sunlight or a powerful heater, both of which should be avoided.

How to soften a Cowhide Rug

Your Cowhide Rug should remain supple for years but if it is exposed to extreme heat or if conversely,if it becomes wet, you can restore it by applying Neat’s-foot oil to the underside.

Do Cowhide Rugs smell?

As part of the curing and tanning process, any unpleasant odour will have been removed from your Cowhide Rug and it should smell pleasantly like any other leather product. If you have pets you may, over time, feel the need to freshen your rug, in which case use a powder that deodorizes and vacuum lightly.

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