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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

Parts of the hide

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Different parts of the hide have very different qualities that effect thickness, strength, pliability and colour. The part I choose to work with is dictated by the leather product I am making.

The different parts of the hide will tool and dye differently. A 'back' for example has shorter, tighter fibres than say the neck, which is more subtle.

Parts of the hide

parts of the hide
Parts of the Hide

Whole hide

This is the whole animal, including the belly and shanks.

Especially useful for furniture, where I am replacing the existing upholstery. It's the size of hide that I am looking for - the bigger the better.


This is effectively one half of the whole hide. Follow the dotted line straight down the middle and look to the left or right – that is the side.

You might want to call this "half full hide" but you will confuse the vendor!


A piece that extends from the top of the shoulders all the way down to the lower butt and excludes the belly and shanks.

So this is two qualities in one hide. Say I am making a barrel bag. I will use the shoulder for the main body of the bag, for it's (natural beauty) and use the butt for the straps (for it's strength).

"Single back" is half a back.


Strong and often thick, with excellent durability, yet flexible thanks to the necessary movement of the neck and head of the animal.

I typically use this for articles such as bags and guitar straps, where I need the durability with subtleness.

"Single shoulder" is half a shoulder.


This is similar to a bend but excludes the next. Many people prefer bends due to their more appropriate size and ease of handling.

I will use bends for the same purposes as back.


Fibres in this part of the hide are tightly packed therefore making it the strongest part of the skin. Commonly used for the likes of saddles and belts where strength is

When I am making something that takes a lot of stress or something I want to last forever, like belts and chair seats, I will use butt. It is really strong, does not stretch and will outlive any of us!


Formed from the underside and upper legs of the cow which is stretchy by nature. This is due to its loose fibre structure.

I will use this on accessories, where I want a really soft leather such as my flask holders.

Of course, we are talking about hides from larger animals. When it comes to skins, generally you buy a whole skin as they are not cut up like these larger hides.

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