Cowhide rugs are can be a beautiful addition to any home, but did you know that it is a true artisanal craft to create these rugs? You can truly appreciate the quality of your cowhide rug when you know every step that has to happen before it graces the floors of your home.
Here is all you need to know about how cowhide rugs are created:
Back to the Source
Basically it all starts with cows. The reason that cowhide rugs are so very versatile and come in different colors and patterns is because cows are born with colorful and unique hides. So many people just picture plain black and white spots when they think of cowhide, but cows come in so many different colors and patterns. There are so much more can just black and white cows. They come in all white, tricolor, brindle, speckled, salt n pepper and even Brahman gray. Each cow has a unique hide that means no one else will have the exact same rug you have. Even twin cows have a slightly different pattern.
Never forget that all the beauty of the rug comes from the natural beauty of the cows. When you choose to adorn your home with a cowhide rug, it is because you appreciate elements of the natural world and want to bring them into your home.
Unfortunately, the biggest reason many people are wary of buying a cowhide rug is the ethical and environmental implications about where the cowhide comes from. The cowhide rug industry understands that though and makes sure it only practices ethical and environmentally safe manufacturing processes.
Look for cowhide from Brazil, Argentina and Colombia because they are known for having the highest quality cowhide manufactured in a humanely way. For the softest, most supple cowhide always choose Brazilian.
So you might be asking, what exactly does humanely mean? It means that the cows are not specifically killed for their hide. The cowhide rug industry only uses the skins of cows who are farmed for meat and dairy products. These skins, if they weren’t recycled into rugs, would have just been thrown out by the meat processing plant.
Have you ever wondered how cowhide can stay so soft supple through the whole manufacturing process? The key is in the pre-tanning steps. The first thing that needs to happen is the fleshing of the hide which basically means that all the excess fat, muscle and flesh that is still attached to the skin must be scraped off. When done by hand it can take a long time to do, but it is very important to be as thoroughly as possible.
Next the hide is salted to eliminate any bacteria hanging about and protect it from molt. During this time the hide must be kept from heat and direct sunlight. The best way to do it is to lay out the hide with the fur side down and cover all the flesh with the salt and then hide needs to be cured for two weeks or more.
After it is cured, soak the cow hide in a tub of clean water several times until all the salt is removed. It usually takes a few hours for the skin to become soft enough. Make sure you get rid of any blood, dirt or debris that is still sticking to the hide.
Once that is done, then take time to scrape and remaining flesh or fat from the hide. It is important to not leave any of it behind.
The Tanning Process
Most cowhide manufacturers will use the hair on hide method of tanning that takes about two weeks time in itself. By keeping the hair intact, they are ensuring that the hide stays soft and there is less concerns over odors and molting. The cowhide is always dried out naturally. Remember that if you try to cut corners you might risk damaging the hide.
Because the tanning process can sometimes leave a bluish-grey tint to the hide, manufacturers will give the hide and extra treatment of fats and dyes to help revert it back to its natural colors and to make sure the hide remains soft and supple. They will also double check that the colors and patterns of the hide match those of the breed of cow that it came from.
Here are the most common methods for tanning cowhide and other animal hides:
- Bark Tanning uses tannic acid from tree bark. This is a very natural way of tanning, also called vegetable tanning, but it can also take up to 6 months and can stain the fur on the hide so it is not often popular choice for cowhide. If you were to try this yourself, you will need 100 lbs of bark for cowhide.
- Brain Tanning is another natural method. This one uses the brain of the animal the hide comes from. There is a concern of the transmission of chronic wasting disease though, although the Center for Disease Control reports that there has been no evidence as of yet that it can be transmitted to humans. If you are doing this method on your own, make sure you wear gloves for protection. With this method, it is recommended that the hide is also smoked.
- Salt & Aluminum Tanning uses ammonium aluminum sulfate or potassium aluminum sulfate.
- Chrome Tanning is the most common commercial method used for leather tanning.
Tips for Doing It Yourself
If you decide to make your own cowhide rug, here are some tips you should keep in mind:
- Make sure you scrape off the flesh right after you separate the hide from the animal, because even if you wait a few hours, it can make the tanning process a lot harder.
- No matter what tanning solution you purchase, you should always follow the instructions to the T.
- You will probably need about 15 lbs of salt to cure cowhide. You should also keep on hand nails or staple gun for nailed the hide to a piece of wood to keep it stabilized during the tanning process.
- While you are curing the cowhide, for best results, check on it every day and night and when the salt becomes wet, scrape it off with a dull not sharp knife and then add more salt to replace what you scraped off. Once you don’t need to change the salt for a few days that is a good indicator that your hide is dry.
- Make sure you use a plastic garbage can instead of a metal container because the chemicals used can react with the metal.
- If you are having trouble softening the hide, try rubbing a rope across it in a constant motion. Get a friend or a family member to help you.
The Finishing Touch
If you are looking for a more stylized looking cowhide rug, there are a lot of finished touches that can be added to make your rug stand out from the rest. The most popular treatments include animal-print stencils, acid washes and color dye. You can even combine different hides into a patchwork rug as well.
Now that you know how cowhide rugs are created, it is time to consider how you want to display it in your home.
What Are Popular Ways to Display Your New Cowhide Rug?
Cowhide rugs can add a touch of softness and luxury to any room. Here are some ways you can use cowhide rugs in your home:
To add romance to a den or bedroom
How much more romantic can it get then curling up on a soft cowhide rug in front of the fireplace? Grab a glass of wine and snuggle up with your loved one and enjoy the extra luxurious feel the cowhide rug brings to the space. Who doesn’t deserve to be pampered?
Add some whimsy into a modern space
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when thinking about how to use your cowhide rug. If your aesthetic is typically more modern, you can still have a lot of fun with cowhide. Picture how a brindle cowhide rug can soften an industrial-styled urban apartment filled with metal and glass. It also brings a bit of fun into a monochrome space. Cowhide can really complement any style or aesthetic.
Brighten and warm up your kitchen all at once
Your kitchen is the hub of the house where family and friends hang out. Because of the utilitarian nature of this room you need it to be easy to clean, but that doesn’t mean the space can’t be bright and cheery as well as warm and inviting. And a simple cowhide rug can do all of these things. Fun patterns like brindle and black and white spots can add the fun while the soft suppleness of the cowhide will add the warmth.
Brighten up a neutral palette
Keep your neutral palette from looking drab and dingy by adding a cowhide. Cowhide with its unique shades and combinations of blacks, browns and whites and its rich texture can make an interesting focal point in an otherwise simple room. Instead of looking too plain, your room will look warm and inviting with the addition of cowhide on the walls, floors or even as the fabric of our couch or reading chair.
Tone down bright colors
Contrary to what you might assume, cowhide does not clash with bright colors. The blacks, browns and whites in cowhide can keep bright colors from appearing too garish, so don’t be afraid to get creative with color and texture.
Complement other patterns
Don’t be afraid of mixing patterns. You can have a cowhide rug and other bold patterns on the walls and furniture at the same time. It is all about what vibe the combination gives the room and as long as you are careful to balance color and texture, it should be a homerun.
How Do You Know You Got a Quality Rug?
Unfortunately if you want to purchase a cowhide rug, most likely you will have to order it online so you want be able to inspect it before you purchase it. Make sure you choose a company that has a good return policy so you can inspect it once you get it and send it back if need be. Really research any company before you shop online with them.
To test the quality of the cowhide rug once it arrives at your home, you can do the bunch test where you bunch the rug up and then let it fall out. High quality rugs will fall out naturally without any wrinkles. You can also do a smell test to see if it smells like genuine leather. Don’t worry you will be immediately able to tell the difference. You should also look at the coat. If it appears shiny and health then you probably have a good quality hide.
What Is the Best Way to Take Care of Your Rug?
Once you get your cowhide rug home and you are happy with its quality now you have to decide how to care for it. Luckily, cowhide rugs are very durable and pretty low maintenance. For general care, you simply just need to vacuum them on a regular basis. If you by accident spill something on the rug, simple use a dry cloth to wipe it up. Make sure you wipe in the same direction of the hairs. For harder spills, you can use a damp cloth with a mild detergent. A well-taken care of cowhide rug can last a lifetime and can easily be passed down through the generations. Even if you have a house full of kids and dogs, cowhide rugs will hold up against all the foot traffic if you take care of it properly. Done right you should be able to pass down the rug to your children and your children’s children.
Other Ways to Utilize Cowhide
Cowhide can also be used in other household items as well. They can be used in pillows, furniture, light shades and even kitchen placemats. If you really have a passion for cowhide, there are so many creative and unique ways to incorporate throughout your home.
Now once you have established where you want your new rug, you will also want to make sure that it stays stable on the floor. Here are some tips on how to keep a cowhide rug from sliding:
- Cowhide rugs that are heavier and on the larger side will be less likely to slide. So if you haven’t yet purchased the rug and the room can handle a large rug, then consider getting one that is large and thick.
- If your rug is layered on top of carpet, the sliding is a little harder to prevent if it is laid out on hardwood or a stone floor. This is because when you walk on carpet the pile will always move in one direction moving the cowhide rug with it. And the taller the pile, the more movement you will see. Instead, layer the cowhide rug over a carpet with a denser pile.
- Laying your cowhide rug on top of a hardwood floor or nonglossy tiles and vinyl offers you the most control when it comes to preventing sliding. Don’t use a cowhide rug on gloss tiles because these are very slippery and could become a fall hazards especially for young kids and the elderly.
- To help control the sliding better, attach a self-adhesive foam rug underlay to the bottom of the rug. If the one you choose only comes in smaller sizes then you can use multiple ones to make up the difference. Simply match up as best as you can and trim off any extra.
- Another option is a spray-on non-slip rug backing. With this, you don’t have to be worried about the adhesives being too small. Just spray as much as you need.
- A rubber grip underlay also offers better stability, but only works well for hard floors. These are not self-adhesive so they do not attach to the rug. If you find that the rug still moves too much, try using just a little glue to attach the matting to the rug.
- Finally there are also specialty tapes you can use that leave behind less adhesive. Simple adhere the tape to the rug and cut to size. Add as many strips of tape needed to stabilize the rug. Just make sure you space them at least 1 to 2 feet apart.
Besides being used as a floor covering, cowhide rugs can be used as a throw blanket over the couch or as a wall hanging. Think about how much warmth can be added to a room by simply hanging a cowhide rug on the wall?
Properly hanging a cowhide rug on the wall so it doesn’t slip or cause damage to your walls takes just a little bit of sweat and a little bit of know-how. Luckily you don’t need to get certified in hanging cowhide rugs to do it right. It should only take about an hour to do.
Here are some tips on how to hang a cowhide rug on the wall:
- First determine what type of wall you want to mount it on. You will need to make sure it is big enough to properly display the rug. If the rug you have chosen has a lot of dark colors in it, don’t pick a small room to hang it in because the room will get overwhelmed by the rug on the wall.
- What the wall is made of can also play a role in the best way to hang the cowhide rug.
- If your wall is made of plasterboard or fiberboard, then you can simply use a staple gun or thin small headed nails. You will need a lot of them so be prepared. Try your best though to make them as inconspicuous as possible so people see the rug not the staples.
- For really heavy rugs, a more powerful thicker nail may be used just at the top center of the cowhide skin to give some added strength.
- Before actually nailing the rug to the wall, take some time to figure out the best angles to show off its colors and patterns. Lay the cowhide rug on the ground in front of where you are going to hang it and play around with the position a little. It is important to make sure the rug is as centered as possible on the wall.
- Because the cowhide rug can be a little hard to wrangle as you try to hang it, especially if it is a larger-sized one, use a ladder to try to nail the center of the rug and the top corners first. Once the rug is stable enough to hang by itself you can work on the other sections. Make sure you are keeping the rug as flat as possible as you are adding the staples.
- Keep an eye out for parts of the skin that are buckling. These parts will need to be flattened and given extra stability.
- Although you can hang the rug on your own, for best results without a big headache it is best to have a pair of helping hands.
Making a cowhide rug is a true artisanal process and takes a lot of hard work and talent as well as the natural beauty of the cowhide. Whether you make it yourself or buy one from a respected manufacturer you can feel confident that your rug will bring beauty to your home for years to come.
At Cowhide Outlet, only the best quality of cowhide from Brazil is used and only those hides that maintain their high quality throughout the tanning and finishing processes will be sold. Another thing you can count on is that their cowhide products are not treated with PCP, AZO-coloring agents, Chrome VI, formaldehyde or nickel. There are no hidden ingredients that you need to worry about.
Call Cowhide Outlet today for more information about cowhide rugs.