Free Shipping within the U.S. for orders over $70 - FREE RETURNS

The Journal

What is Buffalo Leather?

Since the day humans walked on the Earth, we have been using animal hides to create leather as our clothing and decorations. Until later in the early 1800s, buffalo leather came into the scene, giving more options to what leather can be used for. Gradually, anything made out of buffalo leather grew into a fashion trend in North America. 

Today, it remains a desirable material to be made with around the world. Whether it’s to make a premium made leather wallet with a sleek grain pattern, a wonderful leatherback book cover, or a gorgeous leather jacket with a beautiful natural color, the qualities of buffalo leather are the reason it’s still used to this day.

To understand why we’ll first go through the brief history of its development from the buffalo. Then, discuss the leather-making process. Finally, we’ll go over its durability, usage, and how to maintain anything made with buffalo leather.

What is Buffalo Leather?


Buffalo leather is made from tanned domestic buffalo hide. Mainly, there are four main buffalo that are used to make leather goods: the American bison, also known as the American buffalo, the Asian water buffalo, the African Cape buffalo, and the Italian Mediterranean buffalo.

Around the world, the largest domesticated buffalo species is the Asian water buffalo at a whopping 194 million buffalo, making them readily available for leather goods production as they are raised to help around with agriculture duties and transportation in most countries that don’t have much access to modern farming and public vehicles.

In North America alone, 93% of American bison are domesticated for leather goods production. While 7% of the population is kept in conservation, they are no longer an endangered species with 2,300 to 5,500 buffalo increasing per year. 

In most European countries, buffalo leather originates from the Italian Mediterranean buffalo and creates 60% of buffalo leather products. 

Finally, the African Cape buffalo. Though they are not domesticated, they can be legally hunted for their hide for a hefty price of 10 thousand dollars. The reason these buffalo are not domesticated is due to their dangerous fighting nature which can break down fences and when around other livestock animals, they can pass down various diseases.

How is Buffalo Leather Made?

Before the buffalo leather can be used for leather crafting, the buffalo hide needs to go through two processes known as tanning and crusting.

Tanning prevents the raw buffalo hide from rotting and releasing putrid odors. It will go through the slaughterhouse to be cured by saltwater brine for 16 hours. Workers then remove grease on the underside and hairs on the topside. Afterward, the leather will be tan with vegetable oils to stabilize its fibers.

Crusting occurs when the leather is ready to be dry, thin, and lubricated. The leather will be split for the material to be easier to work with since buffalo leather is three times tougher to work with than cowhide. Lubrication with oils will help the fibers become supple and soft. Tanning will need to be reapplied during the process. Finally, the leather is added with color with dye.

What is Buffalo Leather Used For?

Buffalo leather can be used in multiple ways from the clothes on your back to your home furniture. Six different types of buffalo leather are produced differently based on which part of the hide they are made from with different qualities that can make them unique.

Full-grain buffalo leather is the best quality leather you can get. It’s able to age steadily giving it a more natural brown color and relaxes the material while in use. It contains all of the grainy patterns which are perfect for handbags, suitcases, furniture, and belts.

Top-grain is from the top part of the buffalo hide and is split away from the full-grain. It has a smoother surface by getting rid of the grain pattern for making clothes and accessories more appealing. It’s also great for furniture upholstery with a cleaner look.

Buffalo mixed leather is from the bottom layer of the buffalo hide but a little weaker. It’s great if you are looking for a more flexible leather material for jackets, shoes, wallets, and books since they involve folding.

The same can be said about pull-up buffalo leather with a few differences. This leather is applied with aniline dye and transparent wax, giving it a richer color. And it has a softer feel making it easier to stretch. Pull-up can be a better option if you don’t want leather sofas and leatherback books to gather dust and dirt.

Genuine buffalo leather is the lowest quality and cheaper version of the material. Because it’s made to be thin, it’s more brittle than buffalo mixed leather and pull-up leather combined. Despite its poor quality, it’s saved by using the word genuine and dyed and stamped to make it appear to be high-quality leather, tricking consumers into buying it. Be careful when buying any item that may contain genuine buffalo leather as it can tear easily due to the lack of moisture.

Compared to embossed buffalo leather, the more thinned-out version of genuine buffalo leather, it’s stamped with patterns that can mimic other exotic animal skins such as snakes and crocodiles making this leather perfect for shoes, handbags, and suitcases. Again, please do be careful when handling and maintaining genuine leather.

The Pros and Cons of Buffalo Leather


  • Unlike cow leather, buffalo hide does not have to be stretched. It’s three times stronger and more durable to resist tearing.
  • A thicker hide means it has more water resistance compared to other leather materials.
  • Its tanning process with vegetable oils makes it more natural compared to other leather tanning processes that may involve chromium, a heavy metal that is harmful to the environment and can cause asthma and skin irritation.
  • The grainy texture of buffalo leather can show off the life of the buffalo and can make clothing, shoes, furniture, and book products more appealing to the eye.
  • As it ages, buffalo leather’s fibers soften becoming more flexible and allowing the material to breathe easily from movement.


  • While the buffalo leather is stronger and durable, its size is smaller than what you get from cowhide due to the buffalo hide not being stretched in the process.
  • Its grainy texture can look unappealing to some people. Within the buffalo’s grain, it can show scars during the buffalo’s last moment during the slaughtering process. This is why some leather products will use top-grain buffalo leather for its smooth surface appearance.
  • Buffalo leather must be kept away from long exposures to sunlight to avoid damages.
  • The leather can be fragile during the cleaning process if it's not being cleaned properly.
  • Due to high demands, buffalo leather is more expensive than cow leather.

How Durable is Buffalo Leather?

The thickness of buffalo leather can vary based on the density of buffalo fibers to determine its durability. Some can be two or three times stronger than cow leather. However, this can make the leather harder to work with. During the crusting process, the leather is being split into two by a splitting machine. Then, it gets thinned out to allow the fibers to relax while keeping the same thickness to give it more flexibility.

How to Care for Buffalo Leather

How to Clean Buffalo Leather

If you plan to have any buffalo leather products in your household, you will need some leather cleaner and a gentle touch. Buffalo leather is very fragile when scrubbed on which can lead to odd color stains and may be torn off. 

Take a damp lint-free cloth with your leather cleaner and use gentle circular motions to clean the surface. Not all buffalo leather products will have the same material to be cleaned. For example, bag accessories require you to use a dry cloth towel and for shoes, you will need a softer damp cloth rag.

How to Protect Buffalo Leather

After cleaning the buffalo leather product you want, it’s important to apply it with leather dye and leather conditioner. The type of dye you will need is either water-based or oil-based. Use a sponge to gently apply it to unwanted blotches on your leather. Leave it alone to dry for 24 hours. 

Once the leather dye is dried, apply the leather conditioner to give it a protective coat from stains and helps the leather deepens its color as it ages over time. If you live in an area where there is a lot of heat and sunlight, you’ll need to do this process about 3-4 times a year. If you live in an area with less sunlight and a colder climate, you will only need to do it twice.

Lastly, you may want to improve on the water resistance for your buffalo leather goods. Because of its thickness, it’s more impermeable to water. However, waterproof doesn’t mean it’s there forever. To keep buffalo leather impermeable, you will need to buy yourself some commercial leather wax. Use the same gentle circular motion to apply.