[AS. lether.] The hides or skins of animals dressed and prepared for use by tanning and otherwise. The most important leather-making hides are those of oxen, but various kinds of leather are made from buffalo and horse hides, from the skins of sheep, goats, kids, hogs, seals, walruses, rhinoceroses, elephants, antelopes, porpoises, kangaroo s, alligators, and certain snakes and sharks. The process of tanning varies according to the materials employed, and the nature and thickness of the hides and skins. In this process tan made from oak or hemlock bark, or other woods containing the astringent substance called tannin, is used. The skins, after being cleaned of hair and flesh and otherwise prepared, are soaked in a solution of tan-bark and water, remaining until they are thoroughly impregnated with tannin. This has a preservative action and converts the hides into leather. Dressed leather. After leather has been tanned, the currier and leather-dresser fit it for the many uses to which dressed leather is applied by a varied series of finishing operations. The surface of the leather is smoothed, and its thickness equalized. It is made soft, flexible, and water-proof; blackened, enamelled, or dyed.
Russia leather is tanned with birch-bark, which gives it a peculiar odor, and prevents moths and other insects from injuring books bound with it. Morocco leather is so called because it was first brought from Morocco. It was originally made from goat-skins tanned with sumach, but now calf-skins and sheepskins are used. Morocco leather is now made in France and in the United States, and is largely used for covering chairs and sofas, for lining coaches, for book-binding, and for making pocket-books.
The finest gloves and ladies' shoes are made of kid leather. Sheep-skin is largely used for book-binding, hog-skin for covering saddles, horse-hide for harness, collars, etc., and cow-hide for boots and shoes. A fine leather is made from seal skin, and the skins of alligators are sometimes tanned for boots and shoes.