What is Buffalo Leather? The Ultimate Guide

buffalo leather

One of our favorite materials to craft real leather goods with is buffalo leather. It’s durable, full of character, and is often used for high-quality bags, furniture and other leather products.

It won’t come as too much of a surprise to you that, at The Real Leather Company, we really know our leather products. We’re passionate about quality and sell a whole range of stylish buffalo leather bags. 

Here are just a few details on what makes these durable genuine leathers so good for long-lasting leather products, and hopefully answers your question – what is buffalo leather?

buffalo leather

What is Buffalo Leather?

Buffalo leather comes from domestic buffalo hides. There are 3 types of buffalo that produce hides suitable for buffalo leather:

1. American Buffalo (which are actually bison)

2. African Cape Buffalo

3. Asian Water Buffalo

Asian Water Buffalo account for around 97% of the world's buffalo population and therefore provide much of the water buffalo leather we see used in leather goods. Bison (or American Buffalo) hide is slightly different to the other buffalo hides and doesn’t tend to be as porous or have the same depth of texture.

The grain of buffalo leather is more pronounced than that of bovine leather. It is available in a variety of colors and finishes, with deep tones that give it a stunning texture. The tanning process means it can have a wide variety of uses and in many different styles.

Buffalo leather is both strong and flexible and this makes it perfect for furniture and fashion products like bags, belts and shoes.

How is Buffalo Leather Made? 

To make buffalo leather, buffalo hide is salted and dried for between three and five days to preserve the material. The buffalo hides are then sent to a tannery for further treatment.

In the tannery, the hides are cleaned and prepared. Dust and dirt are removed and they are soaked in water and disinfectants to further clean them. Any hair is removed and the hides are thinned and readied for further treatments.

After this, the hides are de-limed and pickled to ensure they are at the correct pH. This helps to maintain the strength and quality of the buffalo leather.

Buffalo leather is often dyed and treated using vegetable tanning to give it the desired look and finish. Typically, the tanning process for buffalo leather uses more natural techniques than other types of leather and this means limited use of toxins and chemicals.

buffalo leather

Are Buffalo Leather Goods High-Quality?  (The Pros & Cons)

Buffalo leather is different to other leathers because of its origin, but it holds many of the qualities seen in other real leathers, like traditional full-grain leather.

Pros of Buffalo Leather

1. It's Thicker

The qualities of buffalo leather can be appealing for many reasons. Buffalo leather is not stretched in the same way as cow leather so it is typically around three times thicker and that can give it excellent durability. Full-grain buffalo leather is one of the highest quality real leather options and is often used to craft luxury leather goods.

2. It's Breathable

Water buffalo leather is a breathable material. Buffalo hide has quite large pores that make it able to absorb moisture and adapt well to different temperatures. This makes it a useful material for goods that are exposed to changing weather, like bags or briefcases.

3. It's Flexible

For thicker leather, water buffalo leather is quite flexible. This allows manufacturers to create stylish luxury products that not only stand the test of time but also show off classically styled designs and offer practical solutions to everyday needs.

4. It's better for the environment

Buffalo leather can be more environmentally friendly than other leathers. It’s often tanned and treated using vegetable oils rather than chemical treatments, and this can offer an environmental benefit when choosing this type of material for your leather goods.

Cons of Buffalo Leather

1. Maintenance required

In the same way as traditional leather, buffalo leather products need to be maintained and cleaned to preserve their quality. You can use products like leather conditioners to keep on top of cleaning your buffalo leather bags and goods. 

2. Porous

Similarly to other real leathers, buffalo hide is fairly porous which means that while leather products are water-resistant, they aren’t usually completely waterproof. This is something to be aware of as it can cause your leather products to lose shape. If your leather becomes wet, allow it to dry naturally to prevent shrinking and shape-loss in the fabric, using synthetic heat sources can over-dry your leather and damage it.

3. Price

Buffalo leather products can be expensive, especially compared to cheap faux leathers, but the quality and durability will often make the investment well worth it. Many see real leather goods, like briefcases, as an investment and therefore will buy them as gifts or for long-term use. A real leather bag can last for several years and will outlive a cheap alternative (plus several replacements) easily, so the cost for one product versus several can even sometimes be less.

buffalo leather

Is Buffalo Leather Good for Bags?

Buffalo leather is an excellent material for bags. Bags are fairly high-wear items, whether you use them for work, travel or just for day-to-day use. They see a lot of wear and tear and sometimes have to repeatedly carry a lot of weight. For this reason, durability is an incredibly important quality for any material used to create bags, making genuine buffalo leathers an excellent choice.

Check out our collection of real leather bags.

Buffalo Leather vs. Cow Leather

Typically, buffalo leather and cow leather go through a different manufacturing process. Buffalo leather is not stretched in the same way as cow leather, so it tends to be slightly thicker, although it still maintains its flexibility. It is also typically treated with more natural oils than some cow leather, particularly when you look at materials like faux or PU leather that are usually created with plastic polymers and treated with chemicals.

Buffalo leather and cow leather will have slightly different appearances, although the type of leather and where on the hide it comes from will impact this. A buffalo leather company will typically take advantage of the more porous appearance of the fabric in their design. Buffalo hide usually has a more distinct grain and this is appealing to those looking for good-looking leather goods.

buffalo leather

Buffalo Leather vs. Goat Leather

Tanned goat leather is extremely durable, which is why carpets and carpet bindings are made from it. Its softness, lightness, and strength make it excellent for soft-cover boots, gloves, and backpacks. Because of the presence of lanolin, a waxy oil produced by the goat's skin, goat leather is naturally water-resistant even with its other, more delicate, qualities. 

Buffalo leather is a much thicker type of leather and is more inline with what you expect to see used for leather bags. Buffalo leather materials are a more premium product than goat leather and the cost and quality will usually reflect this.

Our Favorite Buffalo Leather Goods This Year

We adore high-quality leather goods and, of course, want to share our expertise on the subject, so here's a rundown of the finest of our buffalo leather bag collection.

1.The Jones

the jones

This stylish messenger bag is a top seller, and it’s no surprise! The worn-style leather is perfect for everyday use and is the ideal choice for a real leather messenger bag as a gift for a new job or promotion.

2. The Full Grainer

the full grainer

If you find yourself on the road a lot, then why not look into a high-quality buffalo leather travel bag. The sleek, modern design has hints of classic charm and provides the durability you need when you take off on your next adventure.

3. The Sitka

the sitka

The Sitka is described as having an “heirloom quality finish” and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular choice. The classic design and high-quality finish make it the perfect gift and its many storage pockets make it really multi-functional.

You can check out the rest of our collection of full grain leather bags here.

buffalo leather
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