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5 Amazing Products Made From Animal Skins Throughout History

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Read on to learn about five amazing products made from animal skins throughout history.

Read on to learn about five amazing products made from animal skins throughout history.

Use of Animal Skins Throughout History

Animal skins have long been used to make essential items. During a time when raw materials were scarce, animal skin was an important component of everyday utensils. Animal hides have been used as a common clothing material by many African cultures. The earliest known examples of dress used animal skin to cover the skin of humans. The word "skin" is also replaced by the word "hide," which is related to the German word "haut," which means skin. The hide refers to the skin of cows, buffalos, etc. Skin refers to the skins of small animals, including goats, sheep, snakes, and alligators. Read on to learn about the following five products that were made from animal skins in human history:

  1. Vellum
  2. Tipi
  3. Moccasin
  4. Beaver Hat
  5. African-American Banjo

1. Vellum

Vellum is a kind of paper used for writing, painting, and drawing. It was originally used in ancient Rome. It is made from animal membranes or skin. The word "vellum" is derived from the Latin word "vitulus," which means calf. High-quality vellum was made from calfskin. The best-quality vellum was made from stillborn or unborn animals. It is also known as "parchment." The paper made from calfskin was usually referred to as "vellum," while any other skin was referred to as "parchment." The manufacturing of vellum involved cleaning, bleaching, scratching the vellum on a frame, and rubbing it with a crescent-shaped knife. To store vellum, a stable environment with constant temperature and 30% relative humidity is required. Low humidity (less than 11%) will make the vellum fragile and brittle.

A Painting on Goat Skin Vellum

A Painting on Goat Skin Vellum

Quick Facts

  • Modern "paper vellum" is made from fiber and plasticized rag cotton and used for a variety of purposes, including tracing, technical drawings, and blueprints.
  • Animal vellum is now expensive and difficult to find due to low demand and a complicated manufacturing process.
  • William Cowley is the only UK company still producing traditional vellum.
  • In the U.K., Acts of Parliament are still printed on vellum, and the House of Commons Commission agreed in 2017 to provide front and back vellum covers for Act record copies.
A Modern Tipi

A Modern Tipi

2. Tipi

A Tipi is a conical tent made from animal skins. It was traditionally used by indigenous Americans who led nomadic lives. The smoke flaps at the top of a tipi distinguish it from other conical tents. It was originally used as a home by Native Americans and was made from animal skins stretched around wooden rods propped up in a conical shape. Because of the animal skins, the tipi stayed dry in rainy weather and cool when it was hot outside. In winter, the tipi was lined with canvas or calfskin to provide an extra layer of insulation. The door and camp openings face east, toward the sunrise. Tipi frames consisted of 13 to 15 poles that were 4.6 to 5.5 meters tall. The Plains Indians would occasionally paint and mark their tepees and put up signs to deter evil.

Quick Facts

  • There is still a man in America who makes tipis from buffalo hide. At least "fifteen" buffalo hides are needed to make a perfect, weather-resistant tipi.
  • When the tipi was dismantled, the poles were used to build a horse-pulled travois that was used to drag loads over land.
  • The word "tipi" comes from the Lakota language spoken by the Lakota people of the Sioux tribes.

3. Moccasin

Moccasins are footwear made of animals' skin. They are also thought to be the oldest footwear on earth. Historically, these shoes were made and used by indigenous people of Canada and North America. These shoes were designed with soft soles for a snowy area so that they can fit easily into the snowshoes. While in hilly areas, the indigenous people added hard soles, which helped with walking through the rocky land. Mostly pigskin and deer skin was used to make moccasins. These shoes were held together by thong-style leather straps with soft stitching on the upper. Buffalo-hair sagebrush bark was used as an insulation pad to keep feet warm and relaxed. Moccasins are great works of art created by artisans. Many of these have been preserved in North American museums and cultural centers. Indigenous communities across Canada still preserve them to teach new generations about moccasin-making and decorating techniques.

Quick Facts

  • Moccasins are typically made of tanned deer, moose, elk, or buffalo leather and sewn with tendons.
  • Each center-seam moccasin was handcrafted from a single piece of dyed hide.
  • Moccasins were embroidered with tiny beads strung on stiffened cotton thread and attached to the hide with a needle and thread.

4. Beaver Hats

A hat made of felted beaver pelt is known as a beaver hat. These hats were popular throughout Europe between 1550 and 1850. The soft yet resilient material could be easily combed to produce a variety of hat shapes. The pelt of the beaver's fur can be used to make three types of clothing materials: the full pelt (fur and skin), leather or suede (the skin with all the fur removed), and felts. Felt is made by removing the fur from the pelt and processing it with heat and pressure to form a piece of pliable material. Beaver hats were waterproof, and this quality made them more popular in rainy climates.

How Beaver Felt Hats Are Made

Quick Facts

  • Smaller beaver hats were sometimes referred to as beaverkins.
  • A single beaver pelt can measure up to two feet in diameter. The pelt is dark brown and can resist water damage.
  • The design of a hat denoted an individual's social status and was often treated as a family heirloom passed down from father to son.
  • In Western Europe, evidence of felted beaver hats can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which was written in the late 14th century. In this tale, Chaucer described the appearance of a merchant who was there with a forked beard, and he sat high on his horse, wearing a Flemish beaver hat.
  • Beaver hats came in many styles throughout history, including the Wellington (1820–40), the Paris Beau (1815), the D’Orsay (1820), the Regent (1825), the Clerical (18th century), the Continental Cocked Hat (1776), and the Navy Cocked Hat (19th century).
The oldest known banjo, c. 1770-1777, from the Surinamese Creole culture

The oldest known banjo, c. 1770-1777, from the Surinamese Creole culture

5. African-American Banjo

The banjo is a musical instrument used by African Americans. It is associated with folk and bluegrass and has also been used in some hip-hop. The African-style banjos were crafted from gourd bodies with animal skins stretched across them. By the time the instrument became popular, the gourd had been replaced by a flat wood or metal frame. In modern times, the banjo made from animal hide is replaced by a wooden drum. Some musicians still prefer banjos made from animal skin. There are some minor disadvantages to using a hide banjo. The presence of humidity tends to loosen an animal-hide banjo head. The musician has to re-tune the banjo in the course of a day.

Quick Facts

  • The first banjo was created 400 years ago by African slaves in the Caribbean.
  • Originally, the banjo was made from catskin, which was replaced by a wooden drum over time.
  • African instruments are distinguished from early African-American banjos by the absence of a Western-style fingerboard and tuning pegs on the necks.
  • Akonting, a spiked folk lute played by the Jola tribe of Senegambia, also resembles a banjo.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2023 EK Jadoon