Bison: Leather

Virginia Bison Co. leather is produced from our heard of about 350 bison and harvested at processing time.  We have selected six main colors for the tanning process and we sell both split hides and finished leather crafts for sale directly at our retail market store at the farm or through our Ebay and Etsy online stores.  The six colors include black, cognac, walnut, saddle tan, ox blood and walnut. The side link will take you to each page for a view of each of these colors.

All leather products are made by our crew at the farm.  While it is often difficult or impossible to fulfill many special request orders, we are always open to entertaining inquiries and ideas that may lead to a new product idea or an improved modification to an existing design, so please do contact us with any questions that you may have.

Softer & Stronger

Bison leather is much softer and more pliable than most beef leather right out of the tanner’s shop.  There are many after-tanning processes that all leather can undergo to generate more pliability or more rigidity, so one can find rigid bison leather or super soft beef leather, but this generality of softer and more pliable bison leather is the norm.  While being softer and more pliable, it is also very strong.  We have experienced moccasins made from beef leather that lasted 12-18 months before wearing thin with holes in the sole, while bison moccasins of the same thickness of leather have lasted for more than 3 years before experiencing similar wear.  Bison string leather is much harder to pull apart (as in laces) over time and usage than is beef leather of the same thickness.

You should be aware that purchasing Virginia Bison Company leather or leather products will have artistic variation.  Also, the bison are raised locally in Virginia, processed locally in Maryland by hand and products sold locally in the DC, VA and MD region, thus we are at the mercy of the local family owned and operated processing facilities in our region that are harvesting these hides by hand, which results in an increase in variability of quality.  We have a money back guarantee on all products (excluding return shipping) so that you are not left with a hide or a finished leather product that did not match your desire or expectation, but please be aware of this topic before you make a final purchasing decision.

Tanning Method

Virginia Bison Company leather is chrome-tanned, which uses a chromium salt that is found and extracted from nature in places of volcanic activity.  It is considered a far safer and less toxic material to work with than previous industry materials and is considered the leading choice by responsible tanneries.

Quality & Variability

Pebbled Hides

We deal in both pebbled and skived hides.  Bison skin is naturally very pebbly and has really great texture, as you can see by the swatches on this page (which are all pebbled hides), but it is also quite variable in thickness with the back (top half) of the hide thick and the belly (bottom side) being thin.  The neck is thin and the rump is thick.  The pebbling is a beautiful and artistic flow of texture and color variation that generates unique and creative pieces, but is more of a challenge to work with.

Skived Hides

The process of thinning the skins during tanning presents as a skived hide, which is nearly even in thickness (within about 1-2 mm difference from back to belly or rump to neck), but when the hide is thinned like this, it looses a large percentage of the pebbling.  Pebbled hides are really great to work with leather-craft projects, such as wallets, whereas the skived hides are perfect for larger projects like pillows and for upholstery work.

All hides (whether beef or bison) come off the carcass with a wide degree of variability.  The belly section is always thinner, softer, more pliable and absorbs the tanning dyes differently.  The back section is always thicker, more rigid and has a darker absorption of tanning dyes.  The skin texture moving from top to bottom and from front to back also has a wide degree of variation that appears alligator-like in places, beef-like in places and elephant-like in places.    The consistency that is often found in the construction of leather chairs or couches generally comes from beef leather that has gone through a process to provide a minimum amount of texture and to eliminate the possibility of color variation throughout the finished product.