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September 09, 2022 3 min read

by Joanna Smykowski

Joanna does quite a few things in life, but writing has been her favorite by far. She is a city girl who has moved to a beach town, and second to writing, will never tire of music, travel, and the friendships she makes as a result of both.


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Not all leather is the same. Qualities range based on the type of grain. There are many different animal hidesused to make leather, including:

There are also bison and buffalo.

Bison and buffalo leather seem similar and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. In spite of this, they are different. Bison and buffalo are two different animals, making their leathers different as well. How can you tell the difference? What similarities do they have?

What is Bison Leather?

Bison are large bovines in the genus Bison within the tribe Bovini. They used to roam the plains of the earth much more. Today, many species of bison are extinct. There are two surviving species left. Of the two surviving species, the American bison is more common and found only in North America. European bison is the other. Bison leather is leather that has come from the American Bison.

What is Buffalo Leather?

Buffalo is the name that has been colloquially used for American Bison. A true buffalo is another species entirely. Buffalo is a subtribe of wild cattle that includes various species. Species include the African buffalo and the wild water buffalo. Buffaloes can be found naturally in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Because the term buffalo can be used to describe bison, the way to distinguish whether it is true buffalo leather is by looking at its origins. If the leather comes from Asia or Africa, it is true buffalo leather.

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Bison vs. Buffalo Leather

Is there a difference in the leather for the two animals that seem like they could be similar? Leather is like a snowflake - unique to the animal. There are distinctions between the two animals, and therefore their hides.

Both types of leather are durable materials. Bison leather is tanned using vegetable tanning, meaning it is not waterproof. It is also more prone to marks and sensitive to any cleaners. It stains easily from water as well. Bison is thicker than other leathers. It has an average of 40% more textile strength than cowhide. Because it is thicker, it is slightly more expensive than other leathers and the hide is smaller.

Buffalo hides are tanned using organic materials but are not stretched either, similarly to bison. Both types of leather have a grainy pattern.

Bison vs buffalo leather

Is This Leather For You?

After all of this, do you have a preference?

Getting into the nitty-gritty of leather types is another level of leather love. Both types of leather are strong materials, so their longevity is never something you need to worry about as long as you care for them properly. What you mostly need to concern yourself with is the price point and the look.

If a more expensive leather is in your budget, then go for it! Next, you’ll have to make sure you like the look of the leather. For some, grainy leather is not appealing. There are other leathers that are more smooth, and it may just be a matter of getting a different type of grain. We’ve spoken about leather grains before on our blog, and that could be a good starting point.

Independence Brothers can help you wherever you are on your leather journey. We specialize in custom leather pieces and making them affordable for our customers. If you want bison or buffalo, chat with us! We can walk you through all of the leathers we have available to create your piece or shop ready-to-wear. We can also answer any other leather questions you may have, whether it is about leather care, fashion pairings, and more.


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