There are a variety of different kinds of leather. Some kinds of leather are differentiated by the way that the leather is prepared. Animal hides can be prepared by vegetable tanning, chrome tanning, boiling, and rawhide treatment. Each different method of tanning results in a different kind of leather.
Leather that is vegetable tanned results in a leather that can be supple and strong. The one major drawback of this kind of leather is that is easily damaged by water. Exposure to water will cause the leather to change colors, shrink, and become stiff. Vegetable tanned leather gets its name due to the fact that the various vegetable materials are used to tan the hides.
Chrome tanning is a kind of leather tanning that uses salts to tan the leather. Chrome tanned leather holds its shape and suppleness better if it is exposed to water. Another benefit to this kind of leather is that it can be tanned in different colors, as opposed to vegetable tanned leather, which is varying shades of brown.
Boiling produces a kind of leather that is not traditionally used for clothes, upholstery, and other needs that require a supple leather. The boiling process produces a hard leather, and is most often used as a binding material for books.
Rawhide is a process where the animal hides are stripped down, becoming thin and rough. They are then soaked in a solution containing lime and then stretched. Rawhide is used for shoe and other types of laces, as well as drum heads.
When you are choosing the kind of leather that you want, you should consider the intended use. Leather is used for such a variety of projects that it is important to recognize what type of leather is best suited for your intended use. The kind of leather that would be used for upholstery is very different than the kind of leather that would be used for clothing or saddles.
Most kinds of leather originate from cow hides. There are, of course, other, more exotic kinds of leather available. Some, such as lamb, are relatively common, while others, such as kangaroo, are relatively rare. Leather can technically come from the hide of any particular animal, but when a kind of leather other than cow hide is used it is usually for one of two reasons.
The first is fashion. When someone wants to use a different kind of leather, such as crocodile or ostrich, it is usually to make a fashion statement. The wide variety of available textures and colors mean that there are leather choices that will suit many tastes.
The second reason that exotic or rare leathers are used is for function. Some kinds of leather have properties that make them appealing for specific uses. Depending on the intended use, you may want a leather that is stronger, softer, more supple, or more pliant. There are many different choices among species used to manufacture leather. Making the best selection will make your end product more effective and longer lasting.