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Why Does Leather Upholstery Have Marks & Scars?


95% of leather comes from the hide of a cow; the rest is from buffaloes, but all is animal skin. As a result the grain - which is the term for the outside of the hide or skin - will have fat wrinkles, insect bite marks and healed scars & scratches that have been acquired through the animal's lifetime. Each animal is different and as a result no two hides will be the same.

The absence of these markings on a hide can actually mean the leather is of a lesser quality, because lower grade leather can be sanded to remove marks which results in a thinner leather. Pigmented leather will hide these marks to an extent because the dye will go some way to concealing them. 

Characteristics of a hidewrinkles-bites-scars-on-leather

Hump holes

This is a narrow hole or slit along the spine in leather hides typically 6-15 inches long. The hole is a result of a large hump on the back of the neck among certain breeds of cattle such Brahman cows that must be removed during tanning. Hump holes are increasingly common in upholstery leather. Leather from USA has no hump hole on it; but there is mark on the bottom.

Fat wrinkles

Wrinkles in the grain of leather caused by fat deposits in the animal. They occur around the abdomen which results in a looser grain but also around the neck as a result of the animal stretching and contracting which results in a stronger grain pattern. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation grain leather. Usually leather is taken when the cow is aged 2 but the older the cow is the more wrinkles the leather will have.

Insect bites

Where the cow is from will have an impact on how many bite marks are on the hide. As European cows live in a tempered weather; there are fewer mosquitoes this makes a more even, smoother leather, though it is generally accepted that South American cows have a better grain overall. Australian leather is of a similar quality to European leather.

Healed scratches & scars

Scars can occur for many reasons, often brushing up against thorns, branches or barbed wire fencing.  As the skin heals, the resulting scar tissue actually becomes much more dense and stronger than the surrounding skin. This means you don’t have to worry about imperfections in the natural hide being weak points in the leather - if anything they make the leather stronger and more durable. 

Brand marks

Hot and freeze branding is a technique for marking cattle to help identify the owner. However this is in decline as it can be quite painful for the animal and alternative, less intrusive methods such as ear tags and even microchip collars are on the rise, particularly in wealthier countries.

fat wrinkles on leather

Fat Wrinkles

Insect Bites on leather hide

Insect Bites

healed scars on leather

Healed scratches and scars

For more information on how to look after your leather furniture read our Leather Upholstery Care & Maintenance Guide. For other contract upholstery knowledge read our blog: Sofas & Soft Seating: 25 Points To Consider.

With thanks to ILP leather for their expertise. Their Antique Tudor range is featured on the leather sofa above.

Topics: Contract upholstery

By Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth on 13/06/19 12:38
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