Cowhide rugs and decor add natural texture and warmth to any space. As an interior design element, cowhides can be used in both classic and contemporary settings. From rustic to modern spaces, cowhide brings unique aesthetic appeal and versatility.

A Brief History of Cowhides

The use of cowhide in decor spans centuries and cultures. Cowhides have traditionally been used as rugs, blankets, and clothing among nomadic peoples in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Some key points in the history of cowhide decor:

  • Indigenous tribes of North America, such as the Sioux and Navajo, used cowhides for teepees, blankets, and moccasins. They tanned hides using natural techniques like smoking.
  • In ancient Rome, cowhide was used for armor, shields, boots, and belts. Stretching and drying cowhide is an ancient technique to create leather.
  • In the Victorian era, mounted cowhides on stretchers came into fashion. They were used as decorative floor pieces or wall hangings.
  • Cowhide rugs grew in popularity in 20th century modern and minimalist interior design. The natural texture and colors were embraced.

From ancient practical uses to modern interior décor, cowhide continues to be utilized for its beauty and versatility as a design element.

Types of Cowhide Rugs and Decor

There are a few basic types of cowhide used in home décor:

Raw/Natural Hides

  • These are unprocessed or minimally processed hides with the hair still intact. They display natural cow coat colors and patterns.
  • Natural shapes and sizes vary since they are uncut hides. Average dimensions are about 6 x 8 feet.
  • Benefits include rugged, rustic aesthetic and eco-friendly appeal. Raw hides are best for casual, ranch style rooms.

Tanned Hides

  • These hides are tanned to preserve and soften the leather. The hair is removed in the tanning process.
  • Tanning results in soft, supple leather with color options added through dyeing or staining.
  • Tanned hides showcase leather’s natural beauty. They are well-suited to living spaces and high-traffic areas.

Shearling Hides

  • Shearling hides have the leather side tanned and the wool side sheared to a uniform nap.
  • Shearling brings the coziness and warmth of sheepskin to cowhide’s superior strength and hardiness.
  • Its adaptable texture and drapability enhance any setting. Shearling hides are great for bedrooms and seating.

Other varieties:

  • Splits: The underside of a cowhide that retains the suede-like texture. Splits are used for upholstery or rugs.
  • Hair-on tanned: Tanned leather with hair intact in a uniform length. Used on stools, ottomans, pillows.
  • Patched: Multiple hides stitched together for larger sizes. Great for layering over floors and furniture.

Benefits of Using Cowhide in Interior Design

Why is cowhide a go-to material for rugs, blankets, and upholstery?

  • Natural material with organic textures and colors that add warmth.
  • Extremely durable and stain resistant. Withstands high foot traffic.
  • Softer and more flexible than many rugs when properly treated.
  • Unique natural variations and markings on each hide.
  • Timeless rustic look works in many aesthetics: modern, bohemian, traditional, rustic and more.
  • Natural insulation provides heat in winter and cooling in summer.
  • Sustainable and environmentally friendly. A by-product of the beef industry.

Cowhide offers striking aesthetics and rock-solid performance.

Styles and Placement of Cowhide

Cowhide accessories complement a wide range of interior design aesthetics. They provide the perfect finishing touch in any room when thoughtfully integrated.

Rustic Styles

Raw, untreated cowhides feel right at home in rustic cabin settings. The natural shapes and textures emphasize the rural charm.

  • Extend a cowhide area rug from a distressed wood dining table to chairs for an authentic farmhouse look.
  • Layer patchwork hair-on hides over hardwood floors for a cozy, welcoming cabin vibe.
  • Drape raw hides over railings, benches, and ottomans to accentuate rugged furnishings.

Contemporary Styles

The adaptability of cowhide makes it the perfect way to inject organic texture into sleek, modern rooms.

  • Use a solid black or white tanned hide rug to create contrast in an open concept living space.
  • Accent a neutral colored sofa with throw pillows made from shearling cowhide.
  • Display hair-on tanned pillow covers or poufs on a low white coffee table for an inviting look.

Boho Chic Styles

For bohemian inspired spaces, cowhide adds free-spirited vibe along with natural beauty.

  • A cowhide rug with varied neutral tones complements the layered textures of boho style.
  • Draped over a side chair, patchwork cowhide displays the casual refinement bohemian designs embrace.
  • Incorporate cowhide upholstery like ottomans or headboards to create a relaxed yet elevated bedroom suite.

Traditional Styles

Don’t overlook the potential for cowhide to provide the “wow factor” in traditional décor as well.

  • Ground a formal living space with a cowhide area rug topped by elegant furniture.
  • Adorn hardwood stair treads with hair-on cowhide runners to lend rustic warmth.
  • Use cowhide dining chairs or bar stools to soften stately furnishings with organic contrast.

Placement Tips

  • Living room – Layer cowhide rugs over hardwood or tile. Use shearling on chairs and sofas.
  • Bedroom – Cowhide accent rug at the foot of the bed or seating bench. Poufs and throw blankets.
  • Dining – Area cowhide rug. Upholster dining chairs in hair-on hide.
  • Office – Tanned hide desk mat. Hair-on pillows on lounge seating.
  • Entryway – Rawhide or shearling runner. Coat hooks or a hall tree made from cow antlers.
  • Bathroom – Small cowhide rug next to tub. Hide shower curtain.

Caring for Cowhide

Cowhide is durable, but proper care preserves its beauty and extends its lifespan. Here are key cowhide care tips:

  • Vacuum regularly using low suction and brush attachment.
  • Spot clean spills quickly using mild soap and water. Avoid excessive moisture.
  • Dry hair-on hides fully after cleaning. Hang outdoors if possible.
  • Rotate rugs every few months to spread out wear. Periodically reverse layout.
  • Store hides out of direct sunlight to prevent fading. Allow air circulation.
  • Condition leather 2-3 times per year with leather conditioner. Do NOT use mink oil.
  • Avoid letting cowhides get too warm. Heat can dry out and crack leather.

With periodic cleaning and conditioning, cowhide furniture and décor can last for decades.

Unique Characteristics of Cowhide

No two cowhides are exactly the same. Here are some of the special markings and features you may notice:

  • Brand marks: Hide branding done by ranchers to label cattle. Brands create a one-of-a-kind pattern.
  • Neck wrinkles: The loose hide around a cow’s neck creates wrinkles when stretched and dried.
  • Horn holes: Visible if a cow’s horns were removed. These serve as a reminder of the animal.
  • Insect bites or scars: Imperfections show the cow’s real life experience. Minor marks add antique character.
  • Coat coloring: Depends on cow breed. Can range from black, brown, tan, spotted, or white.
  • Size: Dimensions vary based on the age and breed of cattle. Average is about 6 x 8 feet.

Celebrate the animal origins and natural imperfections. They add to the beauty and character of genuine cowhide.

Popular Types of Cows for Hides

Cattle hides come from a range of cow breeds. Here are popular varieties used for cowhide leather and fur:

Black Angus

  • Originated in Scotland, raised worldwide for beef.
  • Solid black coat ranging from jet black to soft charcoal.
  • Thick, luxurious hides make durable leather. Long hair provides a plush sheepskin effect.


  • Herefordshire, England is origination location. Red body with distinctive white face/markings.
  • Thick hides have an attractive white and red marbled leather once processed.
  • Often crossed with Black Angus for an ideal meat and hide yield.


  • Originated in Europe. Main dairy cow breed. Distinctive black and white spotted coat.
  • Not typically used for leather due to thin hides from high milk production. Better for shearling.
  • Woolly white portions contrast beautifully when sheared into shearling pelts.

Texas Longhorn

  • As named, originally bred in Texas. Adaptive cattle for rugged landscapes.
  • Color variations of orange, yellow, white, brown. Unique horn span up to 7 feet tip to tip.
  • Lean hides have a distinct grain. The leather makes decor and accessories like belts.

Other Regional Cattle

  • Wagyu – Japan
  • Spanish Fighting Bull – Spain
  • Scottish Highland
  • Brahman – India
  • Afrikaner – South Africa

Discover hides from local cattle breeds for regionally inspired décor.

Ethical Sourcing of Cowhides

With any animal product, ethical sourcing should be a priority. Here are tips for identifying ethically sourced cowhides:

  • Look for “by-product” hides. These come from cows raised for meat production rather than solely for hides. This reduces waste in the food production system.
  • Certifications to look for: Leather Working Group, Responsible Wool Standard, or Clevercare symbol. These indicate sustainable practices were used.
  • Avoid endangered cattle breeds. Certain rare breeds should not be used for hides to support conservation.
  • Buy locally-sourced. Purchasing hides from nearby cattle farms helps reduce the environmental impact of transport.
  • Trace fur origins. Shearling and hair-on hides must come as a by-product of meat production. Never from angora farms where animals are raised solely for fur.
  • Research brands and tanneries. Look into sourcing policies and sustainability practices before purchasing cowhide products.

With care and research, cowhides can be an ethical, eco-friendly design choice.

DIY Cowhide Projects

Looking to work with cowhide yourself? Here are some DIY project ideas to try:

Mounted Display

  • Stretch and mount a raw cowhide on a wood frame to create an eye-catching wall hanging.
  • Choose a simple, unstained frame design to keep the hide as the focal point.
  • Decide whether to display hair-side out or the suede underside based on your decor.

Pillow Covers

  • Cut tanned or shearling cowhide into squares or rectangles to make pillow covers.
  • Finish the cut edges carefully for a clean look. Use leather edging or rolled seams.
  • Attach a sturdy envelope-style backing to the hide pieces to complete the pillows.


  • Sew several cowhide pieces together to create a patchwork rug larger than any single hide.
  • Arrange and orient the pieces deliberately for the desired pattern and texture.
  • Stitch the hides together securely. Fringe or bind the outer edges for a finished look.

Ottoman or Stool

  • Use rigid upholstery foam and plywood to construct a stool or ottoman frame.
  • Stretch and staple cowhide over the frame, smoothing wrinkles as you work.
  • Fold edges under and secure to create a tailored finish.

With some carpentry skills and textile experience, it’s possible to create your own cowhide furniture or decor.

Design Inspiration

Need a little inspiration for working cowhide into your home? Here are some eye-catching examples of cowhide used in interior design:

White and grey living room with cowhide rug

A natural raw cowhide adds rustic contrast to sleek furnishings in this living room. The multi-toned hide prevents the space from feeling overly matched.

Dining chairs upholstered in white shearling cowhide

These cozy shearling dining chairs provide a fun twist on traditional upholstery. The cowhide softens the formal dining space.

Bedroom with cowhide bench and pillows

Repeating cowhide on the bench and throw pillows pulls this bedroom together. The hides add natural texture without overpowering the light, airy feel.

Black and white cow print rug

The iconic black and white cow pattern makes a bold statement as a living room rug. It still feels fresh and modern.

Get inspired by these stylish examples of cowhide adding the perfect final touch. Let your creativity run wild!


What are the differences between cowhide, leather, and suede?

  • Cowhide is the entire raw, untanned skin from cattle with the hair or fur intact.
  • Leather is processed cowhide with the hair removed and the skin tanned for durability.
  • Suede is leather that’s been brushed or treated for a soft napped finish on the underside.

How much does cowhide cost?

  • Cost varies based on size, quality, and type. Expect to pay:
  • $100-$300 for a raw hide 6 x 8 feet
  • $50-$150 for a tanned hide
  • $250+ for a shearling hide
  • Larger oversized hides and custom products cost more. Sale or discount hides can be under $100.

Should I get real or faux cowhide?

  • Real cowhide offers unbeatable durability, unique natural variations, and authentic texture that artificial materials lack.
  • Faux is lower maintenance and more budget-friendly. It can be a vegan alternative if you avoid animal products.
  • Consider placement and usage when deciding. Real hide works best in high-traffic spots.

How do I clean and care for cowhide?

  • Vacuum gently using low suction on hairy sides. Spot clean spills right away.
  • Sanitize leather by rubbing it down with a diluted vinegar solution.
  • Use leather conditioner to moisturize hides 2-3 times per year. Avoid applying oils like mink oil.
  • Rotate rugs every 3-6 months to spread out wear. Brush nap on shearling occasionally.

Is cowhide ethical?

  • Cowhide can be an ethical choice if sourced properly as a by-product of the food industry rather than unethically mass-produced solely for hides.
  • Look for “by-product” hides as well as responsible certification labels. Research brands for ethical practices.


With limitless design potential, cowhide offers the perfect raw, rugged, yet sophisticated touch to any space. Use cowhide’s beauty and versatility to enhance your interior while honoring its origins. Allow each unique hide to inspire new creative possibilities for your home.

Whether quaint cottage charm or big city edge, cowhide delivers on quality, aesthetics, and meaning, time after time. With proper selection and care, a cowhide rug or décor piece will provide enduring style and comfort for years to come.