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A whole sheepskin Sheep skin for sale.jpg
A whole sheepskin

Sheepskin is the hide of a sheep, sometimes also called lambskin. Unlike common leather, sheepskin is tanned with the fleece intact, as in a pelt. [1]



Ugg boots are traditionally made from sheepskin. SuperUgg.JPG
Ugg boots are traditionally made from sheepskin.

Sheepskin is used to produce sheepskin leather products [2] and soft wool-lined clothing or coverings, including gloves, hats, slippers, footstools, automotive seat covers, baby and invalid rugs and pelts. Sheepskin numnahs, saddle pads, saddle seat covers, sheepskin horse boots, tack linings and girth tubes are also made and used in equestrianism. [3] [4]

The fleece of sheepskin has excellent insulating properties and it is also resistant to flame and static electricity. Wool is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic. [5] Sheepskin is a natural insulator, and draws perspiration away from the wearer and into the fibers. There, it traps between 30 and 36 percent of its own weight in moisture, and it is for this reason that sheepskin is commonly used to make chamois leather.

Testing at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology Leather Research Centre confirmed the advantages of medical sheepskin in the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers. [6]

Sheepskin coats, vests, and boots are common in the traditional dress of peoples throughout the Old World (wherever sheep are raised). They seem to be especially popular in the steppes of Eastern European and Northern Asia, and according to the French knight Robert de Clari, they were part of the national costume of the Cuman people who lived there circa 1200CE. In Ukraine a sheepskin coat is called a kozhukh and a vest a kozhushanka are an iconic part of the national costume, while in Russia the same coat was usually called tulup (ru:тулуп (одежда)). In Spain such a coat is called a zamarra , in Tibet a chuba , in Kazakh a ton, in Romania a cojoc,. In the English-speaking world, one may speak of a shearling coat. During the 1970s in Britain the suedehead subculture adopted this item as an identifying fashion, and it also had some popularity with hippies in North America. Sheepskin-lined Ugg boots became popular worldwide in the late 1990s.

The use of sheepskin seat covers in moving vehicles dates back centuries, [7] perhaps as long ago as the Bronze Age, when wagons and carriages were first used. The more sophisticated, tailor-made sheepskin car seat covers of the modern era have been popular in Europe for decades, and grew in great popularity in the United States in the mid 1970s. [8]


The quality of the skin used in each application depends on several factors, mostly whether the pelt, which is the back of the hide, will be visible or not. Where the pelt is visible, better quality hide with minimal seed will be used.

Seed contamination is where patches of scar tissue remain, resulting from a healed seed burrow wound during the animal's life. This scar tissue can fall out leaving small holes after the pelt is processed or it can remain in place leaving imperfections in the pelt which cannot be corrected. Seed contamination is graded as follows: [9]

  1. "No Visible Seed" - Visually free of seed contamination. This does not however mean the skin is completely free of seed, only visually free.
  2. "Light Seed" - Slight seed contamination visible in the wool but minimal mainly concentrated in the belly regions.
  3. "Medium Seed" - Light seed contamination is present over most of the wool surface but is concentrated around the belly area and the legs.
  4. "Heavy Seed" - Heavy contamination extending through the majority of the wool but especially prevalent around the belly area and the legs.
  5. "Burry" - Wool contaminated with hard seed. Can vary from light to heavy concentration. This level of seed can cause problems if it is not removed before fleshing starts as the rollers can sometimes punch them through the skin.

In general, wool affected by skin diseases is not usable. Other problems include louse infestation, dead wool and regrowth. [ citation needed ]

Skins are classed, packed and sold in standardized wool lengths:

Mouton fur

Mouton fur (North America) or beaver lamb (UK) is sheepskin which has been processed to resemble beaver or seal fur [10] (mouton is French for "sheep"). Mouton fur is lambskin whose hair has been straightened, chemically treated, and thermally set to produce a moisture-repellent finish. Mouton is often dyed brown to resemble beaver, but it is also made in many other colors.

See also

Related Research Articles

Wool Textile fibre from the hair of sheep or other mammals

Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, hide and fur clothing from bison, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids.

Wool classing Examination of the characteristics of the wool in its raw state

Wool classing is the production of uniform, predictable, low-risk lines of wool, carried out by examining the characteristics of the wool in its raw state and classing (grading) it accordingly. Wool classing is done by a wool classer.

A hide or skin is an animal skin treated for human use. The word "hide" is related to the German word "Haut" which means skin. The industry defines hides as "skins" of large animals e.g. cow, buffalo; while skins refer to "skins" of smaller animals: goat, sheep, deer, pig, fish, alligator, snake, etc. Common commercial hides include leather from cattle and other livestock animals, buckskin, alligator skin and snake skin. All are used for shoes, clothes, leather bags, belts, or other fashion accessories. Leather is also used in cars, upholstery, interior decorating, horse tack and harnesses. Skins are sometimes still gathered from hunting and processed at a domestic or artisanal level but most leather making is now industrialized and large-scale. Various tannins are used for this purpose. Hides are also used as processed chews for dogs or other pets.

Ugg boots Type of sheepskin boot from Australia and New Zealand

Ugg boots are a unisex style of sheepskin boot originating in Australia. The boots are typically made of twin-faced sheepskin with fleece on the inside, a tanned outer surface and a synthetic sole. The term "ugg boots" originated in Australia, initially for utilitarian footwear worn for warmth, and which were often worn by surfers during the 1960s. In the 1970s, the boots were introduced to the surf culture of the United Kingdom and the United States. Sheepskin boots became a fashion trend in the U.S. in the late 1990s and a worldwide trend in the mid-2000s. In Australia, they are worn predominantly as slippers and often associated with daggy fashion sense and bogan culture.

Crutching Sheep husbandry practice

Crutching refers to the removal of wool from around the tail and between the rear legs of a sheep for hygiene purposes. It can also refer to removing wool from the heads of sheep. It does not refer to the process of mulesing—a controversial procedure that involves removing of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep.

Chamois leather

Chamois leather is a type of porous leather, traditionally the skin of the chamois, a type of European mountain goat, but today made almost exclusively from the flesh split of a sheepskin.

Qiviut Soft inner wool of the muskox

Qiviuq [sg] or qiviut [pl] is the inner wool of the muskox. In Inuinnaqtun the same word can be used to refer any down such as the down feathers of birds.

Rabbit hair Fur from rabbit

Rabbit hair is the fur of the common rabbit. It is most commonly used in the making of fur hats and coats, and is considered quite valuable today, although it was once a lower-priced commodity in the fur trade.

Fur clothing Clothing made of furry animal hides

Fur clothing is clothing made of furry animal hides. Fur is one of the oldest forms of clothing, and is thought to have been widely used as hominids first expanded outside Africa. Some view fur as luxurious and warm; others reject it due to personal beliefs of animal rights. The term 'fur' is often used to refer to a coat, wrap, or shawl made from the fur of animals. The most popular kinds of fur in the 1960s were blond mink, yellow leopard, black panther, silver striped fox and red fox. Cheaper alternatives were pelts of wolf, Persian lamb or muskrat. It was common for ladies to wear a matching hat. In the 1950s, a must-have type of fur was the mutation fur and fur trimmings on a coat that were beaver, lamb fur, Astrakhan and mink.

Sheepskin boots

Sheepskin boots are boots made from sheepskin. The wool on sheepskin has good insulating properties and so such boots are commonly worn when it is cold.

Shearling Sheepskin or lambskin pelt that has gone through a limited shearing process

Shearling is a skin from a recently shorn sheep or lamb that has been tanned and dressed with the wool left on. It has a suede surface on one side and a clipped fur surface on the other. Usually the suede side is worn outward. Real shearling breathes and is more flexible, much heavier in weight and the fur is much denser than synthetic. Synthetic shearling fur is typically called sherpa. Synthetic or fake shearling has a bit of a sheen to its outer side while real shearling outer hide is dull and a bit tacky to the touch. Genuine shearling is also smoother to the touch than synthetic shearling.


A kaunakes or persis was a woollen mantle associated with ancient Mesopotamia and Persia. It was woven in a tufted pattern suggesting overlapping petals or feathers, either by sewing tufts onto the garment or by weaving loops into the fabric.

A fellmonger was a dealer in hides or skins, particularly sheepskins, who might also prepare skins for tanning. The name is derived from the Old English ‘fell’ meaning skins and ‘monger’ meaning dealer. Fellmongery is one of the oldest professions in the world and since ancient times, humans have used the skins of animals to clothe themselves, and for making domestic articles.

Glossary of sheep husbandry Wikipedia glossary

The raising of domestic sheep has occurred in nearly every inhabited part of the globe, and the variations in cultures and languages which have kept sheep has produced a vast lexicon of unique terminology used to describe sheep husbandry.

Fur Soft, thick, hairy coat of a mammal

Fur is a thick growth of hair that covers the skin of mammals. It consists of a combination of oily guard hair on top and thick underfur beneath. The guard hair keeps moisture from reaching the skin; the underfur acts as an insulating blanket that keeps the animal warm.

Kangaroo leather is a strong light weight leather derived from the hide of the kangaroo.

Shearling coat

Shearling coats are made from processed lambskin, sheepskin, or pelt. This "shearing" process creates a uniform depth of the wool fibers for a uniform feel and look. Shearling coats and garments are made from pelts by tanning them with the wool of uniform depth still on them. The result is a soft, natural fleece material that is heavy due to thickness of outer skin and degree of fur on the inside, which is quite dense. The length of the sheep fur can be fairly long, but it is typically cropped short to about two inches or five centimeters. Most find these coats to be extremely comfortable and warm. Due to the high quality and uniqueness of shearling, coats and garment are considered luxurious. Sheepskin and Shearling are synonymous. The outer must be sheepskin to be Shearling on the inside.

Kazakh clothing Clothing worn by the Kazakh people

Kazakh clothing, worn by the Kazakh people, is often made of materials suited to the region's extreme climate and the people's nomadic lifestyle. It is commonly decorated with elaborate ornaments made from bird beaks, animal horns, hooves and feet. Although contemporary Kazakhs usually wear Western dress, the Turkic people wear more traditional clothing for holidays and special occasions.

Car coat Outer garment originally made to be worn by automobile drivers

A car coat is an outer garment originally made to be worn by automobile drivers and passengers. First designed to provide maximum warmth and coverage, over time it became a much shorter garment. Today it describes a coat that typically ends at mid thigh. It is worn by both men and women.


  1. Delbridge, Arthur, "The Macquarie Dictionary", 2nd ed., Macquarie Library, North Ryde, 1991
  2. "A Brief introduction to Sheepskin Leather" . Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  3. Dressage & General Purpose Numnahs Archived 2009-01-24 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2 February 2009
  4. Sheepskin Products Retrieved on 30 July 2018
  5. Wool Facts Retrieved on 12 January 2009
  6. Pressure Ulcer Treatment Archived 2012-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Sheepskin Seat Covers History Retrieved on 15 September 2015
  8. "Best Sheepskin Seat Covers for All Weather Comfort". Knolhub. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  9. Sheepskin Seed Contamination Gradings Retrieved on 12 January 2009
  10. MOUTON Fur: the smart choice Retrieved on 12 January 2009