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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Rawhide 

The “Mexican Iron” of the Old West

By John Brand, Buckaroo Leather, Diamond Springs, CA

 

March 2013 issue  

 

      You may have heard the term “rawhide” — and I am not talking of the 1960s TV series starring Clint Eastwood — when speaking about different types of leather horse tack. Rawhide is the hide of an animal that has been kept in its natural state and has not been treated.

      This is different from the leather process. Leather is the hide of an animal that has been altered by a special “pickling” process called “tanning.” After this process is completed the hide is termed “tanned.” These different processes make the look and feel of leather quite different than the look and feel of rawhide. Leather’s strength and utility properties are also different than those of rawhide.  

 

Photos show a rawhide bosal, riata, chair seat, old rawhide-covered saddle tree and romel.

      Most rawhide originated from the skins of buffalo, deer, elk or cattle. It was prepared by removing all the fur, meat and fat. The hide was then usually stretched over a frame before being dried. The resulting material was hard and translucent.

      It could be then shaped by rewetting and forming before being allowed to thoroughly re-dry. The rawhide was rendered more pliable by bending repeatedly in multiple directions. This happened by rubbing it over a post and even sometimes using a traditional method of chewing. The rawhide was also oiled or greased for a degree of waterproofing.  

 

      Rawhide was one of the most useful products of the pioneer cattleman. From it he made ropes, hobbles, clotheslines, bedsprings, seats for chairs, overcoats, trousers, and shirts. The rawhide was used to patch saddles and shoes. Strips of rawhide were used to bind loose wagon tires or lash together pieces of broken wagon tongue. It was also used as a substitution for nails.

      Indians used the rawhide to make drum heads and shield covers. Rawhide was so tough and durable it was known as “Mexican Iron.” That is why the vaqueros used this “Mexican Iron” for their beautiful horse tack.

      The vaqueros used many types of fancy, braided rawhide horse equipment during their daily activities in the Old West. It was common to see the vaqueros using these beautifully-crafted, braided-rawhide headstalls, bridle reins with romels, riatas, hobbles, quirts, hackamores, and bosals. The vaqueros took special pride in having good-quality braided rawhide equipment and a well-trained horse.  

      Buckaroo Leather has been serving the Western horseman for more than 30 years, by manufacturing the highest-quality, American-made horse tack, and providing unmatched customer service. Visit www.buckarooleather.com, or call Buckaroo John 800-873-0781.

 

 

    

Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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