Cowhide has many decorative purposes. In some instances, it is also used for various functional purposes, such as for a dog's chew bones. For decoration, cowhide is used in rugs, tapestry and also in clothing, such as jackets and shoes. Curing cowhide is one good way to reduce waste, as all parts of the animal are used after slaughtering.
When you properly cure cowhide, it will appear clean and will be durable. This step is, therefore, important in the process of preparing a cow’s hide for its various uses.
Clean the hide of any flesh. The first step will involve cleaning the hide manually. You will need a knife, scraper or any sharp object to scrape off any remaining flesh, fat or muscle that’s still sticking to the hide. The best way to do this is to attach the hide onto a table or board (using tacks), and manually scraping off anything unwanted that is still attached.
Bleach the hide to disinfect. After removing all flesh, fat and other debris, you will need to disinfect the cowhide. Disinfection will remove any microorganisms or parasites that may still be present in the hide. If not disinfected, these can eat through the hide, resulting in weakness, brittleness, or tearing. Mix water and bleach in a vat or bucket (a 5 or 10 gallon bucket will usually do), preferably a non-metallic one. Immerse the cowhide in the bleach mixture for at least 24 hours.
Rinse and then immerse in saltwater. After 24 hours, rinse the cowhide thoroughly to remove the bleach. You will then need to immerse the cowhide in a mixture of water and rock salt. Leave the hide immersed in the saltwater mixture for at least 24 hours. After soaking for 24 hours, rinse the cowhide thoroughly in freshwater.
Salt the cowhide. Dry the hide and then stretch it out onto a table or platform with the hairy side on the table (the inside of the skin should be facing out). Rub rock salt on the surface of the hide, and keep the surface covered with salt. You will need a one-to-one correspondence of salt and hide by weight, meaning one pound of hide will need one pound of salt. Make sure that all surfaces of the hide are covered. Leave the salt on the hide for at least two weeks to make sure all moisture is thoroughly absorbed by the salt.
Dry the cowhide in the sun. After two weeks, hang the cowhide to dry in the sun. Leave it in this state until the hide appears to be cured.
At this point, the hide can already be tanned, cut or used in any way you intend to. Some would suggest rubbing peanut oil or any other softener to make sure the hide is soft once cured.
The same process can be used on other animal hides, which can be used for various purposes. Cowhide, sheep hide, and other animal skin can be acquired from butchers and slaughterhouses. These are usually sold at low prices, especially to wholesale buyers.