A deer skin at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Buckskin is the soft, pliable, porous preserved hide of an animal – usually deertanned in the same way as deerskin clothing worn by Native Americans. Some leather sold as "buckskin" may now be sheepskin tanned with modern chromate tanning chemicals and dyed to resemble real buckskin.

Traditionally, Native American Indians would scrape away the excessive fat clinging to the hide, and this would be followed by working the raw hide with the brain tissue of an animal.[1] Afterwards, the raw hide is made to envelope a fire that emits wood smoke, and where the smoke is mostly trapped inside the raw hide for many hours.[1] The combined application of brain tissue and smoke produces soft and pliable buckskin leather, with a dark honey color. This treatment differs from the traditional tanning methods used in other societies and cultures and is thought to be preferable to vegetable tanning methods where tannins are exclusively used.[1] The finished product resembles chamois leather, but is stronger.[1] Smoking gives to the leather its durability, and although Buckskin may become slightly stiff when it dries after being wet, it quickly restores itself to its former soft-state by rubbing it with the hands.[1] The application of wood smoke also deters insects from devouring it. Unsmoked buckskin is lighter, even white, in color.

Clothing made of buckskin is referred to as buckskins.

Shirt for Chief's War Dress, 19th century, Sioux, Brooklyn Museum


  1. ^ a b c d e Kephart, H. (1957). Camping and Woodcraft; A Handbook for Vacation Campers and for Travelers in the Wilderness. Vol. 2 (18 ed.). New York: The Macmillan Company. p. 309. ISBN 9781149752364. OCLC 2191524. Genuine Indian-tanned buckskin is, properly speaking, not tanned at all. Tanned leather has undergone a chemical change, from the tannin or other chemicals used in converting it from the raw hide to leather. Buckskin, on the contrary, is still a raw skin that has been made supple and soft by breaking up the fibers mechanically and has then merely been treated with brains and smoke to preserve its softness. In color and pliability it is somewhat like what is called chamois skin, but it is far stronger and has the singular property that although it shrinks some after wetting and gets stiff in drying, it can easily be made soft as ever by merely rubbing it in the hands.

Further reading