Hair, Hides and Tallow
Nature Bulletin No. 589-A January 31, 1976
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
HAIR, HIDES AND TALLOW
Since prehistoric times, especially in cold and temperate climates,
mankind has depended upon hairy mammals for food and for materials
to fashion clothing, shelters, weapons, implements and ornaments.
Some of our American Indians had not progressed much beyond that
when the white man came. They were Stone Age people.
example, the Dakota or Sioux were nomads who roamed the Great
Plains, attempted no agriculture, and depended entirely upon the
millions of bison. (See Bulletin No. 324-A). Their only domestic animal
and beast of burden was the dog. Their portable tipi (See No. 555-A)
was a conical framework of slender poles covered with hides of the
buffalo. Its flesh was their chief food. Surplus meat was dried into
"jerky" to be eaten in emergencies, or -- pulverized and mixed with
tallow, marrow, and berries -- to make pemmican. (See No. 257-A).
They used every part of the animal, including its horns, bones, sinews
and hoofs. Brains and tallow were used in preparing skins for robes,
shirts, moccasins, leggings, pouches, parfleches, etc. Raw hides were
stretched over the frames of shields, saddles, and the tub-like bullboats
for crossing streams. Buffalo droppings or "chips" were the only fuel on
those treeless plains.
The pioneer explorers, hunters and settlers in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana
and Illinois found a country teeming with buffalo, elk, bear, deer and
the smaller furbearers, as well as wild turkeys and other game birds.
Men like Daniel Boone, Abraham Hanks and George Rogers Clark
adopted the Indian's dress and many of his skills. The early settlers
A pioneer wore moccasins of deer or buffalo skin, thigh-length
buckskin leggings, buckskin shirt, and a broad leather belt which held
his powder horn, bullet bag, skinning knife and tomahawk. Only the
coonskin cap was his own design.
The settler used game and, later, domestic animals, for many purposes
other than food and clothing. Frequently, in building a cabin, rawhide
thongs were used to secure the rafters and tie down the ends of the
clapboards or "shakes" on the roof. The door might be hung on rawhide
hinges. On his bed, stretched thongs supported a bearskin mattress or a
Tallow from buffalo and deer was used to convert deer hides into
buckskin. Bits of it were scrupulously saved for use in "grease lamps" --
a gourd or scraped out turnip. As soon as a family acquired a big iron
kettle, tallow was used to make candles and soft soap. (See Nos. 544-A
Commercial tallow, today, is the hard fat or suet about the stomachs,
kidneys and loins of cattle and sheep. Some of it is used by candle
manufacturers, and some in making oleomargarine, but the principal use
is in soaps.
In Chicago there is a hide, hair and tallow market similar to those
trading in grain, livestock and produce. Hair, obtained from tanneries
where it is separated from "green" hides, is used for padding in
upholstery, mats beneath carpets and rugs, pipe coverings and other
products. Hides, of course, are used to make leathers and the prices
fluctuate according to the supply of and demand for such items as
"northern trimmed" horsehides, sheep pelts, cowhides, slunks (unborn
calf skins), kipskins, and heavy calfskins.
To return to the Nature Bulletins Click Here!
Update: June 2012