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Deer Hide Brain Tanning PDF Print E-mail

Brain Tanner - David MacrackenNo one really knows how long brain tanning has been practiced. The natives in the Americas utilized this technique to manufacture fine suede leather used to make clothing and other items. In most of North America deer seem to have been the preferred animal for this.

This is where the name buck skins came from, for the native style leather pants and shirts worn by Native Americans and early European settlers. The name buck skins is misleading because a doe hide will work just as well as a buck hide. Other animals were also used as well. On the Great Plains American Bison skins were brain tanned as well as other fur bearing animals in different regions of the Continent.

The way this is done is once a deer or other animal has been skinned the hide is pulled tight on a rack and all of the hair is scraped off of it. Once the hide is completely devoid of hair, the brain of the animal is boiled down to a paste and worked into the hide. This adds an oil into the hide that has tanning properties. Generally each animal has enough brain tissue to tan its own hide or an animal of equal size. Once the brains have been worked into the raw hide it is allowed to dry.

Festival Attendee in Reproduction Dress and Skins - LeggsAfter the drying process has been completed the hide is worked into soft suede. It has been reported that some natives did this by chewing the rawhide. Once the rawhide has been turned into suede it is smoked over a cool smoldering fire. This completes the tanning process adding the tan color and waterproofing.

If the hide is not smoked it will return to rawhide once it becomes wet. The smoking process prevents this from happening. Buck skins are cool in the summer and extra layers can be added in the winter for warmth. In many cases this wear was superior to what the European settlers and explorers were wearing and they were quick to adapt this utilitarian wear. Many of the paintings of the American mountain men and trappers show them adorned in buck skins. This primitive art form is demonstrated at the Ochlockonee Stone Age and Primitive Arts Festival along with many other types of primitive arts.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 February 2011 19:22