How to Buy a Vintage Hide Rug

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How to Buy a Vintage Hide Rug

Animal hides have been used in the home for thousands of years, and still remain a classic, chic piece of home decor. Vintage hide rugs add a touch of elegance and class to anyone’s home and, with their rising popularity, can be found more and more readily at auctions and over the Internet. One who wishes to purchase an animal hide should first learn the details. This guide offers just that, covering the various types of hide rugs, including detailed information about sheep, cow, and reindeer hides, and their advantages; tips for decorating the shopper’s home with hide rugs; how to take care of the hides; and a section informing the shopper how to buy vintage hide rugs on eBay.

Because a vintage hide rug is an investment that can be costly, it is important that the shopper be fully informed and know exactly what he or she wants before making a purchase. With this information, one is prepared to add a tasteful piece of decor to his or her home that is unique and can last a long time.

Types of Vintage Hide Rugs

Vintage hide rugs first divide into two main categories: classic and exotic. Classic hides are more readily available for a lower price; moreover, with these hides, poaching is much less of a concern. Exotic hides are more expensive, and the hides are mostly from animals native to Africa such as giraffes and zebras. To protect unwary buyers, eBay’s strict regulations weed out sellers who try to sell hides that were acquired by illegal means; however, shoppers must still use caution when shopping for exotic hides to insure he or she does not inadvertently purchase a hide that came from a poached animal.


The category of ‘classic’ vintage hide rugs can also be referred to as 'normal' animal hides. This category includes hide rugs such as sheep and cow pieces, which are not considered exotic because the animals are more common, usually farm animals whose hides are taken after they are slaughtered for their meat. This category also encompasses essentially any animal that is not classified as exotic; thus, reindeer, goats, wolverines, deer, and other non-exotic are included in ‘classic’ vintage hide rugs.


Sheep hides are one of the most common hide rugs available, and are desired for their extraordinarily soft feel, ready availability, and neutral white/off-white colouring. Shoppers have a variety of sizes to choose from when looking at sheepskin rugs, the smallest being 90 by 150 cm and the largest available measuring at 180 by 180 cm. Leather on one side and wool fur on the other, sheepskin rugs are versatile enough for shoppers to display all year round, regardless of season. The static-free, water- and flame-resistant quality of sheepskins make them ideal rugs to use throughout the home. These hide rugs can even be used in the kitchen because of their resistance to staining and pilling. The wool in sheepskins is embedded in the leather, and therefore does not shed.


Cowhide rugs are another one of the most common animal hide rugs bought by consumers. Popular among consumers for their versatility in home decorating, shoppers can find vintage cowhide rugs for relatively low prices, as well as more recently made cowhide rugs that have a more modern design. Shoppers can find budget-friendly versions of cowhide rugs at furniture department stores.

Cowhide rugs come in four basic colour variations. Brindle, also known as tiger cowhides, have stripes of brown and black running along the spine with large patches of solid chocolate brown colouring and white along the edges. The second variation is tri-colour, considered the most beautiful cowskin for its singularly unique patterns that includes white, black, and varying brown tones. The last two most common variations are black and white and brown and white cowhides. Shoppers also have the option of purchasing a patchwork cowhide rug, which is a rug made out of cowskin but not in the traditional cowhide shape. This allows shoppers to get cowhide rugs that are large enough to fill up space under bigger pieces of furniture. Yet another option is an animal print cowhide, which is a cowhide that is treated to look like a tiger, zebra, or other exotic animal skin. This allows the shopper to get a royal-looking, exotic rug for a fraction of the price.


The hides of reindeer have hollow hair that, while being plush and attractive, is easily broken by heavy foot traffic, so it is recommended that shoppers place reindeer hide rugs on floors that are rarely walked upon, or use them as wall hangings or couch covers. If used as a couch cover, the reindeer hide sheds from repeated rubbing against skin and clothes. Reindeer hides also tend to shed more in humid and hot temperatures; thus, to minimise losing hair, users must keep these hides in cool, dry areas. Depending on the age of the animal and what season it was in, each reindeer skin has a unique pattern of grey, beige, cream, and brown.


Exotic animal hide mentioned here include legally imported hides that are made up of animals not commonly found in the UK. One of the most common exotic hides is that of the Burchell’s zebra. These zebras are not an endangered species, and the hides are often acquired legally through conservation centres that work to control the population of species such as the Burchell’s zebra. Another common exotic pelt shoppers can buy is that of the kangaroo. Other exotic hide rugs available include wildebeest, giraffe, and the African springbok.

Vintage Hide Rugs in the Home

All of the classic animal hide rugs are advantageous in that they all contain neutral colours, and therefore can be placed in almost any room in the shopper’s home and still match the decor. Used to add charm to a rustic setting or as funky decor in a modern home, animal hides are extremely versatile, making them worth their price for many shoppers. With their soft appearance, hide rugs can aid in smoothing the harsher lines of furniture in a room, while stain-resistant hides such as cow and sheep pelts are ideal for use in kitchens or children’s rooms.

Decorating with Cowhides

Cowhides are the most common pelt that shoppers use to make a statement with their furniture. Because of the quality of the fur, cowhides can be laid down even in areas where there is heavy foot traffic such as living rooms, kitchens, or bathrooms. Common uses of cowhides in the home are placing a large hide rug under a dinner table to accent the entire dining area, or positioning the cowhide under a glass-topped table to show off the pelt’s signature and unique colouring. Buyers need not worry about cowhides being too delicate for households with pets: these durable, stain-resistant pieces can handle use by dogs and cats.

Cleaning and Care

Though some hides are stain-resistant, it is still important to regularly care for and clean these rugs in order to prevent a buildup of dirt and germs. If the consumer is wary of cleaning it at home, the animal hide can be sent to a carpet-cleaning professional. One should never dry-clean an animal hide, nor use bleach on them. For quick, regular cleanings, the consumer can shake out the hide outdoors and run over it gently with a vacuum.


If the consumer’s animal hide is giving off an unpleasant odour, the first step is to lay the hide out in the sun for a day or two when the weather is dry. The wind aids in removing any musty air. If the smell persists, general all-over or spot cleaning (if the smell is localized in one spot) with soap and water should rid the hide of the odour. For general cleaning, a dry powder or foam carpet cleaner should be gently rubbed over the hide, then vacuumed up. Never get the hide completely wet.


The safest way to remove wrinkles and stiffness from an animal hide is to hang it outside on a warm day, for as long as needed. Commercial steamers may also work, but these may overheat or oversteam the hide and damage it permanently.


Moisture damages the shape of the animal hide, making it important to sop up any moisture that comes in contact with it. Though most hides do repel a certain amount of water naturally, a hide that is fully saturated with water is permanent damaged unless the hide is sent to a professional to be treated.


To rid an animal hide of dirt or general stains, one can either try to lift the stain with a damp cloth, being careful not to soak the hide, or use dry spot-cleaners. For wine stains, a dry foam carpet cleaner followed by a run-over with a vacuum should remove the stain. Urine stains can be cleaned out by lifting the stain with moisture then spraying an odour-neutralising spray onto the affected area.

How to Buy Vintage Hide Rugs on eBay

More modern or recently made hide rugs can be found at certain department stores and various online sites, but eBay offers shoppers numerous vintage animal hide rugs at reasonable prices. To find the exact rug you are looking for, you can begin by going to the eBay home page. Then you can choose to either type a specific item into the search bar such as ‘vintage sheepskin rug’, or you can start with a vague query such as ‘children's rugs’ and from there use the menus to narrow down your search. The menus on eBay allow one to narrow down the results to receive more specific items, with options like condition, colour, price range, material, and style.

If you are nervous buying from unknown persons over the Internet, you can search for sellers who are rated by eBay as a Top-Rated Seller; this means that this seller has consistently received four- and five-star ratings from previous buyers and sells a minimum of 100 items a year.


Before purchasing a vintage animal hide rug, a shopper must be ensure that he or she is properly informed of all the options available in order to have confidence in the eventual decision. Animal hides are both a luxury item and yet fairly reasonably priced, and once in the shopper’s home add a rich, royal feel to any room. eBay makes it easy for the shopper to find exactly what type of animal hide rug he or she wants, whether it’s the common sheepskin or cowhide, or the more exotic zebra or other African animal. The shopper can also find out how large the animal hide is, as well as the colouring and condition of the hide, so he or she knows exactly how it fits into the decor of the home. With their long-lasting durability, animal hides can easily transform from being a piece of decor to a traditional family heirloom.

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