How to Tan Coyote Pelts

Written by drue tibbits
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How to Tan Coyote Pelts
The brain tanning process produces soft coyote pelts. (coyote image by Sue McMurtrie from

Tanning is a process that preserves animal pelts and keeps them soft and pliable. Although larger animals such as deer and cows can be time-consuming to tan, coyotes are small enough that they make an ideal project for both the beginner and experienced tanner. The oldest and most primitive form of tanning is the brain-tanning method. The brain-tanning method is ideal for tanning coyote pelts, as it will leave the skin soft and supple while leaving the luxurious fur in place.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Fleshing knife
  • Shampoo
  • Water
  • Hairdryer
  • Sheet of plywood
  • 1-1/2 inch nails
  • Hammer
  • Coyote or cow brain
  • Kitchen blender
  • Microwave-safe container
  • Microwave
  • Squeegee
  • Steel cable

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  1. 1

    Lay the pelt, fur side down, on a hard smooth surface free of bumps or ridges. Use a fleshing knife to scrape the skin side of the pelt to remove all flesh, fat and membrane.

  2. 2

    Wash the fur side of the pelt with shampoo and water. Rinse the skin side of the pelt to remove bits of debris. This is most easily done outdoors, using a garden hose, but can be done in a bathtub.

  3. 3

    Dry the fur side of the coyote pelt with a hairdryer.

  4. 4

    Lay the pelt, skin side out, on a piece of plywood or other flat surface. Nail the pelt in place, using 1-1/2 inch nails. Position the nails around the outside edge of the pelt and stretch the pelt flat as you nail. Allow the pelt to dry thoroughly.

  5. 5

    Place the coyote brains or cow brains in a blender. Blend the brains until liquefied. Add 1 cup water and pulse to mix. Pour the brain mixture into a microwave-safe container.

  6. 6

    Heat the brain mixture in the microwave until it is warm. Do not cook the brain mixture.

  7. 7

    Remove the nails from the pelt. Use your hands to cover the skin side of the pelt with the brain mixture. Work the brain mixture into the skin until the pelt is damp and pliable. Do not let the brain mixture contact the fur.

  8. 8

    Fold the coyote pelt, skin side to skin side, and allow the pelt to rest for 24 hours.

  9. 9

    Unfold the pelt and use a squeegee to press the brain mixture out of the pelt. Squeegee the pelt until all excess moisture is removed. Allow the pelt to dry until just the edges are beginning to dry.

  10. 10

    Attach a steel cable between two sturdy trees. Holding the pelt by its edges, work the skin side of the pelt back and forth against the steel cable. Depending on the size of the coyote, it may take two people to properly pull and stretch the pelt against the steel cable.

  11. 11

    Turn the pelt periodically as you work it against the steel cable, as the coyote pelt needs to be pulled and stretched from all directions.

  12. 12

    Continue working the pelt until it is completely dry and the skin side feels like felt.

Tips and warnings

  • Alternative methods to tan coyote pelts include commercial tanning kits, salt and alum tanning, and alcohol and turpentine tanning. Each method has pros and cons, and the tanning method you select is dependent on the end-use of the pelt.
  • You can add additional protection to your tanned coyote pelt by using a process called "smoking."
  • Do not use salt on the pelt if you plan to tan it. If your pelt is salted, you must rinse the pelt to remove all traces of salt before tanning.

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