Latigo and harness leather are two of these types used in making horse tack and dog collars, among other things. They vary in the way they are cured, what animal they come from, and how hard or soft the end result is.
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Latigo and harness leather both come primarily from cattle. A large amount of harness leather also comes from pigs. The pigskin harness leather is used to make the seats on saddles. Cattle-hide harness leather is more versatile, since it is used in other parts of the saddle as well as other items.
Latigo and harness leathers differ in the tanning process. Latigo leather is tanned twice. First, it is tanned in minerals, usually chromium salts or alum. Then it is tanned a second time in vegetable materials. The mineral tanning, especially chromium, gives it a slightly grey colour when it is cut and viewed crosswise. Harness leather is tanned in vegetable materials only.
Latigo leather and harness leather are very different in their suppleness and flexibility. Latigo is soft, very supple and slightly stretchy. Animal fat or other chemicals are added to harness leather, making it harder, stiffer and more durable. It is not stretchy and will hold its shape rather than stretch to accommodate a new shape. Harness leather can withstand more abuse.
Tooling is the process of decorating leather, usually by special tools. Leather can also be stamped, cut and braided. Harness leather can be worked in many ways, but latigo should be treated with more care. It can be stamped with designs, braided or laced together, but cannot be tooled. It is not tough enough to withstand the mechanical implements used for other leather decoration.
The major difference between harness and latigo leather, besides the suppleness, is how they are used. Harness leather is called such because that is its major function. It is made into saddles and stiff collars for animals. Latigo is the Spanish word for "whip" or "whip lash" because this type of leather is used to make whips. It is often cut into long strips and can be used to lace things, making it a type of lace leather. Latigo compliments harness leather, since it can be used to make cinches for saddles, reins for bridles, and other items that need to be thin and flexible.
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