Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Kevin Dooley
Cowhide is the most commonly used leather in the world; likely your shoes, your auto interior, your luggage and your belt are all manufactured of cowhide. It is the "utility leather."
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of neiljs
Cowhide is a by-product of cattle farming and beef production; thus, cowhide is available in a practically endless and lower-cost supply versus other leathers.
A key advantage of cowhide is its sheer size; while goat skin and calf skin are soft and warm to the touch, they are impractical for upholstery or car interiors, which require larger pieces.
Cowhide does not have the texture of, for example, elephant, lizard, or alligator skin, but it readily takes stamps and textures, and so it can be manufactured to look like any of those, at a lower cost.
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Andrew Magill
Cowhide can mimic the look of other leathers, but not the feel. Even at its softest, it is stiff with little stretch to it. It is no substitute for goat skin, deer skin, nubuck, and so on, which are used to make clothing.
Cowhide is naturally thicker, and tanned to retain a tighter collagen matrix, than other leathers. Hence, it is better suited to durable items, like shoes, saddle bags and luggage.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Kevin Dooley