When buying American buffalo or bison hides for the first time, it can be hard to tell what type of hide is best for what you want. We have hides for robes, rugs, and for material used for crafts. But which is best for you? We’re here to explain a few basic concepts so that you know exactly what you’re buying.

Hide Grades

The first concept is ‘grade’. At Merlin’s Hide Out, we separate our buffalo hides into two basic grades: craft and superior. However, you may find additional grades mentioned in the industry when shopping for your hide.

3. Craft Grade Buffalo Hides

Craft grade refers to any hides that have noticeable imperfections. These can include a missing section of hair, holes, scarring, and blemishes. This makes the hide a bit lower quality. However, those same imperfections make the hide perfect for crafts, which is where the grade gets its name. If you’re going to be sewing or cutting or in any way transforming the hide, you can avoid those imperfections and use only the high quality part of the hide to make your craft.

2. Leather Grade Buffalo Hides

This is the middle ground between craft grade and superior grade. While it lacks the true large size and high quality of superior grade, it has less major imperfections than craft grade. Thus, it’s used for smaller products such as purses and other accessories, as well as individual pieces such as trims and fasteners.

1. Superior or Select Grade Buffalo Hides

Superior grade refers to the higher quality hide that lacks those greater imperfections. You may also see this grade of hide referred to as Select Grade. They’re usually trimmed to fairly set sizes and used whole, as a robe or rug, or in large pieces for more substantial projects (such as our Buffalo Fur Coats which take at least 2 superior grade hides). They retain minor imperfections that give each hide its unique character, but don’t have the holes or missing sections of hair that the craft grade does.

Their uses include rugs to center your room around, robes to keep you warm in your home, covers to keep you warm in your bed, and decorations to lay across your chair or hang up on your wall. When you buy a superior grade buffalo hide, you’re usually buying it for itself, not to use it in crafts. They’re good to use as soon as you bring them home.

We hand trim and inspect every hide we sell.

Prime Fur

The second concept concerns ‘prime fur’. This is entirely separate from the discussion about the grade of the hide. 

Prime fur comes from the fur animals generate during the colder months. When an animal senses the changing levels of light in the winter months, it starts to generate a dense underfur. That fur is soft and thick, and is protected by long ‘guard hairs’ on top.

A lot of research has been done on the time that each species of animal has ‘prime fur’ ready for harvest. This research goes into establishing legal trapping seasons along with the population of the species. For most use cases, you want the best fur available, and that’s prime.

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