When you think of types of leather used for cowboy boots, you probably think of cowhide leather. While certainly the most traditional and popular, it’s not the only type of leather that can make a nice boot. From crocodile and ostrich to elephant and kangaroo, custom cowboy boots can be crafted from the hide of a variety of animals.

Today we will discuss the many different types of leather used in boot making, their benefits, and why certain leathers might be better suited for specific needs.


Made from the skins of young cows under the age of three, calfskin leather is tanned to achieve a fine material with unique characteristics, widely used in the fashion industry. Known for its grain quality and strength, calfskin leather also happens to be durable, which makes it great for crafting accessories such as boots, shoes, bags, and wallets.

Thanks to its luxurious feel and sturdiness, calfskin is often used in footwear due to its comfort and flexibility.


One of the more popular exotic leathers to use for making cowboy boots, ostrich leather is considered a luxury product due to the extensive production process it must go through. In addition, there’s just not as much skin on an ostrich as on a cow, which contributes to its rarity and appeal. You’ll find a variety of patterns with ostrich leather because it can be taken from many different areas on the bird.

  • Full quill ostrich leather is a bumpy variety and originates from the main part of the animal, indicative of where the feathers were plucked.
  • Non quill ostrich has a smoother texture with less bumps and more uniformity.

No matter which type of ostrich leather is used, it’s known for its softness and durability. And because it breathes well and boasts natural oils, it resists cracking and drying. It is typically used for wallets, handbags, boots, motorcycle seats, and belts.


Rare and valuable, elephant leather is very tough and scuff-proof, making it a good choice for work boots or cowboy boots that have to stand up to extra challenges. Because there are strict regulations governing leather obtained from animals that have died of natural causes, elephant is more of a rare choice than, say, cowhide or reptile. This thick and durable leather features a course, rippled texture that is revered for its rugged look and feel.


Known for its durability and strength, kangaroo leather is also surprisingly lightweight. Used in the creation of bags, wallets, purses, jackets, sporting goods, shoes, and boots, kangaroo leather is also used for whips thanks to its supple nature and ability to be easily braided. Stronger, lighter, and more flexible than cow hide, this exotic leather features a matte texture that develops a patina pretty quickly. It also tends to darken faster than other leathers. It sports a noticeable grain and creases easily, but many people prefer this weathered look for their cowboy boots.

Alligator & Crocodile

These happen to be the most well-liked and well-known skins, but they are also among the most expensive. That’s because it takes more time and labor to make leather goods out of these materials than cowhide, for instance. Larger products may require the use of multiple skins, and that takes an eye for detail to match up.

The American alligator as the only one that can be harvested for leather. As for crocodiles, there are about two dozen species in existence that can be used for leather. Crocodiles are larger animals, and come from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. The “belly” is the largest piece of leather on an alligator or crocodile. It is often thought of as the premium cut of leather and is defined by larger, generally rectangular scales. The sides of the belly, or flanks, often have smaller, rounded scales.

In the end, the type of leather you choose for your boots and belts will come down to personal preference. We can help you decide!

Contact Little’s Boot Company

To get started on your custom cowboy boots, contact us today at (210) 923-2221. We are located at 110 Division Ave in San Antonio, and are proud to be your trusted source for custom boots, belts, and accessories. Here at Little’s Boot Company, we work with various types of leathers, such as alligator and crocodile, ostrich, elephant, lizard, kangaroo, and calf.