Kangaroo, Cow or Cultured Leather?

Let’s start by saying we’ve never sold any leather briefcases or travel bags made from kangaroo hide.

Our curiosity was roused by finding out that Asic, Adidas and Nike have all used this leather for football and rugby sports boots. And for an excellent reason: this hide is incredibly strong. It has a tensile strength about ten times greater than a normal cow leather. Plus the fact that it’s naturally thinner and lighter, and you’ll appreciate why sportsmen and women want footwear made from it.

But it’s not true that kangaroo shoes help you jump a lot higher!


The reason that kangaroo and cow hides are so unalike is simple.

It’s the contrast between a large four-footed domesticated animal that is fed and watered, and a wild two footed animal that survives on far less water and rough foraging.

The two leather types are completely separated by species and biology.

There’s considerable controversy about the business derived from kangaroos.

There are in fact over fifty different species, but it’s the larger ones that are sourced commercially. The meat is very popular as a very low fat product, and exported all over the world.


The problem arises over whether they should be culled at all.

The Australian government has put in place legislation that oversees the commercial exploitation of kangaroos and wallabies, and regular censuses take place.

There’s also a very compelling argument that cattle and sheep have done considerable damage to the environment, due to the naturally arid climate of the country: but then you should refer to Allan Savoury’s famous video on the effect of regular grazing and desertification to hear the counter argument.


Oppostion to the use of kangaroo leather has lead to Adidas dropping it from their product ranges last year, and other brands have also come under pressure from animal rights protection organisations.

However it remains the top choice for manufacturers of items as diverse as motorcycle leathers, whips, bush hats and falconry accessories!

As natural resources are under more intense pressure each passing day, and technical advances produce new materials and treatments of existing ones, it is facinating where this may lead.


In recent years there’s always been a call for leather-look materials that can offer a cheap substitute for the real thing.

Looking back to the mid 1980s there was “elephant grain” – an inexpensive but effective synthetic material, that was made up into all kinds of fashion handbags and briefcases. It was too thin to be used for larger luggage items.

This was followed by a thicker gauge version called “koskin”, short for Korean Skin, which was softer and had quite an extremely realistic finish.

When our customers examined it first of all, we had to assure them it was genuine plastic, the best money could buy!

Koskin was made up into every shape and size of design, right through to travel bags and suitcases, and still is in use today.


Scientists have also been making great strides with tissue cultures.

Remember Dolly the test-tube sheep born in 1996? A great research effort has explored what’s possible in the laboratory rather than on the farm or in the outback.

“Victimless Leather” is a movement that appeared in 2004, to promote the idea of leather produced this way.

The latest news is that “cultured” leather is becoming a distinct reality. Professor Gabor Forgacs is the leading proponent of this.

Interviewed on Radio 4 in 2013, he predicted that this could be available in commercial quantities within a year or two. And the interesting proposition is that this “leather” will be just like the real thing, and could be grown to any size to suit the manufactured article.

After a career watching the development of leather and leather substitutes, this is the most fascinating prospect of the lot.

“The Cultured Leather Briefcase Company” may arrive in the not so distant future?

In the meantime, we’re still here, and please visit us at https://www.theleatherbriefcase.co.uk/