I have an affinity for animal skins. Not only do I drive a car with leather car seats and carry an alligator pocketbook, I order Peking duck just for the skin.
But what I really love is animal skin rugs, particularly cowhides, which are a growing trend. For years I’ve admired cowhide rugs displayed in various home décor magazines but have had no idea where to buy one. Ethan Allen hasn’t strayed far from floral garland rugs and as far as I know Barth’s Meat Market doesn’t sell home accessories.
I searched online and found a lot of sites selling synthetic hides made to look authentic, but I wanted the real thing. Other sites advertised genuine hides but looked sketchy, like the one that advertised, “We carry a huge array of cowhides,” which seemed promising until I read a customer complaint: “I want my money back. What kind of cowhide is scarred with saddle marks, flecked with frosting and sheds like a pony?”
Another site offering deals for inexpensive authentic animal hides listed great prices. I located a real cowhide, but discovered upon closer examination that it was blemished with writing. I’m all in favor of the cowhide being the secondary purpose after meat, but I didn’t want a rug branded, “Angus Beef.”
I was ready to give up and go faux, when an auspicious ski trip brought me to a home design boutique in Manchester, Vermont that sells cowhide rugs. I took one look at the beautiful soft and supple hides and knew a mock hide would never do.
I inquired about the nature of the hides and they told me they buy from a wholesaler that sells the highest quality stock from the most reputable tanneries in Brazil. They offered rugs in small, medium, and woolly mammoth. I chose the medium in solid white and had it shipped home.
My new cowhide looked gorgeous in front of my living room fireplace. Unfortunately, not everyone who entered my home shared that sentiment.
“What was that, a polar bear?” my friend Leslie asked when she popped over to pick up her daughter.
“No, it was a cow,” I said.
Did you get it off the set of Conan the Barbarian?” She quipped.
“No, I didn’t. And it’s not barbaric, it’s exotic,” I said.
“Since when is a cow exotic?”
“I don’t know. . .since I grew up in the city?”
“Well, I’m just not into dead animals as decoration,” she said. “The only dead animal parts I want in my house are the ones I’m going to eat. How can you destroy a cow’s life for the sake of vanity?” she asked. Then she shifted her Coach leather bag to her other arm.
“It’s not killed just for the hide,” I argued. The hide is a byproduct of an animal that’s already being raised for beef. And it’s durable. It’ll last a lot longer than those burgers we ate for dinner last night.”
“I’ll give you that one,” she said, and jumped up suddenly. “I almost forgot, I’ve got to get home, I’m expecting a delivery!”
“What are you having delivered?” I asked.
“A leather sofa.”