Rawhide is a hide or animal skin that has not been exposed to
tanning. It is much lighter in color than leathermade by traditional vegetable tanning. The skin from buffalo, deer, elkor cattlefrom which most rawhide originates is prepared by removing all fur, meatand fat. The hide is then usually stretched over a frame before being dried. The resulting material is hard and translucent. It can be shaped by rewetting and forming before being allowed to thoroughly re-dry. It can be rendered more pliable by 'working', i.e. bending repeatedly in multiple directions, often by rubbing it over a post, sometimes traditionally by chewing. It may also be oiled or greased for a degree of waterproofing.
It is often used for objects such as
whips, drumheads or lampshades, and more recently chew toys for dogs. It is thought to be more durable than leather, especially in items suffering abrasion during use, and its hardness and shapability render it more suitable than leather for some items. For example, rawhide is often used to cover saddle trees, which make up the foundation of a western saddle, while wet: it strengthens the wooden tree by drawing up very tight as it dries, and resists the abrasion regularly encountered during stock work or rodeo sports. Rawhide is, however more susceptible to water than leather, and will quickly soften and stretch if left wet unless well waterproofed.
Wet rawhide has been used by some earlier cultures as a means of
tortureor execution, gradually biting into or squeezing the flesh of body parts it encloses as it dries. When exposed to sunlight, a strip of wet rawhide that was stretched tightly around the forehead of the bound victim would shrink; as the material dried and if left unattended, the victim's skull slowly cracks as a result of the pressure.Fact|date=May 2008
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