Exotic Leather: Exploring the Different Types

Published March 10, 2021
woman with snake leather clutch

Exotic leather designer handbags are made of leathers not commonly used. Exotic leather handbags are more expensive and may require special care and maintenance.

What Is Exotic Leather?

Exotic leather is often described as any animal that isn't raised for consumption. However, there are several animals that aren't raised for farming that aren't considered exotic. For example, some leathers that aren't commonly used for handbags aren't exotic, such as deer, goat, elk, reindeer, sheep, and buffalo.

Common Exotic Leather Types

Some exotic leathers are commonly used for handbags. These exotic leathers include crocodile, snake, alligator, buffalo, and ostrich.

exotic reptile leather samples

25 Examples of Exotic Leather Types

There are approximately 50 exotic leather types that are allowed to be traded, depending on the current status of the species. The trade supply is regulated from one country to another. Besides the most commonly known exotic leathers, there are some exotic leather types that may be new to you.

  • Antelope leather
  • Armadillo leather
  • Bird leather
  • Camel leather
  • Catfish leather
  • Cod leather
  • Donkey leather
  • Eel leather
  • Elephant leather
  • Frog leather
  • Giraffe leather
  • Hippopotamus leather
  • Kangaroo leather
  • Lizard leather
  • Ostrich leather
  • Peccary leather (Central and South American pig)
  • Perch leather
  • Python leather
  • Rooster leg leather
  • Salmon leather
  • Seal leather
  • Shark leather
  • Stingray leather
  • Turtle leather
  • Walrus leather

Who Determines Exotic Leather Classifications?

The definition of exotic can differ from one country to the next. A country may not allow the harvesting of certain species that its culture considers exotic. Another country may restrict the trade of specific animals believed to be endangered in its natural habitat. Some exotic animals may not be recognized by another country. All these discrepancies can mean that not all exotic leathers are legal throughout the world.

CITES Protection of Exotic Leathers

One solution to protecting endangered exotic species was introduced in 1973. These rare species fall under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is the result of an international treaty that was created to protect endangered species and those on the brink of extinction. CITES also prevents species from ending up on the endangered list by regulating the trade of exotic animals and plants.

What Makes Exotic Leathers Desirable?

The allure of exotic leathers is often the texture they offer for a handbag. The color may be unique enough to be a stylish accessory as a handbag. Sometimes, it is simply the uniqueness of the exotic leather that makes it desirable.

Appeal of Exotic Leathers

Most exotic leathers are valued for their unique look and rarity. Another factor that makes an exotic leather bag appealing is the surface properties.

Allure of Exotic Leather Texture

The texture afforded by some exotic leathers adds intrigue and vibrancy to the bag design. For example, a snakeskin leather bag has a greater surface definition than a smooth cowhide leather. The snakeskin scales offer a unique texture and pattern that creates color variations to the overall look of the bag. When contrasted with smooth leathers, the snakeskin leather stands out and captures your attention as a fashion accessory. This exotic leather type may be the best choice of leather to show off the unique features of a handbag design.

woman's bag with snake skin imitation

Smooth Exotic Leather Textures

While alligator, crocodile, snake, and other highly textured exotic leathers are appealing, so are smoother leathers. When a leather is supple and softer to the touch than typical leather, the tactile appeal can become a major selling point for an exotic leather.

Are Exotic Leathers Superior Leathers?

Some buyers often believe that exotic leathers are superior to common leathers. They believe that exotic leathers to be more durable or have a greater resistance to wear. However, this just isn't the case. While a leather might offer a small degree of higher durability simply because the animal has scales, it isn't enough to tout it as a more durable leather.

Exotic Leather Types and Popularity

The various exotic leather types span a wide range of animals. Some exotic leathers are more commonly found in designer handbags.

Exotic Leather: Exploring the Different Types