The leather used in making shoes, handbags, belts, gloves wallets, and many kinds of clothing, furniture, and sports equipment is really the skin of animals. Usually it is taken from the hide of cattle, but pigs, sheep, goats, and calves are also used.
This skin goes through several processes before it is ready to be made into products people use. First, all the hair and flesh are removed from the skins. Then the skins are cured, or treated with chemicals, to make them soft and flexible, and keep them from rotting. This is done by tanning the leather either by the mineral tanning process or the vegetable tanning process, depending on the final use for the leather.
Mineral tanning, which uses acid and salt, is used on leather which will be used for handbags, clothing, wallets, belts, and the top parts of shoes. Vegetable tanning, which uses tannic acid from leaves and wood of trees, is used on heavy leather which will be made into the soles of shoes, cases, harnesses, and industrial belts.
The ancient Egyptians were so skilled at making leather that pieces have been preserved for 3,000 years!