AskDefine | Define rawhide

Dictionary Definition

rawhide n : untanned hide especially of cattle; cut in strips it is used for whips and ropes

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a untanned hide
    • 1907, O. Henry, Heart of the West - "This throw was fair; the white cow came to earth again; and before it could rise Santa had made the lasso fast around a post of the corral with a swift and simple knot, and had leaped upon the cow again with the rawhide hobbles."

Extensive Definition

Rawhide is a hide or animal skin that has not been exposed to tanning. It is much lighter in color than leather made by traditional vegetable tanning. The skin from buffalo, deer, elk or cattle from which most rawhide originates is prepared by removing all fur, meat and 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 torture or 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 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.

References in pop culture

In the movie Man of the House (1995 film), as the hitmen try to figure out a way to kill Jack Sturgess (Chevy Chase) and Ben Archer (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), Ben says: "If you really wanted to kill us, you'd wrap us in wet rawhide and leave us in the sun and all of our organs would ooze out of our orifices like a tube of toothpaste."


rawhide in German: Rohleder
rawhide in Swedish: Skinn

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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