What is Sheepskin?
'Sheepskin' is exactly what it sounds like, the skin of a sheep with the wool still attached. It can also be referred to as a 'pelt' or a 'hide', the term commonly associated with cow skin. This means that when referring to a sheepskin, the sheep that once carried the pelt is no longer living. No need to panic, however, as sheepskin is only a byproduct of the sheep's meat. Once the sheepskin has been removed from the sheep, it goes through a process called ''tanning" in order to create a very strong leather underside while also maintaining the quality of the wool.
Is it the same as Wool?
Many people use the terms "sheepskin" and "wool" interchangeably. This mistake is made because they know that sheep have wool, rather than fur, hair or other types of natural insulation commonly found on animals and livestock. However, each term has a very different meaning.
What is Wool?
The term 'wool' refers to the fibers of a woolen fleece that is cut (or sheared) from a sheep. The main difference between wool and sheepskin is that sheep raised for their fleece usually live full lives and can be sheared multiple times. This means that wool is not a byproduct, and is widely viewed as a much more humane way to acquire wool from animals. Animals other than sheep grow 'wool' as well, rather than hair or fur. These animals include but are not limited to alpaca, rabbits and camel.
Are there similarities between sheepskin and wool?
Yes. Both are used to make a long list of products including sheepskin rugs, boots, seat covers, slippers and much, much more. Before any of these products can be made, both wool and sheepskin must go through a process known as 'scouring' in order to remove the natural, but unappealing substances. These substances include dead skin, lanolin, dirt and pesticide. Clearly, no customer would want to buy a product containing these types of substances.
Many people think of the skinning process as cruel, while others feel that if you are going to take an animals life, it is disrespectful not to use all useful parts of it. It is a heavily debated topic driven solely by the opinion of each individual. Many groups have been formed to enlighted others of this controversial practice.