Crazy Horse Leather vs. Ordinary Leather: What’s the Difference?

Crazy horse leather has grown in popularity over the centuries and for good reason – it’s beautiful, tough, and long-lasting. It’s the highest-quality and priciest leather on the market, made from full-grain cowhide.

If you have been around saddlers, you have probably heard the phrase ‘crazy horse leather’ quite a bit and wondered what it was.

So, what is crazy horse leather, and if it’s really made from cowhide, why does it have a ‘horse’ in it? Well, stay tuned, as we are about to find out!

A Brief Description of Crazy Horse Leather

A Brief Description of Crazy Horse Leather

Crazy horse leather is simply full-grain leather that has been smoothed and waxed to enhance the leather fibers.

Contrary to what many people may think, this type of leather is not made from horse skin; it is created from cowhide. The only thing that is removed from the skin is the hair; everything else remains intact.

One of the reasons most people looking for good leather prefer crazy horse leather is that it gets better with time. Instead of wearing out like most leathers, crazy horse grows a patina that makes items look more beautiful.

Whereas products made from ‘genuine leather’ (ordinary leather) last only a couple years, crazy leather products can serve you for up to thirty years (sometimes longer if they are cared for properly).

Why Is It Called Crazy Horse?

If the leather is made from cowhide, why would anyone call it ‘horse leather’? Moreover, why ‘crazy’? –  you may wonder!

Well, because it is used to make horse saddles; that’s the only reason. In fact, in the equestrian world, crazy horse leather is also called saddlers leather.

The word ‘crazy’ is used to indicate its toughness. No matter how strong a horse may be, this leather is always able to hold them. Full-grain cowhide is strong and durable, which gives the saddles the ability to withstand years of use and abuse.

How Crazy Horse (Full-Grain) Leather vs. Ordinary (Top-Grain) Leather

To understand the difference between crazy horse leather and the ordinary leather mostly used today, let’s first find out what the terms full grain and top grain mean.

Full-grain leather is made from the topmost layer of the hide, without removing any part of the natural grain.

Only the hair is removed after which the hide is immediately taken for tanning. All of the original characteristics of the skin including its entire thickness and oil-absorbing properties remain intact. Also, no sanding or buffing is done to remove any existing marks; the hide is used as it is.

When it comes to top grain leather, however, the topmost layer of the hide is sanded, buffed, or even shaved off to make it thinner. While this usually makes the hide easier to work with, products made from top-grain leather are less durable.

Here is how full grain crazy horse leather differs from the top grain leather we see labeled as ‘genuine’ leather in shops today. Check out this video too that explains the difference between full grain and top grain leather.

Quality and Cost

Crazy horse leather is high quality, hence it is the most expensive. Because it is more difficult to work with, special equipment is required to process the hide and make it workable, all while maintaining the quality of the grain. This is what makes crazy horse leather considerably pricier than its top-grain counterpart.

In most instances you will find that where top grain leather costs only around $2 to $5 per sq. ft, crazy horse leather will go as high as $15 per sq. ft. Top-grain leather is thinner, so it is considered lower quality. This, and the fact that it is relatively easier to work with make it less expensive.


The surface of crazy horse leather is extremely unique; because it remains untouched, it tells a beautiful story through its natural marks and imperfections.

The topmost surface of top grain leather is sanded away to get rid of blemishes and imperfections. This makes the hide look more uniform than full-grain leather but it loses a huge amount of strength as a result.


Crazy horse leather is strong and durable because almost nothing is removed from its natural grain. It is also very breathable, meaning, it doesn’t sweat from prolonged contact. But because this leather maintains its oil-absorbing properties, it tends to stain easily, so make your products are protected with leather conditioning.

Top grain leather is less durable and this is particularly because the fibers that are supposed to keep it strong are sanded off. Products made from this type of leather, are, therefore, much more delicate and will scratch easily.

Natural Patina

As mentioned earlier, crazy horse leather doesn’t age like ordinary leather. Instead of wearing out, it develops a natural patina that cannot be duplicated. The longer it lives, the more beautiful it grows.

Top grain leather features an outer coat that prevents it from staining. While this may keep an item looking clean, the coating prevents the leather from creating a natural patina. It also makes it less breathable.

How to Care for Your Crazy Horse Leather

How to Care for Your Crazy Horse Leather

The good thing about investing in crazy horse leather products is that they age gracefully, developing their own unique shade. And because the leather is full-grain, it also doesn’t need much maintenance.

However, crazy horse leather products are still susceptible to dirt and other undesirable imperfections, and you ought to know how to care for them to keep the leather in pristine condition. Below are a few pointers on how to care for crazy horse leather.


Cleaning your full-grain, crazy horse leather regularly ensures that it always stays fresh. However, it is important that you use only mild cleaners.

While some people may advocate for leather cleaners and saddle soaps, these products contain harsh chemicals that have been found to affect the texture, color, and strength of the leather.

Use a solution of warm water and mild dishwashing liquid instead, and rub gently with a soft microfiber cloth. This will sufficiently get rid of any oil and dirt stains.

Also, make sure the item dries completely before storing it away. So, after cleaning, let it dry at room temperature, not in direct sunlight. Do not use heaters or hairdryers either; these can warp or fade the leather.

After the item has dried, apply a thin layer of leather conditioner to the outside so it stays supple and waterproof.

Removing Stains

One major downside of crazy horse leather is that it stains easily. These stains can be anything from spills to smudges. While full grain products are usually waterproof, letting any spills sit on the product for a long period will leave a stain. That’s why you need to clean these immediately.

Simply dip a soft piece of cloth in warm water and gently rub over the stain. Also, don’t forget to clean the product with soap and water at least once every three months; it will help remove any marks left by the oils on your hands.


Store crazy horse leather products in a dry, cool, well-ventilated place. Importantly, make sure the products are completely dry before you do; it will help prevent mold and discoloration.

Will Crazy Horse Leather Shrink If Left Untreated?

Yes, if you leave your full-grain leather product unconditioned, it will shrink. This is because leather is organic. When you use water to clean your leather, the water displaces the vital oils, leaving the hide fibers exposed to the atmosphere; this is what causes shrinking.

You can prevent shrinkage by wiping the product with a leather conditioner when it’s still wet. The conditioner will penetrate the pores and replace the natural oils that were lost while cleaning, keeping the product soft, supple, and in its right shape.

How Often Should You Condition a Crazy Horse Leather Product?

It will depend on how frequently you use the product and the conditions under which you use it. Under normal conditions, crazy horse leather will typically need conditioning 3 or 4 times a year.

However, if you spend most of your time outdoors and your leather is constantly exposed to extreme conditions, it would be wise to treat it 5 or 6 times every year.

If the leather is rained on and gets completely wet, apply the treatment before allowing it to air dry. When used properly and as instructed, leather conditioning can significantly extend your product’s life.

It’s important, however, to do a spot test before applying the conditioner all over your leather. Testing a small hidden spot first will not only help you determine whether the treatment actually works but also how much of it is needed. Too much conditioning can cause the hide fibers to lose their shape.

The Takeaway

Crazy horse leather is the highest grade of leather, perfect for anyone looking for toughness and durability. While it’s mostly used for horse saddles, crazy horse leather is also excellent for bags, wallets, jackets, and shoes.

It is different from ordinary leather in that it is full-grain and develops a natural patina over time, which also means it is more expensive. To make sure your crazy horse leather lasts longer, clean and condition it regularly, and allow it to completely air dry before storing away.

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1 thought on “Crazy Horse Leather vs. Ordinary Leather: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Leather that has been “smoothed” (buffed/sanded) technically isn’t “full grain.” Full grain means literally NOTHING has been done to the natural grain of the leather. Whereas buffing means that the grain has been corrected somewhat. So crazy horse leather is actually corrected grain not full grain. Although the correction is typically done minimally so to the naked eye it’s practically indistinguishable from full grain.


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