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Large animal slaughtering/processing Hides

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#1 Severian



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Posted 06 November 2022 - 01:02 PM

I'm super grateful to have connected with a very generous couple who have a herd of buffalo

I was invited to a slaughter- first time I've ever participated in anything bigger than chickens and ducks ... Super mega powerful-

They tied the buffalo up super tight- and after that, it clearly submitted/accepted what was happening. I was able to look it in the eyes and thank it for it's life before they slaughtered it.

Which they did by cutting its juggular- took far longer than I expected to die- that was uncomfortable to watch.

I drank a 16oz glass of it's blood fresh fresh- less strong tasting than expected but a bit difficult to get down at the end cuz it was beginning to coagulate- when the rancher asked me how much I wanted and offered 'un vazo' I thought he was offering me a much smaller cup!

It took about 2.5 hours from start to finish to process the whole animal. Was very surprising how quickly they could break it down

I was given the hide as a gift, was not at all expecting to leave with a buffalo hide! Thing is super heavy! 90-100 lbs easily.

It was salted immediately, and that was two evenings ago- I brought it home yesterday evening and spent what little light was left trying to get a feeling for the fleshing process-

I'm working with only the tools I have immediately available - a bit broke at the moment, so while it would be ideal to buy some lumber to make a proper stretching frame, I'm using what I have- which is a bamboo bedframe a bit too small for the whole hide.

I have a friend coming to help me finish fleshing here shortly- I'm considering either cutting the hide smaller ( currently about 7 x 8 feet) to fit my makeshift frame- after that, not quite sure what the next step is

Washing it well I think, or scraping off the hair- and then thinning the skin

My intention is to turn this into soft wearable leather eventually, and make a vest- as well as learn how to make some drums.

Though, ive jumped into entirely new mediums/projects enough at this point to realize my tendency is to expect perfect results the first time- and reality generally doesn't mirror those expectations! So I'm more relaxed with this project. Hopefully!

Does anyone have experience slaughtering large animals or working hides?
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#2 Moonless



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Posted 09 November 2022 - 08:23 PM

That is fucking wild! I just dissected an entire animal for the first time and physically discovered how the skin, muscles and layer of fat are all connected yet distinct from each other. I was dealing with a rat in a lab but I still felt so strange and foreign. I cannot imaginable how it felt to watch such a large and powerful animal be slaughtered like that! Thank you for sharing because it was really interesting to read about the process. Best wishes on getting the hide ready. I think you are doing good! I imagine that it needed a good wash and you have to get the layer of fat off the skin. I'm sure there is some Youtube video that shows someone doing it. Actually learning how to do it take practice I'm sure. So excited for you to have gotten to experience that! Your style boutta be vibin; for sure B)

Edited by Moonless, 09 November 2022 - 08:26 PM.

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#3 Severian



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Posted 10 November 2022 - 07:20 PM

Ya- up close and personal with all the fascia and fat was super interesting- One of my 'professional hats' is massage therapist- and I do calisthenics In my spare time- so I've done some good reading as far as anatomy goes in relation to the fascia- it's only relatively recently that the scientific community has realized it's fae more than just an inert wrapping- but reading about it is way different than getting to see up close how it acts as a super web binding everything together-

Way interesting too how the composition of the layers of fat/fascia/skin was totally different in different areas of the hide

Took me around 18 hours over 4 days to get all the flesh/fat off- and thats with the butchers doing a great job!

Turns out my initial technique was wanting- only figured out the flow/technique at end of day two- and didn't realize how much of a difference a sharp machete made-

Next time I could probably do the whole fleshing process- in 6-8

Now it's washing the hide, and then soaking it in a lyme solution to remove all the hair for two weeks.

I'll post a photo of the finished fleshing tommorow.

Intention is to turn this into a sweeet leather vest among other things- ive semi an idea of what I want it to look like but I've never done any clothing design before so it's going to be an adventure- I went to talk to a friend who went to college for fashion design- she's going to be a major help when it finally comes time to turn it into a finished product.
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#4 Arathu



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Posted 02 December 2022 - 05:02 AM

If you are going to go further with such work, a proper beam and a Necker 600 fleshing knife will be your friend.


You can likely get that job down to an hour or two (depending on your physical condition)


Buffalo hide is serious're correct, you will have to save some allowance in a jar for a bit just to get one though....$60.00 to $100.00 I believe but WELL worth the expenditure.....


My wife thinks I'm nuts and warped for hunting, trapping, even some of the fishing I do....and of course the fur handling and butchering of animals.....


IMHO her mind will change if Walmart and the Dollar Stores don't have anything on the shelves....Personally I think that corporate farming and feed animal production is some evil stuff.....


I hope to fill a deer tag tomorrow and the freezer over the next day or so's time for mushrooms and venison stew here.....


Are you going to try and tan that yourself? Be prepared for some serious consider sending to a pro tannery IMHO...



Edited by Arathu, 02 December 2022 - 05:06 AM.

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#5 Mycol



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Posted 02 December 2022 - 12:26 PM

Very cool stuff. They must’ve worked with those buffalo very closely to be able to get them tied up and close to them . We’ve slaughtered a couple pigs here in the last couple week and have two more to go .
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#6 Severian



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Posted 05 December 2022 - 09:33 AM

I am sorry to have to report epic failure of this project!!!

Today I surrendered to the fact that success on this hide is just not happening

Which majorly sucks as one, I feel somewhat bad about 'wasting ' the hide- but I honestly jumped into this with zero experience and I've over a week solid into the project already-
Not counting the two weeks it sat in the dehairing solution.

So after I dehaired it, I started trying to remove the grain- but after trying for a few hours I looked at some other info talking about leather grading and how on cow hides, 'full grain ' is the best quality- so turns out the best 'how to' info I found that was talking about deer hides doesn't translate 1;1.

So then, because I wanted to turn the hide into wearable leather, and the thing is an inch thick in places I aimed to try and split it by hand.

Turns out, they use industrial machines to do this, and no wonder.

I bought a set of exacto knifes with different blades, and spent 8 hours over three days trying to split the top grain from the rest to give me leather thin enough to work- even after all that time I only managed to separate maybe a three

I ordered some brains from the local butcher and made a tanning solution to soak it in overnight-

By this time it was already kind of starting to smell- but after taking it out of the solution and hanging/,stretching it to dry it started yellowing in some places - pretty obviously some rot setting in or bacterial growth as it was kinda slimey as well.

This point coincided with my work load picking up and so having no real idea how to proceed or if saving it was even possible, and no longer having the time- I dug a pit and buried the project.

Working against me is the fact that ambient temps here are 86 during the day.

It's a shame- I was really hoping to do something cool with this- and I put a ton of work only to see it go into the ground.

I do have a much greater appreciation for what goes into leather making now- and the next time I try my hand at tanning I'll do so on a MUCH smaller animal

Arathu, I think your suggestion is spot on- part of my problem was having this project fall in my lap at the worst time of year financially for me- so I really couldn't invest in proper equipment- a machete is not a real fleshing knife!

Also, sitting through the process with solid info from someone whose an expert wouldnt hurt either
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#7 Arathu



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Posted 05 December 2022 - 06:55 PM

A formidable task when you have the right equipment even......but you won't forget that one any time soon.....


Bummer about the hide but ^^^^^^


Not trying to be mean here but IHMO try a rabbit first (which is exactly what I did), so if you can make leather out of're ready to try some bigger and better things.......


Buffalo? Holy shit, you have to be able to stretch and break the damned thing....bison hide is crazy thick..... and large, as you know....


And I learned the hard way .......that sending larger projects out to the tanner is a very good option....leather-making is hard work.... :blush:


I've made nice leather from raw furs but fail at the breaking of deer hides and up.....those go to a pro to make leather from...


I put my allowance into a jar and ship to the tannery right after the seasons close....


But I'm a barbarian.....hahahaha..... I really like leather.....


I'd LOVE to have a big old chunk of 1" thick tool leather from the back of a bison....for riding armor among other things....






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#8 pharmer



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Posted 06 December 2022 - 08:09 AM

I'm your huckleberry if you need gutting or slaughtering advice. I get or help with 4 or 5 deer a year which we break down into steaks, stir fry or burger.


Otherwise Arathu's advice is golden. If I remember right the going rate around here  to tan a deer hide is $150  if you provide the hide. And that's a bargain given the labor and materials and know-how that go into the process. You have to give props to the Native women who do that kind of thing. It's dirty stinky kind of work I'd guess has to be done in cool or cold weather.


Here's a website.


$400 for a moose, which ought to be comparable to a bison. 


Notice also they'll tan scrotum or tail....................................................insert deer camp joke here.........................................................................

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#9 Severian



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Posted 07 December 2022 - 11:03 PM

The owner of the buffalo herd showed us how to make a sack out of the scrotum by packing it with wood ash- 8 days and voila!

#10 Juthro


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Posted 08 December 2022 - 12:50 AM

This is a series of 23 videos from the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska channel on the way the native Athabascans tan and sew moose hide.  Old methods, and new.


This is the first video in the series, if you open it in you tube you can get to the whole playlist if you want.


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