The Ultimate 13-Step Guide to Finding A Perfect Cowhide Rug

Looking for your next rug? We’ve compiled a thorough guide to help you choose between good quality cowhide and bad quality ones!


Do you want the best quality possible, or are you on a budget? What color do you need your rug to be? How big will the room it will actually live in be? These are just some of the many variables that come into play when deciding whether or not to buy a rug.

Why The Quality of The Rug Matters

The quality of the rug matters because it affects all the aspects of your experience with this decoration piece:


  • The appearance;
  • Durability;
  • And most importantly — the feel of a rug.


A good quality, well-made rug will last you for a lifetime, and provide value for your money. A poor quality rug will wear out quickly and look patchy in no time at all.

What Should You Know Before Buying

Cowhide rugs are made from cow hides or cow skin and are naturally produced to be thick and even, with a smooth surface that’s easy to clean. The edges of a cow hide rug should be tight, without any frays or loose threads. 


A good quality rug will be thick and even across the entire surface. When you look at the whole rug, it shouldn’t be lumpy or uneven at all.


On top of that, a good quality cowhide rug should never wear out. Even if you wash it with bleach every day, it will always look fresh and new. Bad quality rugs, on the other hand, may look decent when they first arrive.


A poor quality rug may actually last you a few years before wearing out—but only after a lot of wear and tear and constant use.

How To Choose The Perfect Cowhide Rug at the Store?

Here’s a step by step guide on all the simple checks you can perform on-site, right at the store, before buying your next cowhide rug. For your convenience, we’ll break it down into parts, by the aspect in the spotlight.

Part I: Before You Start Choosing

In the age of marketing tricks and all-devouring big data, you should fight against the algorithms affecting your decisions, and pay more attention to what YOU really want and NEED, not the color of the price tags or “Hot deal!” signs. So here’s how you start:

1. Ask yourself all the basic questions:


  • What kind of cowhide should I buy?
  • How thick should the rug be?
  • Is it machine washable, or hand wash only?
  • How much can it cost without damaging your budget?


Note that your answers here are going to make a big difference in price!

Part II: Just Look At It

In this part — take a really, really close look at the hide you like. No need to use a microscope (we’re kidding, seriously): you’ll see all the things that matter with a naked eye. You just know where to look!

2. Check if the rug color is off or not. 

The color of a cowhide rug should not vary too much from one side to the other within the same rug. If it does, this indicates that there might be something wrong with it. 


  • When you have a chance to look at your potential purchase from multiple angles, check for any differences in skin tone in order to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
  • If you can see any marks on the rug surface, this should be considered a warning sign.

3. Check for discoloration or stains on the hide.

Any discoloration on your hide indicates that it was not properly processed, and probably not a good purchase as well.

  • If there are any stains on the hide, make sure to have it inspected by someone who knows about cowhide rugs. They could determine if the marks can be removed or not.
  • All stains should be considered a warning sign that can come from many different causes and must be properly inspected before you make your purchase.

4. Check if the rug is made from one hide!

A single hide rug is generally easier to identify so you’ll be able to see if the individual pieces have been joined together well or have come apart in various areas. 


When you look at a single hide rug, no matter how it has been tanned, it should always feel soft and easy to the touch, and all fibers should lie flat against one another. 

5. Check if the hide has been dyed.

If an area of a cowhide rug has been dyed while the rest of the hide has not, this should be considered a warning sign and you should not make your purchase.


In case you see blemishes on your hide or skin, this can be attributed to unusually high production costs or defects in the skins that were used for the rug. 

6. Check if there is any fading along the edges of the hide.

If there is fading along the edges of your cowhide rug, this could be an indication that it’s been used previously, so you should always ask your sales rep about this when making your purchase. 

Part III: A More Detailed Look and No-No’s

It’s obvious that buying a rug should not be such a complicated process, but we have to warn you: being unhappy with your — rather expensive — purchase because you didn’t notice some bad details at the store is not the best way to go. 


Just dedicate a bit more time to choosing your cowhide rug and enjoy the process. In this part — let’s focus on things that NEVER should be on your rug. 

7. Odors. You can even check the pile, not an individual rug. 

If your hide has any sort of unpleasant odor, you should consider this a warning sign and have it inspected by a professional before making your purchase.


Some odors are normal and can be removed through professional cleaning, but you should always be cautious when buying a rug with a strong odor.

8. Mold or mildew on the surface.

If you see any signs of mold or mildew in your hide or skin, consider this a warning sign and have it inspected by a professional before making your purchase: 

  • Always ask your sales rep if the cowhide rug has been cleaned before it is purchased. 
  • You don’t want to buy a rug that someone else has already owned, especially one that was used for some time and then returned due to defects.

9. Rusty stains.

When looking at a rusty stain on your cowhide rug, it should be hard to see any rust color around it because it’s usually only one spot against the entire body of the hide or skin. 


Rusty stains are a warning sign that the hide or skin may be damaged or contain some sort of defect and you should always ask a professional to inspect it for any more signs of damage.

10. Cigarette burns.

Simple as that. Cigarette burns are more frequent on cowhide rugs than you think! Cigarette burns are cause for concern. They just look bad and we’re sure you don’t want to pay for holes in the rug that will INEVITABLY appear on the burn area in a year or two.

Part IV: The Quality

Now that you’re sure you’re buying a real rug, not a painted one, not a fake one, not a burned or worn-out one — let’s switch to the details that matter only in choosing a natural cowhide. 


Just 3 more simple checks, and if you’re not noticing any signs of a bad quality rug — you can consider yourself a lucky one! You’ve found the perfect cowhide rug in the wild. Here are the checks: 

11. Check for any excess yarns or loose threads.

The presence of excess thread and yarns indicates that the hide was not properly tanned before it was made into a rug, and may also be a warning sign that the hide was not properly cleaned before being processed. 


Since both of these abnormalities can occur when the hide is being processed, they’re both cause for concern as good quality hides or skins are essential to making high quality rugs. 

12. Check for any missing fibers in the rug pile.

When you look closely at a good quality hide or skin, you should see the fibers of the separate pieces holding in place and staying together.


Good quality hides shouldn’t be made out of pieces that are not tightly joined together.


If a rug has any exposed pieces of skin or fibers, this is an indication that the hide was processed improperly, and that it’s probably not a good purchase.

13. Check for any frays or loose threads around the edges of the rug.

If you find any frays or loose threads in your cowhide rug, be sure to mark them with a pen or highlighter before making your purchase. You may have found a defective product and will want to return it for a full refund.


Congratulations! The Afterword

Yes, that’s A LOT of details to keep in mind during your cowhide rug shopping. Want to know why we’re so serious about it? The answer is simple: 


If you buy a bad quality cowhide, it will INEVITABLY: 


  • Smell bad at some point;
  • Cause allergies and health concerns;
  • Simply fall apart;
  • Lose its color;
  • Lose its decorative properties;
  • Just look and feel bad;
  • Will finally start to annoy you. 


We want people to enjoy their rugs (yes, really), not sell them on ebay or Craigslist for less than a quarter of a price that was paid not so long ago. Good luck in your shopping!