Tips for Buying Fur and Hide Rugs Responsibly

Nothing makes a gorgeous decor statement in a fine home like a hide or fur rug. Whether you are seeking cowhide, lambskin, shearling, or some other kind of fur, an animal skin rug adds instant glamour and luxury to a great room, office, den, or any living space you can think of. But in a world with limited resources and a global, unregulated market, many want to know that they're buying ethically and humanely sourced rugs. Here is some information on how to buy a fur or hide rug responsibly.

1) Know Your History

Fur and hide rugs have been a part of our evolution from the days of cave dwellers. Cave art depicts the use of hide and fur to provide warmth to the body and home. And just like fur and hide are built during the animal's lifetime to endure the elements, so too have they proven oven millennia to be durable floor coverings. In particular, cowhide can camouflage dirt and absorb moisture, and looks better as it gets more distressed, making it an especially useful item for areas and homes that see a lot of traffic from kids and pets.

2) Know Your Options

Natural shearling and lambskins add a touch of luxe to any room, as do fur rugs in general. These types of rugs generally look best in the hues produced by nature. Craving more diversity of color and design? Need to stay within range of a modest budget?  Consider cowhide. Because dye takes to the hide so easily and beautifully, hides are available in a vibrant range of colors. Additionally, cowhide is among the easiest of hides to stitch, so it is possible to create a broad range of designs, even custom designs. And happily, cowhide is also one of the most affordable of animal rugs.

3) Know Your Sources

Just as with any animal protein you consume, you want to check the sourcing of the hide and fur rugs you are considering purchasing. For instance, cowhides are culled as part of the overall meat production process. This practice goes back centuries, and in many cultures is considered respectful to the animal, in so much as its life was not taken in vain, and every part was used. Because so much attention is put on humane treatment of cattle, it is relatively simple to research the conditions of the cattle and ensure that their treatment is humane. By the same token, you can research the sourcing on any hide or fur rug with a few simple inquiries. These inquiries also raise the consciousness of your supplier and helps to ensure humane and ethical treatment of resources. Often the supplier is a local farmer, especially in the case of shearling, and you can be relatively certain that the sheep enjoyed good lives grazing in green meadows.

4) Take Care

Hide, shearling, and fur rugs are remarkably easy to care for. They absorb dirt and dust well, which can be removed by regular shaking or beating. Most stains can be blotted or removed with treatments specific to the stain, keeping in mind that this is animal fur you are treating. For instance with cowhide rugs, use a damp cloth or sponge and lukewarm soapy water. The fur side of the hide is quite tough, and unlike regular rugs, you can scrub and rub in any direction. However, you want to make sure that the sponge or towel you are using isn't completely sopping wet and avoid the use of alkaline soaps or shampoos. Special cleaning of hide or fur rugs, while expensive, is also an option, but hide and fur rugs can take years of traffic with proper care and never need a professional cleaning. By taking good care of your hide or fur rug, it will need replacement far less often - yet another way to ensure responsible buying.

5) Choose a Reputable Dealer

The old adage that you get what you pay for is also true for hide and fur rugs. Because you are dealing with a global market, so much is unregulated and little information is often known about the suppliers. While you don't need a fortune to buy responsibly, the chances are good that a skin or fur hide that is a basement bargain came from an animal who was not treated humanely. Stick with a reputable and honest dealer who is open to your concerns and willing to address them with care. A reputable dealer will not have dealings with disreputable sources. It's just that simple.

6) Give Thanks

Finally, you may choose to follow in the footsteps of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples around the world and give thanks for the animal who has given of itself to warm and beautify your home. This simple act of gratitude is one of the foremost keys to buying responsibly. Animal hides and fur rugs have always been a part of our comfort and survival, and it's not necessary to abstain from the pleasure they give us in order to be ethical and responsible. Purchase your hide and fur rugs responsibly, and enjoy their beauty and durability without remorse.