A hide is an animal skin treated for human use. Hides include leather from cattle and other livestock animals, alligator skins, snake skins for shoes and fashion accessories and furs from wild cats, mink and bears. In some areas, leather is produced on a domestic or small industrial scale, but most leather making is done on a large scale. Various tannins are used for this purpose. Leather from processed hides has a variety of uses, including shoes, clothing, horse tack, horse harness, upholstery and even wall or other surface coverings.
Archaeologists believe that animal hides provided an important source of clothing for prehistoric humans. Animal hides were also frequently believed to be used for shelter by primordial peoples. Hides of animals were also used for tents in summer by Inuit people.
Until the invention of plastic drumheads in the 1950s, animal hides were used.
Animal hides have always been used as a status symbol. Fur was used to demonstrate wealth, both by ancient kings and modern people. Natural leather is used in many expensive products, including limousines and designer mobile phones.
Animal hides are stretched, dried and tanned. It is more cost-effective today to raise animals in captivity and then kill them. Large farms exist to raise mink and rabbit for fur while much fox, lynx, wolf and other animals are trapped for fur.
Fur and hides find their main use today as clothing, particularly coats. They are valued for their warmth, and as a status symbol. Rabbit fur is a popular material to make hats, coats and glove linings. Ermine fur was historically popular in ceremonial clothes of European monarchs. The black-tipped tails were arranged around the edges of robes, producing the familiar pattern of black diamonds on a white field. Because of this use, "ermine" became a term in heraldry, to mean a white field strewn with small bell-shaped designs called ermine-spots.
Hides have also been used to build canoes and tents, as simple window panes, and as material for writing. For example, many medieval books were written on vellum parchment. Many drums, especially hand drums like the pandeiro have their skin made from hides.
The fur trade led to the opening of the interior of the North American continent. In particular, the popularity of beaver hats in Europe in the 17th and 18th century led to displacement of native tribes, several inter-tribal wars and the eventual near-eradication of the beaver.
Animal rights activists protest use of animal hides in clothing. They use methods ranging from persuasion (the PETA campaign "I would rather go naked than wear fur") to coercion (spraying people wearing fur clothes with paint, typically red in imitation of blood).