Merriam-Webster defines hide as “the skin of an animal whether raw or dressed — used especially of large heavy skins”.
Whereas it defines leather as “animal skin dressed for use”.
So all hide is leather. But not all leather is hide.
Rawhide is defined as “untanned cattle skin”.
You can tell these definitions weren’t all written by the same person, eh? But that doesn’t affect the basic meanings. The distinction being drawn is between skin straight off the animal, and skin that something has been done to dress. Dress in this context is a pretty slippery word, but what they are largely referring to is tanning.
Tanning means preserving the hide from rotting. There are different processes, more or less lengthy, more or less expensive. If you were a frontiersman — ok, frontiersperson — with limited time and resources, you might cut the process short, leaving an imperfectly tanned hide.
If you want to try it yourself, try one of the old and simple ways. Writer Dragoona apparently lost a bet, and had to write a basic how-to which makes interesting reading:
From what I understand, they are the same thing except leather is conditioned and tanned whereas hide is just skin and can be raw. There are multiple ways that hide can be “transformed” into leather (transformed is the word wiki used). Leather can be made via vegetable-tanning, chrome-tanning, aldehyde-tanning (formaldyhyde, brain tanned -(using animal brains)-. chamois, rose tanned), synthetic-tanning, alum-tawed, and rawhide.
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