What Is Ponyhair, Haircalf, Hair-On Leather?

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Left: Anya Hindmarch Charlieicon, $1,575; Right: YSL Besace Flap in Leopard Buffalo Hair $2,995

There were a lot of questions regarding ponyhair, haircalf or in industry terms, hair-on leather. What the heck is it? Is it pony? Is it cow? Well, it is most commonly cow, although it can be done with buffalo or any other animal for that matter (shearling is the sheep version of this) but it is usually not actual pony. Basically, it is the hair side of the animal. It is considered a “pelt,” same as fur.

The leather that we are most familiar with is actually the underside, the non-hair side of the skin. Haircalf (the most common term but in fashion pony hair is used to make it sound sexier) is more expensive than the average leather but the cost is in the finish of the hair, since it needs to be treated (chrome tanned is a process that gives the hair the super shiny sheen), most of the time it is cut down short (this is necessary for any use other than a rug, as in, in a cowboy’s house), and it is dyed. If you’ve ever been to a farm, I don’t need to tell you what the natural colors are – solid black, black and white, brown and white or tricolors of black, brown and white. It is dyed white first and any color or pattern can then be put on it, even metallic. As with leather, prices vary widely depending on how many of these treatments it has had. In general, the haircalf version is also more expensive than the leather counterpart because it is harder to work with during manufacturing.

The care for haircalf is pretty simple. Don’t get gum or oil on it and you can pretty much clean it nicely with a dry cloth. If you get something on it, use a slightly damp cloth but then dry it with a dry cloth immediately after. Always go with the grain of the hair! It can also be sprayed with the same silicone spray for suede but whatever you do, stay away from Scotch Guard, even their warning says not to use it on anything other than fabric. I guess the question you all want answered is now obvious. No, it is not considered exotic since it is just plain ole’ cow. But if you are looking for an alternative to humdrum leather, haircalf is definitely more unique and bold.

18 thoughts on “What Is Ponyhair, Haircalf, Hair-On Leather?

  1. I´m really not very interested in these hairy bags. I think that it is emotional,since I´m fond of animals. Exotics are ok,cause they are quite distant for me. I realize that this is a paradox, cause they are animals too.This is a tough one.

  2. Great article, thanks.

  3. I had a haircalf bag and it would shed so I never thought to buy another one until I saw a Jimmy Choo that I fell in love with, it’s jet black and doesn’t shed so if you’re going to get a pony hair get a good quality one.

  4. This is entirely ridiculous I know, because dead animal hide is dead animal hide, but pony hair creeps me out. I like the idea of different textures changing the look of the bag, particularly if it’s black, (see Anya Hindmarch’s Slade for instance) but just the thought of touching it makes my skin crawl.

  5. Ditto. I know it doesn’t make any sense, like you said, but carrying pony hair makes me feel like carrying ostrich… It reminds me that I’m wearing somebody else’s skin, and I don’t like that feeling at all. I should really just give up on leather, I’m the worst vegetarian in history. :/

  6. Mette and other creeped out peeps,

    It is biologically natural to be more put off with cow or pony than with a reptile skin. The cows are mammals, as we are, and share so many more biological traits. The further away from our make-up, the more tolerant we are to killing.

    Reptiles are cold blooded, egg laying, animals.

    I once sat in an intro biology class, and during the lecture, the prof kept cutting off flowers from a pot, and putting them into a vase. The point was, he was executing the plant, but no reaction was give. He then took out a field mouse, and the entire hall erupted.

  7. Don’t worry! I’m the worst vegetarian in history too! My closet doesn’t do wonders for sticking up for my eating habits :(

  8. I’m confused. I know they kill cows for leather, but are they shaving the cows fur to utilize the ponyhair or removing their skin with the fur still attached? Does anyone know?

  9. kathryn payne olson on said:

    Ladies, I assure you that I MUST beat you out for the worst vegetarian EVER. I want to make you feel better about yourself, visit this on line confessional, and also know deep down insdie that I have “bad” vegetarian cyber sisters………..so, here it goes, I carry spiders, ants, and goose bumping roaches outside before killing them, I am repulsed by eating meat and would NEVER do it, but I have found some amazing camilla skovgaard “shaved pony” wedges and now that I have confirmed pony hair is just a cow and not a cute little pony………….I really need to buy them. Thanks for info.

  10. oh my god, what the hell is wrong with you ‘vegetarians’??? I can only presume that you are vegetarian for dietary reasons, not ethical, because if you were, leather or this kind of thing would be a definite no, cow, horse, whatever! You are not vegetarians. p.s a flower does not have a central nervous system, so it does not feel pain. Changes in environment, yes, but not pain. I think the point of being vegetarian/vegan is that we don’t want animals to feel pain and fear. To produce this bad something did somewhere. Try Stella Mccartney!

    • Crystal on said:

      Well said, Denise!

      Vegetarians don’t consume or use products that an animal had to DIE for. This includes leather, fur, basically anything that involves removing an animal’s damn skin!

      The point of ethical vegetarianism/veganism is to reduce the suffering of our non-human animals that we share this planet with.

      You’re not a vegetarian if you buy leather, fur, any garment an animal died for you to wear.

      I suppose you all are the type of “vegetarians” who eat fish, too…

      *facepalm*

  11. Hi, I’m eyeing on the Kelly ponyhair but all four corner were missing some hair and I would wonder can this Kelly ponyhair repairable? Many thanks!!

  12. THIS ARTICLE IS INACCURATE.
    PONY HAIR IS EXACTLY THAT…PONY OR HORSE HAIR.

    Also, you can tell Horse hide of the article is very smooth and shiny, with no pores. They say it’s “leather” -Yes, it is… horse leather.

    I do not buy such products as horses are sent from the USA to slaughterhouses across the border in Mexico. They endure GRUELING, long, hot, sweltering trips packed in standing room trailers without water, the ability to lie down or rests before being butchered.

  13. I was told by a Chinese executive dealing his entire life in footwear that horse hair, ACTUAL horse hair, is indeed used in footwear. Also, pretty much all of the ‘leathers’ in footwear are NOT a by-product. They are made for fashion. I highly recommend socially conscious folks to watch the documentary “Earthlings” narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. I believe you can watch it for free on Google Video.

    By the way, in China they sell puppies on the side of the street in crates to eat (this I have seen with my own eyes. This is fact). These are called “meal dogs” and are usually a German Shepherd or Lab type of dog. When they grow to be big dogs they are eaten.

    Watch “Earthlings” then you can make your own INFORMED decision.

    • China also sells cats, kittens and rats and monkeys on the street…I’ve seen it too, disscusting!!! and restaurants use them for their meals ….when you ask what meat they use they always say”chicken”…)

  14. I respectfully disagree with all of the vegan/vegetarian posts. We, as humans, are at the top of the food chain. The shape of our teeth tells us that we are carnivores as well as herbivores. Unfortunately, I am well aware of the slaughter industry of cows and chickens (among others), but I still shop at the grocery store and buy/eat these items. Back during the Great Depression, it was not uncommon to eat your boots for survival. There is nothing wrong with killing animals for food or clothing. I personally believe that killing for sport is wrong – you will never see a ‘head’ on my walls! If anyone chooses to be a vegetarian or vegan, that’s fine, too. I find it amusing that the term “pony hair” shocks and offends so many people, but the word ‘leather’ does not. Same with veal. A lot of people eat veal, but what if it was called Little Baby Cow? Would the same # of people continue to eat it? I logged onto this site to see if there was any way to repair tiny missing bald spots on my pony hair purse, but I must be in the wrong place. I thought this site was called Bag Snob, not PETA. Have a wonderful day, ladies! :D

  15. Ann Marie on said:

    I live in a different world. I have never pondered what kind of leather/pelt to chose on a $2995 handbag.

    It’s good for me to see you legitimately struggling with this kind of problem. Makes me realize that I need to kick it in gear and do what it takes to improve my career track.

    Thanks for the inspiration ladies… I have to get to work now.

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