Comparing Sheepskin and Wool

Many people hear the term sheepskin and instantly assume that it is the same as wool. This is because they know that sheep have wool, rather than fur, hair or other types of natural insulation commonly found on animals and livestock. However, the two terms refer to something that is far from identical.

The term 'Sheepskin' is exactly what it sounds like, the skin of a sheep. It can also be referred to as a 'hide', the term commonly associated with cow skin. This means that when you see or hear of a sheepskin, the sheep that once carried the pelt has now been slaughtered. Typically, the sheepskin is only a byproduct of the sheep's meat. Many people think of the skinning process as cruel, while others feel that if you are going to take an animals life, you should use everything the animal has to offer. It is a widely debated topic driven solely by the opinion of each individual. Once the sheepskin has been removed from the sheep, it goes through a process called ''tanning' in order to create a very strong leather underside while also maintaining the quality of the wool.

The term 'Wool' refers to the fibers of a woolen fleece that is cut (or sheared) from a sheep. The main difference between wool and sheepskin is that sheep raised for their fleece usually live full lives and can be sheared multiple times. This means that wool is not a byproduct, and is viewed as a much more humane way to acquire wool from animals. Yes, more animals than sheep grow 'wool' rather than hair or fur. These animals include but are not limited to alpaca, rabbits and camel.

Sheepskin and wool are not without their similarities, however. Both are used to make a long list of products including rugs, boots, seat covers, slippers and much, much more. Before any of these products can be made, both wool and sheepskin must go through a process known as 'scouring' in order to remove the natural, but unappealing substances. These substances include dead skin, lanolin, dirt and pesticide. Clearly, no customer would want to buy a product containing these types of substances.

In addition to the similarities above, both wool and sheepskin must go through quality inspections to determine its grade. Higher graded wool and sheepskin are used for higher quality and of course, higher priced items. The factors considered include the diameter of each fiber of wool, the color, and the breed of sheep the wool or skin came from.