There are a few manufacturing or environmental factors that might cause edge curling on cowhide rugs.
A poor quality cowhide that has been unevenly split during the tanning process or has been poorly tanned is the strongest likelihood.
How to fix cowhide rug curling edges
- Roll the curling leather backwards and massage/squeeze
- A light mist with water to add back moisture
- Trim back longer curling legs and cheek leather
- Steam iron with a cloth between the floor, cowhide and iron
- Place heavy weights to re-train the leather
Leather fibres around the edges and in the thinner areas (like legs) dry out faster than leather fibres in the thicker areas.
This can create uneven surface tension and make cowhides curl. Especially at the front and back legs or cheek leather near the head.
Expect cheaper cowhide to curl quickly - within months of purchase. This curling is sometimes the leather industry calls cigaring.
However even a good quality cowhide can curl with the right environmental influences as it dries out over time.
The top surface fibres might be drying and contracting faster than the underneath fibres due to heat exposure like strong direct sunlight, or a heater blowing hot air over the cowhide over a long period of time.
Or the reverse can be true for underfloor heating which dries out the underneath faster than the top surface.
Cowhides are most vulnerable to curling around the narrower leather parts like the front legs and the cheek leather near the head.
Curling is simply something that low quality cowhide rugs can do, it should be considered the "nature of the beast".
Roll the cowhide leather in the opposite direction
There isn’t really a permanent cure but try to roll the leather back in the opposite direction to the curl and give the leather a squeeze massage.
Leather has a memory and this helps to stretch out the leather fibres that have constricted causing the edges to curl.
Mist curling areas with water
A light misting of water can also help put a small controlled amount of moisture back into the leather and relax the leather fibres.
Steam iron cowhides
After misting with water you can steam iron cowhide rugs on either the leather or hair side (or both) with a cloth between the floor, the cowhide and the iron.
Trim back the curling areas
If it really bothers you and continues to repeatedly curl then the only other option is the trim back some of the legs and cheek leather removing the curling parts. The shorter the legs and cheeks are, the less they will curl.
Use a sharp craft knife blade and cut from the underside (cowhide should be upside down - hairy side down).
How to trim a cowhide rug
Starting by wiggling the knife through the leather in the middle of the cutting path.
Then slowly draw the blade in a gentle curve mirroring the original shape of the cowhide rug.
Gradually running the blade closer to the edge of the hide almost parallel to the edge until you go right out of the cutting path and off the hide's edge.
Repeat going in the other direction to complete the cut.
This technique cuts the leather but not the hair, leaving a nice layer of hair still overlaping the edge of the cowhide.
I find it easiest if the cow skin rug is on the floor (upside down).
I then stand on the cow skin rug to hold it down and lift the edge that I am cutting about 10cm away from the floor so the leather is taught.
Be careful and watch out you don't cut your floor or your foot!
Of course it is very likely that curling will happen again if the cowhide is poor quality or the environmental factors are still happening.
Cheap cowhides WILL fail so don't buy them!
We have been selling beautiful quality cowhide rugs in New Zealand for over fifteen years.
It is interesting to note that in the last four years the NZ and Australian searches for cowhide trouble shooting and cowhide curling info has sky-rocketed after poor quality cowhide was introduced to New Zealand & Australia in bulk.