A cowhide can be used for a variety of craft and decorative purposes if it is correctly prepared. The initial step is curing the cowhide, which simply means cleaning it and drying it out. However, this must be done using the proper steps in order to avoid damaging the cowhide.
Use a scraper or dull knife to remove any flesh, fat and muscle that is still clinging to the cowhide. This can be accomplished by laying it out flat on a wood board, tacking it in place, and scraping the entire hide until all of the unwanted material is gone. Typically, this is the most time-consuming step in the curing process.
Soak the cowhide in a mixture of water and a small amount of bleach to kill any parasites that might still be clinging to it. You should be able to fit it into a five or ten gallon bucket, but you can use a larger container if needed. According to New Mexico State University, you should use a non-metallic container. Leave the cowhide immersed in the liquid for a full 24 hours.
Rinse the cowhide thoroughly to remove the water and bleach mixture, then soak it for 24 hours in a non-metallic bucket or container full of water mixed with salt. When you remove it, rinse it thoroughly in water.
Stretch the cowhide flat with the hairy side down, then rub it with it dry salt, making sure to cover the entire hide. According to New Mexico State University, if you miss an error, it will not be properly cured. You will need approximately one pound of salt for each pound of cowhide, so make sure you have enough to spread on the entire hide. Let salt remain on the hide for up to two weeks to thoroughly remove any moisture.
Hang the cowhide in the sun to complete the curing process. Leave it hanging until you can tell by visual and touch inspection that it is completely cured. It can now be tanned or used in whatever way you wish to use it.
Even though the scraping process can take a lot of time and effort, don't be lax and leave any fat or other material. If you do, it will rot and your cowhide can be ruined.
- U. S. Department of Agriculture