What is the difference between shearling and sheepskin?

What is the difference between shearling and sheepskin?

Shearling and sheepskin are two terms often used interchangeably, but they refer to different aspects of sheepskin material. Understanding the difference between shearling and sheepskin can help clarify their usage in various contexts. In this article, we will explore the distinctions between shearling and sheepskin.


Shearling refers to the processed sheepskin where the wool is still attached to the leather. It is obtained by shearing the sheepskin shortly after the animal has been shorn. The wool side of shearling retains its natural softness, insulation properties, and texture, while the leather side is typically treated for durability. Shearling is highly regarded for its warmth, comfort, and luxurious feel. It is commonly used in the production of winter coats, jackets, boots, and accessories.


Sheepskin, on the other hand, refers to the entire hide of a sheep, including both the wool and the leather. It is a natural material sourced from sheep that have been raised for their meat, milk, or wool. Sheepskin is known for its durability, breathability, and insulating properties. It provides natural temperature regulation, keeping the wearer warm in colder conditions and cool in warmer weather. Sheepskin is used in a wide range of products, including footwear, rugs, gloves, and upholstery.

Key Differences:

  1. Wool Thickness: Shearling typically features a thicker and denser layer of wool, providing superior insulation and warmth compared to sheepskin. The retained wool in shearling coats, for example, helps to trap air and create a natural barrier against the cold.

  2. Leather Side: Shearling has a suede or leather side that is treated for durability, while sheepskin refers to the entire hide, including the untreated leather. The leather side of sheepskin is often used for its strength and longevity.

  3. Processing: Shearling undergoes a specific shearing process to remove excess wool and create an even pile length, while sheepskin refers to the unshorn hide. The shearing process gives shearling a cleaner and more uniform appearance.

  4. Usage: Shearling is commonly used for making garments and accessories due to its luxurious and soft wool side. Sheepskin, on the other hand, finds applications in various industries, including footwear, home decor, and upholstery.

In summary, shearling specifically refers to sheepskin that has been sheared and processed to keep the wool intact, while sheepskin encompasses the entire hide, including the wool and untreated leather. Both shearling and sheepskin have their unique properties and applications, and understanding the difference can help when selecting products or understanding their characteristics in different contexts.

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