How to Tan a Rabbit Pelt





Introduction: How to Tan a Rabbit Pelt

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This instructable is going to show you the the method I use to tan/cure my rabbit pelts. if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.

Things you'll need:
•Rabbit skin
•Sharp knife (Not razor sharp)
•Plywood board- 22"X22" or so
•Staple gun or small nails
•5 gallon trash can or bucket (must be plastic, metal reacts to the chemicals)
•Plain salt (non iodized)
• Denatured alcohol
•Neatsfoot oil
•Metal screen, about 1/2" X 1/2" squares
•Water (filtered or not, well water works fine too)

Step 1: Stretching the Pelt

In this picture, the pelt is not stretched, but the stomach area of the skin has been cut to allow the skin to lay flat. lay the skin down in the middle of the board. stretch one end of the pelt to the end of the board and put 2 nails or staples through the pelt, into the board, on the very edge of the skin. about 1/4 inch from the end of the pelt. Next, stretch it as much to the other side as you can. Be cautious not to rip the skin from the nails. Do this all around the skin until is locked firmly in place.

Step 2: Defleshing the Pelt

At this point, you're going to take your knife (smooth, non saraded knife) and cut away all of the flesh. this will make the pelt much softer, and easer to oil. the flesh contains blood veins, and insulation for the rabbit. But once dead, has no use. You can see in the picture, the flesh, is the pink, the skin, is the white/black. you want to get rid of all the pink. Take your knife, and put it at a 90° angle to the pelt, make a cut just enough to show the white/black skin of the pelt. you will be able to see it split. Then, take your knife and cut underneath the flesh, this will separate the flesh from the skin. Defleshing takes quite some time, though, if you do it all at one time, you can probably get it done in 1-2 hours. depending on the skin, and how good you are. The flesh toward the outside if the pelt (the belly area) is a lot thinner, and will take more time to remove.

Step 3: Salting

Once all the flesh is removed, take about 1 container of plain, non-iodized salt (about 79 cents a container) and cover the pelt with it. The layer of salt should be about 3-4 mm thick. or about the thickness of 2-3 nickles. leave the salt on the pelt for about 3-4 hours. scrape the layer off and put another one on. leave the 2nd on for 8-10 hours, and the last (extra thick, 4 nickles) for a full 24 hours. make sure you use brand new salt each time. You will need about 3-4 containers of salt for a average size rabbit skin.

Step 4: Tanning Solution

After riseing the rabbit skin in the 5 gallon bucket/cana to remove the salt, its time for tanning. take a container 35-45 oz denatured alcohol and mix it 50/50 with water. Put the mixture in a large pickle jar or another 1 gallon glass or plastic container. Use a round, soft rock to weigh it down let the rabbit skin sit, completely submerged, for about 12 hours. then take it out and stretch it in all directions. Put it back in the container and leave it for another 12 hours. This tanning solution can be reused over and over again. Keep it for the next time you do pelts.

Step 5: Washing and Oiling

Take the pelt out of the alcohol mixture and rinse it in the bucket of water. (after putting fresh water in it) Then, take a regular shampoo and wash the fur as you would your hair. This helps remove the alcohol smell, and make the fur softer. rub through the fur with a dry towel and pat down the skin side. take the screen, and lay the pelt fur side down. Then take some neatsfoot oil and work it into the skin. make sure to get the edges of the pelt. Set it sit for 12-14 hours and pat it down with a paper towel. Put more oil on one more time and wait the same duration. Pat it down again, and wash it with shampoo like you did the first time. make sure you wash it really good in order to get any neatsfoot oil out of the fur. After that, rub the pelt down with a towel, and let it dry natrually, indoors. Do not try to blowdry it or put it on the clothes line. this will make it stiff again. if for some reason the pelt is stiff at the end, let it sit in warm water for 3-4 minutes (completely submerged), oil it again, then wash it again. After this, you're done! I would recomend writing the date the rabbit died with sharpie on the skin of the pelt.

Step 6: Thank You for Viewing!

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    Thank you for this nice 'ible. I am wondering if you can use the same technique for other pelts? I get the odd 'coon, skunk, fox, and other animals on the property. Since I have chickens, I tend to make sure they don't keep coming back. Might be something I will try. Thanks again.

    6 replies

    This method of tanning can be used for anything from squirrels to deer. Any animal with fur can be tanned this way. I would definitely recomend it.

    Thank you for the reply. Next time I "find" something on my farm I think I'll give this a try. Just need to figure out what to do with the rest (depending on the animal). Any suggestions?

    If its a rabbit, squirrel, chipmunk, woodchuck, or any other small or medium animal, I would go ahead and gut it (clean it), find a nice dry rub or BBQ recipe, and cook it. rabbits and squirrels taste pretty good. almost a common taste. I have never tried the others but I hear they're similar. but instead of wasteing the animal, i would cook it. 3-4 rabbits would easily feed a family of 4 or so. depending on how much everyone eats.

    I, and my wife, would be interested in the recipe. I don't know how many of us would be eating it (probably only me), but you never know.

    My family always raised rabbits for food. Marinade in soy sauce and a little vegetable oil. A packet of Lipton onion soup mix is good in it too.

    I will try to post my dry rub recipe and how to cook it soon. im going to be prepareing a 2 1/2 squirrel tomorrow. keep an eye open :)

    I've done all the steps up until the first oil. I feel like the pelt looks almost the same. Does it dry out more after oiling? If i didn't get all the skin layer off will it not work?

    What about a raccoon? How do u save the tail?

    I just skinned my first 2 rabbits, & I've been looking for a way to tan/cure the pelts. I'm really excited to find your method! Can't wait to try it!!!

    Wouldn't denatured alcohol destroy the pelt I'm not doubting don't your methods just curious that's all. because alcohol destroys tissue I'm guessing I'm I'm very new at this.... like this is my frist rabbit hide.

    1 reply

    Alcohol is actually very commonly used in wet preservation (e.g. a brain in a jar of liquid). Rather than destroying tissue, it's a very efficient preservative.

    I have successfully tanned a fox pelt (including face). And was wondering how much i could sell it for? (In AuD please)

    2 replies

    If the pelt has no scabs or holes in it, and it has good color, I wouldn't doubt you could get $45 for it.

    Thanks! I am realy keen on starting my own business in tanning hides and making leather goods. I might try taxidermy as well. Any advice?

    On the second soak, I assume the hide is removed from the board to be placed in the bucket of solution?

    1 reply

    Yes, after you are done salting the pelt, and you have removed as much salt as possible (I use a very dull knife to scrape off the salt) you put in it the denatured alchol/water solution and make sure it is fully submerged. Hope this helps

    yeah, how flexible is it?

    Does it feel like buckskin? the last picture kinda looks like rawhide.