Were Footballs Ever Really Made Out Of Pigskin?

Last month, I recapped all of the football-related blog posts I’ve ever had. I described the post as:

everything I have ever written about the ol’ pigskin.”

That got me wondering about that name “pigskin.” Where did it come from? Are footballs actually made of skin from a pig? Were they ever? Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Were Footballs Ever Really Made Out Of Pigskin?

Let’s start with today’s footballs and work backwards. Despite the name “pigskin” the NFL and NCAA turn to the swine’s barnyard companion, the cow, for their footballs. According to Big Game Football Factory, all pro and collegiate footballs are actually made with cowhide leather.

Flipping back the calendar 100+ years, we can start to learn where the name “pigskin” originates. Although, it would actually be more appropriate to call them “pig-guts.”

Yes, that is right, early versions of footballs did actually use animal bladders, including pig’s. In the 1800s, animals bladders were cheaper and easier to come by than leather (that may still be the case…it has been a long time since I shopped for either). The balls were inflated with the bladders of animals and sometimes straw and other material would also stuffed in to fill out the oblong shape.

This standard of football lasted until the mid-1800s when American engineer and chemist Charles Goodyear (founder of the Goodyear tire company) patented his invention of vulcanized rubber. Football teams began using the rubber in place of bladder, presumably because it was less disgusting and bloody. However, by then, the nickname “pigskin” had already stuck.

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