Were Footballs Ever Made of Pig Skin? (with picture)

Now that another football season has ended, we can let you in on a little secret. If you’ve been referring to footballs as “pigskins” all these years, know that this terminology is simply the product of American slang.

Despite the nickname "pigskins," footballs were never made of pig skin, though inflated pig bladders were once commonly used.
Despite the nickname "pigskins," footballs were never made of pig skin, though inflated pig bladders were once commonly used.

Footballs were never made out of pig skins. Early footballs were made from animal bladders, including those from cows, deer, and sometimes even pigs. When a bladder was inflated, it was mostly round. These bladder balls were later covered with leather of some type, though not ordinarily pig skin. Footballs changed dramatically in the mid-1860s after Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber, which made a better bladder.

Kick around these football facts:

  • Since 1955, official NFL footballs have been made in Ada, Ohio. Each Wilson football is made with cowhide from Kansas, Nebraska, or Iowa. The leather is treated with a "top secret football weather-optimizing tanning recipe."

  • The correct term to describe the shape of a gridiron football is "prolate spheroid."

  • The oldest football (soccer ball) still in existence was discovered in the roof of Stirling Castle, Scotland, in 1981. The ball is made of leather (possibly from deer) and a pig's bladder, and it is thought to have been constructed around 1550.

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    • Despite the nickname "pigskins," footballs were never made of pig skin, though inflated pig bladders were once commonly used.
      Despite the nickname "pigskins," footballs were never made of pig skin, though inflated pig bladders were once commonly used.