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a. the skin of a sheep, esp when used for clothing, etc., or with the fleece removed and used for parchment
b. (as modifier): a sheepskin coat
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the pelt from an adult sheep. Sheepskin is characterized by a fine epidermis and a dermis consisting of fine fibers intertwined horizontally. The boundary between the papillary and reticular layers of the dermis is quite distinct. The papillary layer is usually thicker than the reticular. Leathers and furs made from sheepskin are characterized by little strength, ample malleability, great porosity, and marked water permeability. The face of the skin is particularly weak. The grain of leather produced from sheepskin has small, evenly distributed pores and a rather smooth surface.

According to the structure of their wool, sheepskins are classified as fine-, semifine-, semicoarse- or coarse-wooled.

In fur production, fine-, semifine-, and semicoarse-wooled sheepskins are used. These pelts have a secondary coat, consisting of fine, dense hairs (staple fleece) and containing up to 35 percent of the wool grease content. The grease gives the wool a yellowish tint. The hairy covering of the fine and semifine sheepskins consists principally of underhairs, while that of semicoarse sheepskins contains transitional and top hairs. Sheepskins are also classified according to the length of their hair. Thus, there are wool pelts (more than 5 cm), semiwool pelts (from 2 to 5 cm), and naked pelts (up to 2 cm).

Coarse-wooled sheepskins are used in the manufacture of coats. The skins are finished and dyed and then made into various types of coats and jackets. The wool is on the inside of the garment. Romanov sheep, particularly those between the ages of five and eight months, yield the most suitable pelts for coat production. The ratio of the number of underhairs and top hairs in Romanov sheepskins prevents interweaving and matting and preserves the springiness of the wool during wearing. This springiness provides good heat insulation.

Sheepskins whose wool does not satisfy the requirements of fur and sheepskin coat production are used in the manufacture of leather. The sheepskins used for making leather are divided into four groups: Russian sheepskin, steppe sheepskin, blended sheepskin, and fine-wooled unborn lambskin. Russian sheepskins comprise the pelts of all coarse-wooled breeds except the fat-tailed breed. Steppe sheepskins are obtained from fat-tailed sheep and adult Karakul sheep. Russian sheepskin is most suitable for producing chrome-tanned leather for footwear uppers. Steppe sheepskins are very greasy, and, as a result, the leathers produced from them are porous and malleable and have a weak, porous face that may be easily removed or separated. They are used for producing notions and clothing accessories, linings, and gloves. Blended sheepskin and unborn lambskin are used similarly.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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