How to Tan A Rabbit Hide

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In this post, I will show you how to tan a rabbit hide. Actually, you can use this method to tan any small animal hide. I’ve done this with a raccoon before and you can do the same thing with a beaver or any other small animal. This is fur-on tanning, which means we are leaving the fur on the hide. Let’s do this!


I have ruined eight rabbit hides in the past year. Do you know that emoji with the girl slapping herself on the forehead?

That’s what I would have inserted here if I could. 

I’ve asked forgiveness from all those eight rabbits and I hope they forgave me for ruining their hides but hey, this is how you learn.

So I’m happy to report that the ninth hide was a success and I would like to share this success with you!

My journey in tanning started with learning how to tan a deer hide. I couldn’t bear the thought of just throwing away the hides after we butchered deer in the fall.

It took me a few hides to feel comfortable with brain tanning and making buckskin.

All of my deer hide tanning included taking the hair off the hide and naturally I was also curious to learn how to do this with the fur on. 

How to Tan a Rabbit Hide…

A step-by-step picture tutorial on how to tan a rabbit hide. You can use this simple method to tan any small animal hide fur-on. 
#howtotanarabbithide #hidetanning #braintanning #rabbits

My friend raises rabbits for meat so I asked her to give me the hides after they butchered their rabbits.

I tried a few different ways but really was looking for a simple way to tan a hide fur-on without needing to look for products like alum and such (tanning rabbit hides with salt and alum and borax are some common ways you’ll come across if you search online for tanning tutorials). 

Before we start going through the steps of tanning a rabbit hide, let me just say that this is how I do this, it’s not the only way to do it.

They say that if you ask a dozen hide tanners how to tan a hide you will get a dozen different answers. This is true, I think. 

Hide tanning is an art, and in art, there is no wrong way and there is no one way.

If it works for you it works, that’s all there is to it.

I’ve tried a few ways of tanning in the past and I’ll keep trying and experimenting with different ways, but for now, this process of tanning that I am about to share with you works well for me. 

10 Steps to Tanning a Rabbit Hide…

Here is an overview of the ten steps of tanning rabbit hide fur-on:

  1. Skin the rabbit.
  2. Rinse the hide.
  3. Flesh the hide.
  4. Rinse the hide again with a bit of soap this time.
  5. Partially dry the rabbit hide.
  6. Pin the hide to a board.
  7. Brain the hide (we are actually going to use an egg yolk).
  8. Rinse the hide again.
  9. Dry and soften the hide.
  10. Smoke the hide.

Tools and Other Stuff That We Are Going to Need…

Before we start , let’s gather all the tools and other things that we are going to need…

A sharp knife – for skinning the rabbit.

Fleshing knife – to flesh the hide.

Work beam – you need to make sure that you have a proper work area. This will make your life so much easier. You’ll see my beam in the photos below. It was made from a simple PVC pipe and two cedar posts.

Gloves – if you prefer working with gloves.

Apron – I always wear my vinyl apron when tanning hides.

Dish soap – we literally need two drops for the rinse that comes after fleshing.

Plywood – we are going to pin and stretch the hide on this board so make sure that it is large enough.

Nails and a hammer – we are going to use the nails to hold the hide stretched on the plywood. It doesn’t matter what nails you are using. Thin nails will do best.

Hair dryer – to speed up the drying process.

Hair brush – to brush the fur as we dry it.

Egg yolk – to “brain” the hide. More on that later.

A bowl – just a small bowl for the egg yolk.

Pastry brush – to apply the egg yolk.

A towel – we are going to use a towel to cover the hide after braining it order to keep it moist overnight. Obviously, don’t use the best towel in the house. Something old that you don’t need anymore will do.

That’s all we need, let’s do this!

Step 1: Skin the Rabbit…  

Skinning a rabbit.

First, we have to get the hide off the animal.

I go into more detail on how to skin a rabbit in my How to Butcher a Rabbit post so make sure to head over there and take a look.

But in short, hang your animal from its back legs, cut the skin right under the back legs joint and then continue in a V shape towards the center of the tummy, between the two hind legs.

From there you move in a straight line down the stomach until you get to the neck. Cut the head off and you are left with the hide. 

Step 2: Rinse the Hide…  

Preparing the hide for fleshing.

The next thing we want to do is the rinse the hide. I don’t use soap or anything else, just cold water.

Step 3: Flesh the Hide… 

Fleshing the hide.

Fleshing is removing all the flesh and fat from the skin. 

A look at the fleshing knife.

I use this fleshing knife that I bought from Amazon (I linked to it above). It has a very dull edge, not sharp at all. You can also use a piece of dull metal or a spoon or a butter knife. 

The flesh that separates from the skin.

Whatever you use, our objective here is to gently scrape the flesh off of the skin. 

Fleshed hide on the beam.

I place the hide on my beam which I made from a 4′ PVC pipe and a couple of cedar logs…

Keep fleshing the hide.

I wear this apron and hold the top of the hide to the beam with my body, then gently scrape the flesh away from me.

This is so much easier with a deer hide! A deer hide is a hundred times tougher so you can just go at it, but rabbit skin is so thin.

In some areas, it’s as thin as paper. You have to do this gently or you’ll rip the hide. 

If you do make holes in the hide it’s not a huge deal because we can always sew them later. But do go gently here and take your time. 

Flesh removed from the hide.

Here is another look. You can see the clean skin on the top and the skin that still has flesh on it on the bottom. You just keep pushing the flesh off gently. 

Getting rid of the skin that is around the front legs of the rabbit.

I had to get rid of the hide that was around the front legs. I just cut it off which, of course, left me with two holes. Since they are close to the edge of the hide you can either trim around them or sew them. I just left them to sew later.

The flesh is all removed from the hide.

Ok, here is the clean hide after the fleshing. You can see that I did rip it in a couple of places…

Step 4: Rinse the Hide…

Washing the hide after fleshing.

After fleshing is done, it’s time to rinse again. This time in order to get rid of some of the fat, I put the hide in a bucket and used a tiny drop of dish soap and cold water. 

Getting ready to start drying the hide.

After you’re done rinsing the hide make sure to try and squeeze it and twist it as good as you can to remove as much water as possible.  

Step 5: Partially Dry the Hide…

Using a hair dryer and a brush to dry the hide.

We are going to slightly dry the hide. The emphasis here is on SLIGHTLY, we want it just a tiny bit damp. 

I place the hide skin down on a piece of clean plywood and use a hair dryer and a brush to dry the fur.

This takes some time… We don’t need it completely dry, it’s going to go through another washing but we also don’t want the hide completely wet. 

Of course, you don’t have to use a hairdryer.

If it’s a nice day outside you can simply leave it in the sun and check on it once in a while. Make sure your dog can’t reach the hide and be mindful of flies, we don’t want them to come to lay eggs all over the hide. 

Drying the skin with a hair dryer.

To dry the hair on the edges I folded the fur on itself and worked the other side. 

The fur after drying partially.

This is the fur about 70% dry…

Getting ready to pin the hide.

Now, flip the hide on the board so the fur is to the board and dry the skin just a bit. Again, we want it damp, not too dry but not too wet. 

Step 6: Pin the Hide to a Board…

Using hammer and nails to pin the hide.

You can use whatever nails you have, they don’t have to be long nails like I used, It’s just what I had. Use your hammer and nails to pin the hide to the board to keep it stretched. 

You don’t really need to stretch it, we just don’t want it to move.

Using nails to pin the hide to a board.

Keep the nails at the edge of the hide and don’t worry about the tiny holes that they make, they are barely noticeable. 

Step 7: Brain the Hide…

Extracting the rabbit hide.

Ok, now let’s talk about the braining process. 

Traditionally, you would use the brain of the animal to tan its hide. It is said that every animal has a brain big enough to tan its own hide (except a buffalo, I think). 

If you want to use the brain you can remove it from the animal’s head as I show you how to do with deer in my post How to Extract Deer Brain for Hide Tanning. I think that it works pretty much the same with all animals. 

However, it’s really hard to do with small animals!

A rabbit brain.

It’s a tiny little brain and it’s so hard to get it out of the small skull. I tried, just for the sake of experimenting and even though I got the brain out I found that it was really hard to dissolve it in water as you should do before spreading the solution on the hide. 

So you have a couple of options here…

  1. To use the animal’s brain, mix it with some water and use that solution for tanning the hide. 
  2. Use a brain from another animal. If you have a deer brain in the freezer or if you can get pig or cow’s brain from the local butcher you can use that brain. Again, just dissolve it in a little bit of water and use the solution on the hide. If you want to see how to make the solution and for a recipe check out my How to Tan Deer Hide post.  
  3. Use an egg yolk instead of the brain. That is what I ended up doing with this hide…
Preparing the egg yolk for tanning.

All you need is one egg yolk, it has a lot of fat in it and will help us soften the skin. Beat your yolk…

Using a kitchen brush to apply the egg yolk.

And use a kitchen brush to brush the damp skin…

Applying the egg yolk.

Make sure to cover every area of the skin with a good amount of egg yolk (one egg yolk should be enough for one rabbit hide). 

Try not to brush the fur with the egg yolk but if you do it’s no big deal. 

Covering the hide with a towel.

Now, cover your hide with a damp towel. My towels were almost completely dry but I had the hide indoors in a not-so-warm area of the house so I knew it wouldn’t dry. 

Leave it like that for the night and make sure the hide does not dry. So if you leave it in a warm place keep your towel a bit damp to keep the moisture. 

If you leave the hide outside or in a shed, make sure to cover it well so flies don’t lay eggs on it. 

Ok, so our hide is going to stay like this overnight (I actually left mine for more than that cause I had something I had to do the morning after so I didn’t get back to it until lunchtime the day after). 

Step 8: Rinse Again…

Washing the hide from the egg yolk.

Next, let’s wash the egg yolk from the hide. Again, I only used water here, no soap. 

Squeezing the hide from water after rinsing.

Squeeze the hide well to remove the excess water. Try to remove as much water as you can by squeezing it and twisting it. 

Step 9: Dry and Soften the Hide…

Softening the hide.

We are almost done.

Now the softening part is the hardest with a deer hide because the skin is so thick but the easiest part to do with a rabbit hide because the skin is so thin.

You actually need to be gentle here since you can easily rip the skin if you pull too hard. 

Alternate between drying and stretching and pulling the skin. I used the hairdryer a little bit at the beginning to get to a point where the hide is damp, then pulled and stretched a little bit. 

Then I let it sit on the board to dry in the air a little bit more, then we soften again for a few more minutes. 

Stretching the rabbit hide.

We pull here, we pull there, we stretch it this way and that way. The point is to do this while the skin is drying. If you let it sit and dry too much it will just dry hard and we don’t want that. 

Softening the rabbit hide.

As the skin dries and you pull it to open it up and soften it, you’ll notice that it changes color a little bit and everywhere that you soften and is getting close to being completely dry becomes whitish.

This is how you know that you are doing a good job of softening when you see the change in color. 

Some people do this for a couple of hours in front of the TV at night, I preferred doing it over a period of three days.

I messed with the hide for a few minutes, then folded it in half skin to skin and again fur to fur and placed it in a plastic bag. This way I made sure it didn’t dry on me too quickly. 

I went back to it after a few hours for another 15 minutes of stretching and softening and then folded it and put it in the bag again and so on and so on until it was completely dry.

This just worked better for me but you can definitely just take a couple of hours to do this in front of the TV. 

I do need to warn you that some hair does come off and can make quite the mess. So wear clothes that you don’t mind getting rabbit fur on and prepare to clean your house from rabbit hair if you do this indoors.

As the hide is drying, this is also your time to sew any holes if you want to.

I’ve heard of people just using a regular needle and thread here because the skin of a rabbit is so thin, but if you want you can use leather sewing equipment

A rabbit hide, a look at the skin side.

Here is the skin completely dry. I think that I could have done a better job on the softening but it’s not bad. 

Step 10: Smoke the Hide…

The last step in the hide tanning process is to smoke the hide.

If you don’t smoke and leave it at this stage, every time it touches water it will go back to being raw hide. The smoke preserves the skin, closes it, and makes it waterproof. 

I haven’t smoked my hide yet.

I am in the process of building a smoker so it’s easier for me to smoke hides (and other things).

You can see the smoking process in the deer hide tanning post that I linked to above but since rabbit hide is smaller and thinner you should only smoke it for around 30 minutes. 

A rabbit hide, tanned, fur on.

Depending on the size of your rabbit this can be a nice size hide.

I’ll probably need more than one to make anything and I’m still thinking about what I’ll be using this hide for. 

Another option is to use it as part of a project. For example, I was thinking about sewing a purse from my deerskin and adding pieces of rabbit fur here and there.

I’m not sure… If you have ideas on how to use it please comment below. 

A rabbit fur after tanning.

The fur is super soft! I also like that there are so many colors of rabbits that you can have many hides in different patterns and colors. 

Aside from hair flying all over the place, this was a very fun project! It’s so much easier than other hides I’ve done in the past because the skin is so thin. 

You can use this process above to tan any hide fur-on. It’s a basic process that, I think, works pretty well.


I’ve done this same process with a raccoon before and I believe you can do the same with a beaver. 

I will say though, that I think that the brain solution does a better job at softening the skin. I plan on freezing a few deer brains during the hunting season so I can use them on small animals later.

Please let me know what you are thinking in the comments below.

Is this something you’ve thought about doing? Do you raise rabbits for meat? Have you ever tanned a rabbit hide? Did you do it the same way as I do it? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

If you’d like to print the rabbit hide tanning instructions, here is the printable card:

How to Tan a Deer Hide

How to Tan a Deer Hide

Yield: One rabbit hide.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 4 hours
Braining Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 10 minutes
Difficulty: Medium
Estimated Cost: $10

How to tan a rabbit hide (fur-on) with an egg yolk.

Materials

  • One rabbit hide

Tools

  • Sharp skinning knife
  • Fleshing knife
  • Work beam
  • Gloves
  • Vinyl apron
  • Dish soap
  • Plywood
  • Hair dryer
  • Hair brush
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Egg yolk
  • Bowl (for the egg yolk)
  • Kitchen brush
  • Towel

Instructions

  1. Skin your rabbit: hang your animal from its back legs, cut the skin right under the back legs joint and then continue in a V shape towards the center of the tummy, between the two hind legs. 
    From there you move in a straight line down the stomach until you get to the neck. Cut the head off and you are left with the hide. 
  2. Rinse the hide: no soap, just cold water will do. 
  3. Flesh the hide: place your hide, fur down, on a bean and gently scrape the flesh off of the skin. You have to do this gently or you'll rip the hide. If you do make holes in the hide it's not a huge deal because we can always sew them later. But do go gently here and take your time. 
  4. Rinse the hide: after fleshing is done, it's time to rinse again. This time in order to get rid of some of the fat, I put the hide in a bucket and used a tiny drop of dish soap and cold water. 
    After you're done rinsing the hide make sure to try and squeeze it and twist it as good as you can to remove as much water as possible.  
  5. Partially dry the hide: we are going to slightly dry the hide. The emphasis here is on PARTIALLY, we want it just a tiny bit damp. Place the hide, skin down on a piece of clean plywood and use a hair dryer and a brush to dry the fur.  
  6. Pin the hide to a board: set the hide on a plywood board, fur to the board, and use a hammer to hammer nails around to hold the hide to the board. You don’t need to stretch it. We just want to make sure that it is held in place. 
  7. Brain the skin: if you have a deer brain or a pig brain the you can use, feel free to use it. The recipe for a brain solution for hide tanning can be found in this post. You other option is to add one egg yolk to a bowl and beat it. Then use a kitchen brush to brush the skin with it. 
    When you are done, cover your hide with a damp towel and leave it covered overnight. 
  8. Rinse the hide: in the morning, rinse the hide again to remove the egg yolk. Just cold water this time, no soap.
    Squeeze the hide well to remove the excess water. Try to remove as much water as you can by squeezing it and twisting it. 
  9. Dry and soften the skin: alternate between drying (you can use the hair dryer) and stretching and pulling the skin. I used the hairdryer a little bit at the beginning to get to a point where the hide is damp, then pulled and stretched a little bit. Be careful not to rip the skin. 
    We pull here, we pull there, we stretch it this way and that way. The point is to do this while the skin is drying. If you let it sit and dry too much it will just dry hard on you and we don't want that. 
    As the hide is drying, this is also your time to sew any holes if you want to. 
  10. Smoke the hide: to make the hide waterproof, you are going to have to smoke it. Smoke the hide in a smoker or above a smoking fire pit for 30 minutes. 

Notes

If at any point of the fleshing or softening you riped or made holes in the hide you can sew them during the drying and softening step. make sure to do this before the hide is completely dry.

You can use your fur in different sewing projects.

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38 thoughts on “How to Tan A Rabbit Hide”

    1. I was thinking mittens! It will be a fun easy project for a beginner like me. I am just not sure if we really need them in the South but I might give it a try anyway.

  1. Jenifer Joseph

    Oh my goodness thank you!!! When I get my farm I’m absolutely raising meat rabbits. The idea of throwing away the hides just breaks my heart. I would make slippers!!! Lol! This is so awesome thank you!! I’m super excited!!!

    1. I am so happy you liked it! I love tanning. I started for the same reason you mentioned. I just couldn’t throw away the hides.

  2. This has got to be the absolute best directions I have ever found for tanning and I have been looking and failing for a long time. I am going to be making my friend a wedding cape. Thank you a million times. I feel far more confident now.

    1. Awww… You made my day! Thank you for taking the time to write this comment. I remember feeling the same way when I tried to find information. I ruined 8 rabbit pelts before I figured it out.
      I just have to say, be gentle! Rabbit skin is as thin as paper.
      Good luck with your project.

  3. I have done this several times, people thought I was nuts on FB. Thanks for using the egg yolk method. I never smoked mine either.

    1. It’s really hard for a lot of people to accept that someone is still doing this. Many people have gone really far away from nature… But there are many that still appreciate old crafts and ways of living. You just have to intentionally look for them these days. Have you ever been to primitive skills gathering?

    2. THANK YOU FOR THE DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS. My family hunts deer and I have tried multiple times to figure out a way to utilize every part of the deer so nothing goes to waste. To me, the hide is like gold! However, I hadn’t found any one person that could explain start to finish how they accomplished tanning it with the hair on, until now???? Thank you, and Xmas stocking would be a great project for any hides:)

      1. You are welcome! I was in the same boat as you. I will say one thing, when you do a deer hide try to use the brain solution that I have in the “how to tan a deer hide” post (did you see that one?). The egg is enough for the rabbit skin because it’s really thin, but the deer skin is much thicker. The brain solution will work better for deer skin…

  4. Thank you for this tutorial. I plan on using it for a raccoon we got recently. I need to degrease by washing with Dawn. Would you use 2 egg yolks for a raccoon? My finished pelt will be used as a wall hanging. Thanks!

    1. I did one raccoon so far and I think one egg yolk was enough but it will depend on the size of the raccoon. If you can put your hands on a deer brain it will be better to use than the egg. Mine is hanging on the back of my desk chair. I love it!

  5. This was really helpful. I tanned 2 rabbit hides using salt and egg yolk. I may have left them to soak in water for too long as rhey started to really smell and are shedding. I didn’t do a great job of stretching them. They’re dry now but still smell and shed. Can I wash them again to get rid of the smell and try stretching them some more? Thanks for your response

    1. Yes, you can do this process over and over again. Until you smoke the hide you can repeat the process and every time that you soak the hide in water it will go back to being raw skin. Once you smoke it it will get wet but it won’t go back to being raw skin that you can work anymore.
      Unfortunately, I find that the hides keep shedding. I’m not sure if there is a way to correct that…

  6. Did you ever finish the smoker? if so do you have an article on that? its another barrier to me being able to tan is doing the smoking.

    1. No, I didn’t finish it yet. It’s about done tho, just missing a door. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish it this year. I built it the same exact way that I built my chicken coop just smaller, closed all the way up, and with a door. Here is how I did the chicken coop:https://ladyleeshome.com/how-to-build-chicken-coop/
      I hope this helps. I don’t plan to install a stove or anything like that. I want to keep it simple and use the same method that we used in my post about tanning a deer hide (https://ladyleeshome.com/how-to-tan-deer-hide/). I’m just going to place a bucket with punk wood at the bottom and keep it smoking. But it will be simple to install a stove outside if that what you want to do.

  7. I tried doing a rabbit skin just by covering it with salt, I had seen instructions that online somewhere, anyway it didn’t work and the flies were laying eggs on it even though the salt was all over it, pretty icky, plus the hide ended up being stiff anyway. I started doing the tanning of a deer hide (it’s halfway there in my freezer) after I got the book by Matt Richards who talked about brain tanning awhile ago. I’ll try your tanning method, which is so cool I hate throwing things away. There is a book I forget the title but the Native Americans, Paiutes I think, in the desert part of the west would go from the head (keeping the eye hole) and cut the bunny fur into one long continuous ribbon. Then they would let them dry (kept ears on they snap off when dry). They would get about 50 of these bunny ribbons and then make a big old loom out of tree branches (like those old time pot holder looms they sold for kids to make) and would weave them into a blanket for themselves to wear, like a big cape. I think it’s titled “Survival Arts of the Primitive Paiutes” or “Survival Arts of the Paiutes”. Very cool book. Thanks for the great information and photos! I plan to make a blanket but just by sewing it probably.

  8. Hi, I just finished reading your tutorial on tanning rabbit hides. I am considering raising meat rabbits and I would like to use the hides, too. I like the egg-tanning method you described. You said that brain works better than egg for tanning. What makes the difference? I feel MUCH more comfortable using egg than brain in the tanning process. Thank you for your tutorial!

    1. The brain contains a lot more fat than the egg. But, this matters more when we tan deer hides, for example, because the skin is so thick. Rabbit skin is as thin as paper so the egg is just fine. Rabbits are great for meat and their hide is amazing. I think that you’ll have fun with this!

  9. I like the way you tan hide. It’s looks kind of ez the way you do your hides. Thanks for your help. There is a trapper is name is Tom Ore. He brain tans hides. I want to learn how to tan furs to i can use them to tie fishing lures. I would like to learn how to dye my own buck tails and other hides difference colors. Do you think you can help me . think you Ms. Lee take care be safe from Virus

    1. It’s easy to do a rabbit hide with the egg because the skin is very thin. With other hides, like deer hide, for example, brain works much better. I’ve never dyed my hides though. Not sure how you’d do that…

  10. Frank Chandler

    I raise New Zealands and have tanned about 300 hides using a pickling process with canning salt and battery acid. I haven’t brain tanned so I can’t say which I prefer but I can do 6 at a time with my process. Regarding ideas about use: I am in the process of sewing them together for a quilt. There are lots of ideas on the web for hats and mittens along with patterns available.

  11. I’m having a problem with the hair sluffing off in large clumps. I had my skins frozen, thawed them in water, then tried fleshing them. Most of the hair is just falling off. Any suggestions?

    1. It might be because they were frozen but I am not 100% sure. It happened to me when I used salt before but never with just water so I am wondering if it’s because of the freezing.

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