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Leather: horse harness, household items


The Kyrgyz, having livestock, have used animal skins for a variety of household articles, horse tackle and clothing. Both domestic and wild animals would be used – horses, cattle, sheep, goat, fox, marten, otter, ibex and gazelle.

These would often be decorated – with patterns stamped into the surface of the leather. The patterns used are similar to those found in felt work – rosettes, scrolls and rams horns predominate. Hides and furs were used to make clothing, footwear and many forms of practical objects. Harnesses for horses in particular would be highly prized and decorated. Leather was sometimes used to cover wooden chests.

From the late nineteenth century, china and metal ware became common in the south of the country and the continued use of leather utensils became a distinctive feature of the northern Kyrgyz. Leather containers for keeping kumis are called Kookor – and the bottles have a distinctive anchor shape – the neck is supported on a wide base which curves up to the right and the left.

As well as using these skins to produce objects to satisfy their own needs, pelts would also be sold in the marketplaces throughout Central Asia – and, interestingly, industrially treated leather was also bought (imported) from Russia.

Leatherwork was performed by both men and women – and the whole family may have been involved in various stages of the process – cutting, embossing patterns, stitching – although more intricate objects tended to be made by men.