Are Footballs Really Made of Pigskin?
WERE FOOTBALLS EVER REALLY MADE OF PIGSKIN? By: Emily Upton
These days, footballs are typically made from cowhide or vulcanized rubber, making their nickname “pigskins” somewhat ironic. Football fans often perpetuate the idea that footballs used to be made of pigskin, which is how they got their nickname, but it turns out this isn’t the case.
In fact, “pigskins” were originally made out of animal bladders—sometimes the bladder of a pig, which is thought to be how the moniker “pigskin” came about. Animal bladders were much more accessible to the average team than more expensive items like leather. When the bladder was inflated, it was mostly round and served well as a ball for gameplay.
The only trouble was actually inflating it, which was a pretty disgusting task as you can probably imagine. Sometimes the bladder would be stuffed with things like straw or scraps of other material, but stuffing rather than inflating tended to lead to a strange shape that didn’t work quite as well in certain sports. Later on, the animal bladders were sometimes encased with leather of some type, though pig skin wasn’t commonly used.
Luckily for all of the pro and casual football players out there, the practice of blowing up bladders to play ball fell out of practice sometime in the 1860s, around the time American Football was taking its first steps branching off from Rugby. This switch in material of the ball can be explained by the invention of vulcanized rubber in by Charles Goodyear in 1844.
Photo Credit: https://www.heifer.org/join-the-conversation/blog/2014/January/who-are-you-rooting-for-this-weekend.html