Tanning is a necessary step to preserve fur for the long term. Once you catch a furbearer, skin it and flesh, stretch and dry the pelt, it’s preserved for the short term. But a dried pelt will only last for weeks or months in that state. If you don’t get it tanned it will break down and the bugs will get to it. The only way to preserve fur pelts indefinitely is to tan them. The tanning process involves chemically treating the pelt to transform it into a form that does not break down. Tanning also makes the pelt soft and supple, making it easy to craft into clothing or other items, or just to hang on the wall to preserve the memory.
In the old days, there were fur tanneries all over the country. Today, though, tanneries are few and far between, and there’s a pretty good chance you don’t have one within driving distance. Although some small tanneries do exist, the bulk of the fur caught in North America is tanned at just a few places. Below I’ll mention some of the major tanneries where you can send your fur.
Moyle Mink & Tannery
Moyle Mink & Tannery sets the standard when it comes to fur dressing. Located in Idaho, what was once a family mink ranch became a tannery when they decided to start dressing their own furs. Soon they began taking on fur tanning for other ranches, and then branched out to tan fur for trappers, fur garment makers and taxidermists. Moyle is now a full scale tannery that provides both garment and taxidermy tanning for virtually all legal species of furbearer and big game animal. They do an incredible job at a reasonable price. Each fur is individually ID’d at receiving so you know you’re getting back the fur you sent in. The leather is soft, supple and perfectly preserved. I’ve sent a lot of fur to Moyle over the years and have been extremely satisfied with the service.
Tubari is a big time fur tannery in New Jersey. They don’t advertise too much and have flown under the radar for quite some time, but are well known among key people in the fur industry and have developed a good reputation for a quality product at a good price. Tubari will tan any quantity of fur, but they tend to cater to larger customers and have steep discounts for high volume jobs. You can find a price list and instructions on their website. Since the cost of shipping fur has gotten so high, just getting it to and from the tannery can eat up a lot of the cost these days. Depending on where you are in the country, shipping cost may influence whether you send to Moyle or Tubari.
NOTE: As I write this (January 2024) Tubari has paused operations as their building rent cost has skyrocketed since the pandemic. They are planning to be back in operation at a different facility by spring of 2024. Stay tuned and check their website for updates. Till then, I’d ship to Moyle.
Sleepy Creek Tannery
A relative newcomer to the tanning industry, Sleepy Creek Tannery in Iowa is developing a good reputation among trappers for producing a quality tanned fur. Their prices are comparable to Moyle and Tubari, but turnaround time could be longer. They are a small operation and can get backlogged with lots of fur at times. That said, customer service is excellent and most trappers have good things to say about them. Some folks do have complaints about fur being improperly shaved, added holes, etc., which might just be part of the learning curve of operating a new tannery. Overall, I think it’s worth giving Sleepy Creek a try.
Z&L Trading Corp. is a small tannery in New Jersey run by an old guy named Leo. The service and product quality is fantastic, prices are fair, and turnaround time is fast. However, there’s a catch. Z&L is old school! They have no website, no social media, don’t take credit cards, etc. Business is done by check and by phone, the old fashioned way. Give Leo a call and he’ll answer, or get back to you. By all accounts he’s a great person to do business with.
Z & L Trading
370 Jellif Ave
Newark NJ 07108
USA Foxx is that place with all the fancy ads in the trapping magazines offering tanning and manufacturing garments with your own fur. It’s a great concept, to have something made with your own fur, and a lot of people have had good experiences going this route. But there have been so many consistently negative experiences I’ve heard about from folks who have dealt with this company, that I can’t recommend them. USA Foxx is not a tannery themselves. They take your fur in and send it out to a tannery, get the tanned fur back, and then make your hat, mitts, etc. Most of the complaints I’ve heard involve people getting back the wrong furs, damaged furs, improper quantities, etc. With all of the bad experiences from dealing with them, I think it’s far better to send your fur to one of the tanneries mentioned above and find someone else to make any garments you might want to have made.
So that’s a wrap-up of the major tanneries around. There are some small tanneries that may be local to you where you can get some product tanned, but for most people, you’ll have to deal with one of the big players. Moyle is clearly the top tannery in the country, but Tubari, Sleepy Creek and Z&L are good places to go as well. In some cases, with the high cost of shipping these days, your decision may be based on where you’re located and the cost to ship furs to each of the respective tanneries. Do you have a favorite tannery? What are your experiences getting fur tanned? Let me know in the comments below.