Are Footballs Actually Made From Pigskin?

Quck answer

Football is a popular sport played around the world, but are footballs really made of pigskin? The answer is no. While footballs used to be made of pig bladders and then cowhide, modern footballs are made of synthetic materials. The outer layer of a football is typically made of polyurethane or PVC, which provides durability and grip. The inner bladder is made of rubber or latex, which holds the air. So, despite the name “pigskin,” footballs are not made of pigskin anymore.

Hut! Hut! Hike! Go long and prepare to jump into the air to catch a flying pigskin for a touchdown.

That’s correct, individuals. It’s football season once again. In America, that means it’s time for high school games under the lights on Friday nights, college games throughout the day on Saturday, and professional games on Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, and Monday night as well!

If you’ve watched a lot of football, you’ve probably heard the ball being referred to as a “pigskin” many times. However, if you’ve ever played with an actual football, you probably know it feels like leather. So what’s the story?

As it turns out, the earliest version of the ball we now know as a football was more similar to what Americans now call a “soccer ball.” Of course, most of the rest of the world still refers to soccer balls as “footballs.”

These early round balls were made from inflated pig bladders. This is why footballs acquired the nickname “pigskins.”

The earliest football games involved groups from opposing villages attempting to kick an inflated pig bladder into the balcony of their opponents’ church!

Why pig bladders? Before rubber was invented, animal bladders were easily obtainable. They were basically round, lightweight, easy to inflate, and fairly durable.

The oldest football ever discovered was made in the 1540s. It consists of a pig bladder covered with pieces of leather, possibly from a deer. It was found in 1981 at Stirling Castle in Scotland.

Of course, it was not always a pleasant task to inflate a pig bladder for use as a football. So when rubber was invented in the mid-1800s, pig bladders were replaced with inflated rubber balls.

Eventually, leather coverings were added to strengthen the balls and make them easier to handle.

The shape of the football eventually changed from a round ball to its current elliptical shape with pointed ends (also known as a prolate spheroid). The new shape allowed the ball to be thrown farther with a forward pass.

Modern footballs are approximately 12 inches (one “foot”) long and about 22 inches in circumference (around) at the center. Many people wonder why they are called “footballs” when most of the game is played with the hands.

Even though footballs are occasionally kicked during a game, the name most likely arises from the fact that the game has always been played on foot rather than on horseback, like the game of polo that was more popular at that time.

Modern footballs used in college games and professional leagues are made of leather. Footballs still have an internal bladder, but today they are made of polyurethane or rubber.

Laces hold the leather panels of the football together and provide a good grip for throwing the ball. Manufacturers also typically emboss the leather panels with a texture similar to grain to help players hold onto the ball.

Give It a Try

Ready for game day? Guess what? ANY day can be game day! Just gather some fellow players and head outside to play.

If you are a football fan, grab the old pigskin and play flag football. In flag football, you “tackle” an opponent by grabbing flags around their waist rather than forcing them to the ground.

You have the option of placing handkerchiefs in your pockets as makeshift flags. If you’re interested in gaining further knowledge about flag football, take a look at the guide titled How To Play Flag Football.

In the event that you do not find pleasure in football or the weather prevents outdoor activities, there is still an opportunity for indoor family entertainment. Retrieve a handful of coins and prepare yourself for a competitive game of Penny Football!


1. Are footballs really made of pigskin?

Yes, traditionally, footballs were made using pigskin leather. However, modern footballs are now typically made using synthetic materials such as polyurethane or PVC. These synthetic materials are more durable and have consistent properties, making them better suited for professional gameplay. The term “pigskin” is still used colloquially to refer to footballs, even though they are no longer made from actual pigskin.

2. Why were footballs originally made of pigskin?

Football was first played using inflated pig bladders in ancient times. As the game evolved, the bladder was replaced with a leather covering, which was often made from pigskin due to its abundance and durability. Pigskin was readily available and could withstand the rough nature of the game. However, as technology advanced, synthetic materials were developed that offered better performance and consistency, leading to the shift away from pigskin.

3. Are there any footballs made from real pigskin today?

No, there are no footballs made from actual pigskin in modern times. The use of pigskin as a material for footballs has been phased out due to various reasons, including ethical concerns, availability, and performance limitations. Synthetic materials have taken over as the standard for football production, providing better durability, consistency, and performance.

4. How are modern footballs made?

Modern footballs are typically made using synthetic materials such as polyurethane or PVC. The process involves cutting and shaping the materials into panels, which are then stitched or glued together to create the final ball. The panels are designed to provide optimal aerodynamics and ball control. The materials used in the construction of modern footballs are carefully chosen to ensure durability, water resistance, and consistent playing characteristics.

5. Do synthetic footballs perform better than pigskin footballs?

Yes, synthetic footballs generally perform better than pigskin footballs. Synthetic materials offer enhanced durability, water resistance, and consistent playing characteristics. They are designed to maintain their shape and performance even in extreme weather conditions. Synthetic footballs also provide better grip, allowing players to have more control over the ball. These advancements in materials have made the game more fair and consistent for players at all levels.

6. Why is the term “pigskin” still used to refer to footballs?

The term “pigskin” is still used colloquially to refer to footballs, despite the fact that they are no longer made from actual pigskin. This is due to the historical association of footballs with pigskin leather. The term has become ingrained in the language and is often used as a nostalgic reference to the early days of the sport. It has become a part of football culture and is still used today, even though the materials used in football production have evolved.

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