Football season officially kicks off this weekend, and what better way to celebrate than looking at the iconic “pigskins?”
Despite their nickname, footballs are not made out of pigskin at all. Today they are fashioned from cowhide or vulcanized rubber, but that wasn’t always the case.
According to Emily Upton with TodayIFoundOut.com, the original “pigskins” were made out of animal bladders, including pig bladders, thus leading to the moniker “pigskin.” Animal bladders were easily accessible and more affordable than leather balls.
There was one major problem associated with using animal bladders though – inflating it.
Luckily, for today’s football players, two things helped turn the sport away from balls made with animal bladders:
- Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1844.
- Around the 1860s, American football took steps to branch off from rugby.
Slowly, more teams started to use rubber footballs though animal bladders were relatively common throughout the 1860s. TheStraightDrop.com adds pig bladders completely faded from the scene not long after intercollegiate football began in 1869.
Today each official NFL football is made at the Wilson factory in Ada, Ohio, using cowhides sourced from Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. One cowhide can usually make up to 10 footballs.
Did You Know…
In 2006 a 450-year-old ball made from a pig’s bladder – the world’s oldest football – was sent to Germany for a brief exposition for the World Cup. The BBC reported the ball, once property of Mary Queen of Scots, was returned to its home at Smith Museum in Stirling, Scotland later that year.