Why The Football Is Called A Pigskin

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

If you grew up throwing the football with your friends there’s a good chance one of them asked you, do you want to go throw the pigskin? The actual football is often referred to as the “pigskin”, but why?

The football is often referred to as the pigskin because it used to be made with a pig’s bladder. However, in the 1900s, the pig’s bladder was removed and replaced with a vulcanized rubber bladder. The name “pigskin” still remained as a nickname for the football.

In this article, we’re going to show you more about the pigskin. Let’s go!

Why Is A Football Called A Pigskin?

In the earliest form of football, players and fans alike would use a pig bladder to make the shape of the ball. The reason for using pig bladder is because of its durability and abundance during that period.

The pig bladder was strong enough to hold anything it was stuffed with and take shape, so it was acceptable to use at the time.

pigskin football

The inflated pig bladders were also in abundance because of the mass manufacturing of the meat industry at the time. People in the streets and makeshift fields could afford/find pig bladders essentially anywhere. Players would stuff the animal bladders with any material that they could find.

The name pigskin comes from the skin of the bladder. It was much easier to say “Let’s throw around the pigskin” rather than saying “Let’s throw around the pig’s bladder”.

Football fans across the world were throwing around the pig skin, but they ran into one small issue. The fact the pigskin could pop would ruin the game completely.

To combat that, football fans and casual football players started to put pig bladders inside leather casings. However, sometimes the bladder would pop and they would lose their football.

When Did They Stop Using Pigskins for Footballs?

Pigskins stopped being used in footballs in the 1860s. The invention of vulcanized rubber took the place of pigskin.

The pig bladders were reliable but as technology evolved, so did American football. Instead of using the pig bladder inside of a leather casing, footballs were made with vulcanized rubber as the bladder. The vulcanized rubber was much better suited to hold air and keep the football intact for much longer.

In the early form of football, before the pig bladders, the ball was round (like a soccer ball) and hard to throw. The only trouble with having a basically round football is it’s almost impossible to throw down the field.

1800s American Football

However, thanks to the natural shape of pig bladders, they help to influence the shape of the football as we know and love. This allowed for the invention of the forward pass, as balls could travel through the air farther and easier.

Sports like rugby and soccer use rounder balls, as they don’t rely on throwing the football through the air and long distances.

Throwing The Pigskin

The strange shape of the football allowed casual football players to throw the ball in the yard for hours on end. The animal bladders that were previously needed, were no longer used.

Footballs are now made with vulcanized rubber and have a leather cowhide shell. Wilson, one of the premier football makers, primarily uses these two materials to make their footballs.

The rubber bladders are now more sophisticated and take a lot of force or puncturing to deflate.

This is how footballs are now mass-produced, which allows players both at an amateur level and professional level to throw the pig skin for hours.

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Present Day Footballs

The Wilson factory is one of the top manufacturers of footballs. The Super Bowl and all NFL games rely on Wilson-made footballs.

The average team in the NFL will use 22 footballs per game. These balls are consistently cycled out throughout the game. Some are softer and made for kicking, some are hardened and made for throwing.

See how American footballs are made by taking a deep dive into the Wilson football plant.


The pigskin got its name “football” because the game was first played strictly by kicking the football. The game evolved from soccer and eventually rugby, which allowed football to be a fast, elusive game that requires both structure and discipline from the players.

Thanks to Walter Camp and the rules committee, the rules were altered to allow the forward pass. In 1906, the shape of the football and the use of sturdy materials allowed for players to throw the ball down the field.

Of course, nowadays, footballs are thrown down the field in almost every play in the NFL. Teams will base their entire offense on the ability to throw the ball down the field.

This all stems from the ball that was once made of pigskin and the pretty disgusting task of removing pig’s bladders. Footballs have come a long way since their roots and will continue to evolve year after year.


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About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.