Klein Karoo

International Leather

ISO 9001:2000


The Klein Karoo Co-operative Leather Division will strive to produce the highest quality ostrich leather in accordance with the needs and requirements of our local and international leather customers.

Through dedicated research and development, we will continually improve the quality of our product, as well as broaden our product range for specialised market applications.

Environmental System

Klein Karoo International has been certified as an ISO 14001 (environmental management system) company since September 2006. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) performs external audits every year.

Environmental Legislation

The SA Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has also recently (August 2012) audited Klein Karoo International in terms of environmental legislation. Training and development, coupled with empowerment at appropriate levels, will form the cornerstones of competent personnel that understand their role and importance in producing high quality leather products.

Management shall establish and maintain a communication network that allows all personnel to voice their opinion in terms of product improvement, workplace improvement, problem solving and the achievement of quality objectives. Our on-going commitment to quality improvement will be measurable in terms of the implementation and maintenance of the ISO 9000 international quality management standards.




The latest tanning technology is implemented throughout the tannery. The process includes a fully automatic water dispensing system and a chemical dosing and process control system with a capacity of 16,000 skins per month.

A research and development facility has been set up independently from production within the tannery with state of the art equipment, including eleven experimental drums with all the necessary machinery and tests to develop new products according to our customer requirements. All processes are constantly being revised to make them more environmentally friendly. An excellent balance of technical staff and continual in-house training, ostrich leather of the very highest quality is produced.


12 Different finishes ranging from fully aniline to fully pigmented are produced. The aniline finish is done totally by hand while semi-aniline and full pigmented are done with an automatic finishing system.

Test Laboratory

Klein Karoo Co-op has an on-site test laboratory, which has the capability to test the following characteristics of the ostrich hide:

  • Tear Resistance (strength)
  • Tensile Strength
  • Thickness
  • Stitch Tear
  • Adhesion of Finish
  • Elongation
  • Flex (Crack) Resistance
  • Rub Fastness
  • Colour Crock (wet and dry)
  • Resistance to Yellowing of Heat ageing
  • Resistance to Cleaning Agents
  • Colour Matching with Datacolor Microflash 200d Portable Spectrophotometer

In-Process Testing

Chemical dosing, flows, temperature, mass pH levels, etc.


Access to certified laboratories for occasional testing of low frequency criteria and confirmation of international test results.


When skins are tanned and finished for the automotive industry it becomes essential that the skins comply exactly with the specifications of each automotive manufacturer. The specifications differ between different Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM's) therefore the specifications of Klein Karoo Co-op are general specifications.

Table of properties

Download the table of properties.


View our SABS certificate of Registration.

View our Emission Licence.

It was centuries ago… that the world’s aristocracy discovered the symbol of justice – the ostrich feather – as adornment for their elegant headpieces.

It was said that someone, somewhere in the world, must have made money from this fad. Here in South Africa in the beautiful fertile Klein Karoo valley between the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains, people were literally gazing through their windows at the dollars, the yen and later also the euros which, today, are still romping in the field on two legs.

The wealth that the ostrich was to bring at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century was a highlight for the people of the Klein Karoo. Some were locals; other came from the ends of the earth. Thus there was the Jewish community from Russia and Lithuania, who with limited possessions, lots of energy and big dreams came to Oudtshoorn to share in the wealth generated by the feather. The downy feather, which curls graciously and so naturally, was to become the heartbeat of a rapidly growing community. Gert Olivier, Angus Lipschitz and the shopkeeper, Max Rose – who will be remembered as the feather king – were but a few of the traders and producers who became successful overnight.

Feather barons became the land barons who flourished in ostrich-feather palaces. Typical examples are Pinehurst, Welgeluk, Foster’s Folley, Greylands and the now-defunct Towers. Houses were carefully planned, and for architects such as Edmeades it was a challenge to give each ostrich palace, built against the semi-arid Klein Karoo landscape, a unique character.

On the Armoed flats is a beautiful church, erected with the money of one man. The name Armoed, which implied hardship and poverty, was changed to Volmoed after the success brought by the precious ostrich feather, thus confirming the optimism of the residents.

Next to gold, diamonds and wool, ostrich feathers became South Africa’s chief export product. A government delegation travelled to North Africa and discovered the origin of the most beautiful of beautiful feathers in northern Nigeria and the Sudan. The best 150 ostriches were selected and brought to Cape Town. The rest is history.

The population of Oudtshoorn as well as the ostrich population grew. From across the mountain basic requirements such as flour, milk, meat and bread were purchased. Feathers were abundant, but the water and ostrich feed were depleted. Feather money couldn’t buy water. Major disputes arose over water and the searchers after wealth were at each other’s throats.

Every six months around 1kg of feathers were harvested from each ostrich and by 1900 approximately 18 000 ton was exported per year – first to London and from there to Europe and then worldwide. In the Little Karoo earnings from ostrich feathers were higher than from any other agricultural product.

By 1903 Henry Ford had built his automobile... without a roof. World War I started, and stylish hats for women became irrelevant. Six months into the war, the wealthy started to lose money. There was no longer contact with buyers and the ostrich market disappeared, with the industry collapsing. The feather industry, however, recovered. Veterans tried their best and newcomers joined the industry. New ostrich feather palaces sprung up.

In the following years more immigrants flocked to Oudtshoorn in search of wealth – this was also the case with the scramble for gold and diamonds in Johannesburg and Kimberley. The entire Oudtshoorn community invested their assets in feathers. The volume of feathers offered on the market did not keep pace with the limited demand. By 1913, the price of feathers dropped by more than half. Within a year approximately 80% of all role players in the feather industry were bankrupt.

No one thought of ostrich leather, or even the use of ostrich meat, as a secondary industry. In 1916 the industry again was brought to its knees by the biggest drought in history. Feathers remained on the farm. Millionaires were back on the street and there was even loss of life.

On 13 August 1945 Klein Karoo was registered. Things changed gradually. In order to negotiate better lucerne prices on a collective basis, 120 farmers decided to get together and join forces. Even today the vegetable, pasture and flower seed industries flourish within Klein Karoo Seed. It was only in the late 1950s that markets started to recover significantly. Again there were feather dusters and strings of coloured feathers. And the remaining ostrich palaces were restored.

Today the two-toed bird of antiquity stands firmly on its two feet. At times it finds it rather difficult to keep its feet on the ground because Klein Karoo is striving dynamically to make the ostrich fly...

Early in the 1960s, efforts were made to build a Klein Karoo abattoir. Feathers were still top dog, but producers were haunted by dreams of a tannery. “I will give anything to see ostrich skins used,” said Gerhard Olivier. With Hannes Louw, Jurgens Schoeman and the tanner Johan Wilken, he travelled abroad for the first time in search for people who could tan ostrich leather… to find nesting items for today’s world favourite, the Blue Ostrich emblem, which was launched in Paris, France in 1994 under the auspices of Chris Coetzee.

Arnold and Dianne de Jager found a tannery in London which, unlike Pierre Balmain in France, did not only manufacture jackets, hats and clothes, but even offered to train a tanner for Klein Karoo. In 1970 the tannery opened. Hermes, Yves St Laurent, Christian Dior, Nina Ricci and many others came on board. From the farmyard to Paris and from Milan to Madrid. In the West and also in the East – where the knobby texture of the unique ostrich skin symbolises good luck – it rained dollars, yen and euros to secure this great gift of nature.

Where Klein Karoo had earlier exported ostrich meat in bulk, the Blue Ostrich brand started to appear on colourful portion-packed retail items in 2001.

Klein Karoo’s Blue Ostrich is the inspiration, with its meat, its leather, its feathers as well as its feed. Today we are proud of our three abattoirs, the new Karoo Cuisine plant, tanneries, our feather factory, a world-class seed-cleaning plant, fruit exports and five magnificent Agri Supermarkets where we will, as throughout the world, continue for at least another 60 years selling our Services in support of our sought-after product range.

Archaeological research has shown that ostriches existed as early as seven million years ago, while the ostrich feather trade dates back thousands of years. Arabians referred to the ostrich as the camel bird, while scientists have another name for it – Struthio camelus.

The ostrich has been known to man for thousands of years – from the time of the civilisations of Babylon, Egypt and Assyria. Early travellers made the first reference to ostriches in South Africa around 1775. According to them, many farmers in the Cape owned tame ostriches which roamed about freely.

Commercial ostrich "farming" started in South Africa around 1826. Since then, it has become firmly established in the fertile valley between the Outeniqua and Swartberg mountain ranges in the Southern Cape. This valley with its rich soil and relatively low average rainfall – 225 mm per year – is geographically known as the Klein Karoo (meaning "little" Karoo). From the mountains towering 1 000 meters above the valley, fast flowing streams bring water to the fertile plains below. Here lies Oudtshoorn, the jewel in the crown of the Klein Karoo and Ostrich Capital of the world home to a large percentage of the world’s ostrich population.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the plumes of the ostrich meant great wealth. Here at the beginning of a new century, the high quality ostrich skin is a sought-after commodity. Ostrich leather remains one of the few exotic leather types available to man. Ostrich meat is becoming increasingly popular with health conscious consumers who do not want to sacrifice taste and quality in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

Ostrich leather processing at Klein Karoo has advanced tremendously since ostrich skins were first processed here in 1970. Since 1945 Klein Karoo has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about ostriches. Technological advancements and on-going research have enabled Klein Karoo to produce the very best exotic leather from farm-reared ostriches exclusively. Today, our leather is the choice of the most discerning buyers from around the world.

Klein Karoo represents more than 800 farmer members and is the biggest supplier of ostrich leather in the world. The Leather Marketing division is the only ostrich leather manufacturer which offers its products in 37 standard colours in its range of more than 300.

Our leading position in the worldwide ostrich leather industry is testament to our fundamental belief – Klein Karoo is the Hallmark of Quality.

Key Policies:

  • Klein Karoo uses only farm-reared ostriches
  • The quality control is of the highest order and consistent throughout the process of preparing the skins
  • All skins are guaranteed by Klein Karoo to be of premium quality

Klein Karoo International (KKI) (Pty) Ltd Ostrich Leather Marketing Offers:

  • Extraordinary quality in body and leg skin leather;
  • An expanded range of almost 400 colours and shades;
  • Top leather to the top brands in the fashion capitals of the world;
  • A wealth of experience;
  • Technologically advanced processes and systems;
  • World-class equipment and warehouse facilities;
  • Continued research and development to enhance consistent quality;
  • Scientific and sound production practices. The first ostrich skins were processed in August 1970. Since then the state of the art Klein Karoo Tannery at Oudtshoorn made excellent progress.

Today Klein Karoo presents:

  • An ISO 9001 and 14001:2000 certified facility;
  • Top-class, versatile ostrich leather;
  • Highly skilled supervision;
  • Every possible researched technical quality;
  • Achievement and maintenance of the highest quality standards;
  • Top quality for local and export markets;
  • A comprehensive research and development facility.

Klein Karoo Leather is value-added, tanned and colour coded.

Klein Karoo Hallmark of Quality Leather is demanded by manufacturers and designers around the globe for: