Did The Vikings Wear Leather Armor?

Did The Vikings Wear Leather Armor?

Those who love history or binge-watch the HBO series Vikings must be familiar with the classic Vikings leather armor. Many historical findings and research done by historians have proved that Vikings used to make and wore leather armors carved from reindeer skin. 

Since iron was quite expensive back in the Viking era, not every fight was able to afford chainmail shirts. Therefore, leather was the go-to option for making armors and other clothing items. Vikings were used for their fierce fighting nature on the battlefield. Here’s everything you need to know about Viking armors and defense arsenal. 

What Did Vikings Use To Absorb Hits When Fighting?

Vikings primarily used chainmail shirt armors, shields, and helmets to minimize the damage from hits during the fighting. However, the high prices of iron made it difficult for every fighter to access these armors and shields.

viking leather armor

As a result, only wealthy Vikings used to wear chainmail shirts to raids and wars, while normal Vikings held shields for their protection. Here’s a rundown of a few such components of Viking’s armor:

1. Shield

Vikings were used to fighting battles with great shield defense. According to historians, Vikings used wooden shields around one meter long. The Viking warriors held the shield through a cavity in the center.

They would upgrade their shields with leather and iron wear that could handle the heat from arrows and fire. Additionally, they used to carve out pictures of their mythological gods on the face of their shields. 

A large round shield worked great for both defense and tackling down their enemies. Vikings used shield walls while fighting to create a strong line of defense. In addition, it was a must for all crew members to carry their shields while sailing on ships. 

2. Helmet

Vikings’ helmets were simple and effectively shaped with conical iron caps and nose and eyes caps. In the sagas of the Viking era, it was said that some warrior helmets contained a mail sheet of iron on the back to protect their necks. Those who could not afford iron helmets used leather helmets as an alternative option. 

The common misconception regarding these Vikings helmets is that they had horns on top. However, in reality, there is no evidence to prove this statement. In the context of the battlefield, the horn on the helmet does not make any sense.

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3. Chainmail Chainmail

Only the wealthiest of Vikings used to wear chainmail shirts during battles or wars. It was made from interlocking metal rings attached via leather straps.

viking leather armor

However, these were often expensive, and only a handful of Vikings afforded these chainmail shirts. An alternative to these iron-made shirts was using leather shirts to protect their body against hits while fighting. 

Did The Vikings Use Animal Skins For Armor?

In their everyday lives, Viking warriors wore leather armors to protect them from threats and hits. During the raids and parties, they would wear it for protection from weapon attacks from other parties.

In Viking territories, it was common for people to hunt wild animals to make armors and other clothing items. 

Several Norse narratives suggest that Vikings used animal skin to make Viking leather armors. Vikings also made belts, hats, saddles, and backpacks using animal hide.

Since they hunted animals like reindeer and horses for food, animal hide was available at their disposal for them. Therefore it became a better alternative to create armors using cheap animal skin than expensive iron. 

The Vikings Used Leather For Other Items Of Clothing

Vikings made their everyday clothing items using animal skin as well. They used leather for shoes, belts, and hats to protect them from harsh weather conditions in the Nordic region.

According to archaeological findings, Vikings used to wear leather and fur coats to keep them warm during the extreme cold seasons. 

They also used leather to keep their feet warm and dry during winter. Vikings were used for their talent for wearing heavy armors and fighting with full intensity during battles and war times.

Since leather armors were comparatively lighter than chainmail shirts, they promoted swift response and fast movement on the battlefield. 

The Vikings Traveled To Regions Where Leather Was Used

When Vikings went raiding other places, they must have learned about different ways of using leather. One of the main reasons Vikings made leather armors, and other clothing items was the availability of animal skin.

The Scandinavian lands were rich with resources and animals that could provide them with enough leather for making their armors. 

The Vikings mostly traveled to places with many livestock and horses. They used to trade iron ore with locals in exchange for their pelts, furs, and hide. Apart from hunting wild animals, they also used to buy animal skin from natives to create their armors and other clothing items using animal hide.

Why Vikings Used Armors Made Of Leather?

While iron was expensive and out of reach of common Viking people, leather was the perfect option for making armors.

viking leather armor

It is obvious that leather cannot compete with chainmail in terms of rigidity and protection. However, Vikings leather armor had its own set of benefits.

Here are a few possible advantages of using animal skin for armors:

  • Leather is thick and offers moderate protection against hits and knife slashes.
  • Its flexibility provides better mobility compared to chainmail chainmail
  • Leather armor was a cheaper option
  • Lightweight, durable, and easy to manufacture
  • Protection against water and cold weather

Vikings loved the mobility of leather armors and quickly understood how great it was to use them on the battlefield.

Considering these benefits and the availability of animal hide in the Vikings era, it’s logical to say that Vikings wore leather armors on the battlefield. 

Also Read Who Was Ragnar Lodbrok? Get The Facts  

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Did Vikings wear leather armor?

Leather armors were cheap, easily built, and lightweight than conventional chainmail armors. As a result, Vikings wore leather armor while fighting on the battlefield.

2. What was Viking armor made of?

The armors of wealthy Vikings were chainmail shirts made of iron. On the other, lower-class Vikings wore leather armors as they were cheap and readily available.

3. Did the Vikings use scale armor?

 After some time, Vikings used to build armors having metallic scales and lamellar. The leather armors also had some scales for safety on the battlefield. 

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