Hell for leather

Posted by Ms. Laurie S. Dell, B.A. on February 13, 2005

In Reply to: Hell for leather posted by Carole Allen on February 10, 2005

: Does anyone know the origins of the phrase "Hell for Leather"?

Hell for leather is a statement that is often confused with "Hell bent for leather". Hell for leather, in American vernacular, refers to an arduous walk that may have been strewn with difficulties and was a strain on footwear. A long and difficult walk, such as over rough terrain, might be referred to as hell for leather because of the abuse the leather footwear sustained during the walk. "Hell bent for leather" has many uses and the most popular american use goes back to the 19th century american west when a particular livestock animal, such as a cow, bull or horse would be particularly difficult to handle. One of these troublesome creatures would cause their handler so much trouble that the owner or handler considered slaughter of the animal and turning the carcass into leather. When a horse or cattle became difficult to handle they were called "Hell bent for leather" meaning that the animal was hell bent to become a leather good.