Are Pirarucu Boots Illegal? The Answer Depends on You

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Exotic cowboy boots are something that has represented true American nature for a long time. But have you ever thought about the exotic animals these boots come from? 

Nowadays, pirarucu boots are widely popular in many parts of the world. The diamond-shaped skin is a treat to look at. 

And there’s no need to go on about the durability of pirarucu boots. When it comes to comparison, it’s on the same line with caiman boots. 

But are pirarucu boots illegal? Especially since the fish is endangered due to mass hunting in the past couple of years. 

Well, there’s no straight-cut answer to this question. Before I tell you whether these are illegal or not, you need to know some backstory. 

So, don’t skip. You won’t know the entire scenario that way. Anyway, let’s start- 

Pirarucu Boots and Pangolins- The Origin Story

I know the article’s about pirarucu boots. So, why am I talking about pangolins? Well, this is where it gets interesting. 

But trust me, you need to hear this backstory to fully understand what’s happening. And I promise to make it interesting. 

Pangolin Cowboy Boots- Why Are They Banned? 

why are pangolin cowboy boots banned

If you’ve been around cowboy boots before 2000, you know about pangolin cowboy boots. Remember those diamond-shaped textures? Yeap, those are the boots I’m talking about. 

You might not know about this but pangolins are the most trafficked mammal. Around 2 million pangolins are killed every year. The reason? Their unique scale. 

On top of that, in many parts of the world pangolin meat(baby or fetus pangolin) is considered a delicacy. People think it will give them some kind of virility. 

Nevertheless, pangolins were decreasing rapidly. Thus the US banned the import of pangolins in the year 2000. 

But don’t get me wrong. Cowboy boots weren’t the main reason behind the ban. The medicinal purpose and consuming them were primarily why they were decreasing so rapidly. 

If you search online, you’ll hardly find websites that have pangolin cowboy boots. I mean, no one wants to go to jail just for selling some exotic boots. 

Pirarucu or Arapaima Fish- Solving the Demand Problem 

 Credit: Eric Baccega /

Even though there was a ban on pangolin cowboy boots, the demand didn’t go down. People were still interested in buying a pair of cowboy boots with those iconic diamond-shaped textures. 

This is where the pirarucu or arapaima fish enters. Interestingly, their scale is almost identical to pangolins. 

So, instead of hunting pangolins, poachers were now fishing arapaimas or pirarucus. 

While these fish are considered the largest freshwater fish in the world, catching them couldn’t get any easier. 

When pirarucus become adults they don’t breathe underwater. Instead, they come to the surface to gulp air like whales. And they do it every 5 to 15 minutes. 

While it does help them to survive in their natural habitat it also makes spotting them a piece of cake for poachers and hunters. As soon as an arapaima comes up for air, they catch it in no time.

How Brazil Is Worsening the Pirarucu Situation

Sure, the local communities of Amazon are mainly responsible for catching the fish and making it endangered. But the policymakers or government officials of Brazil should be blamed as well. 

You see, Brazil has a type of “bioeconomic” thinking when it comes to arapaima or pirarucu harvesting. No matter how you see it, arapaima is bringing in a good sum of money every year for their economy. 

So, instead of strict regulations, they bumped up the price of pirarucu products. And as there’s already a growing demand, the price keeps increasing. In 2015, 80% of pirarucu landings that came out of Brazil were illegal. 

At the end of the day, it’s Brazil who’s winning. They are taking advantage of the species. But when you think about it, the cruelty happening here is unacceptable. 

Are Pirarucu Boots Illegal? 

are pirarucu boots illegal

Pirarucu boots sold in the US or any other part of the world are not illegal. The harvesting of pirarucu fish is somewhat regulated in Brazil. Still, plenty of pirarucu skin goes to boot manufacturers. It’s a misconception that pirarucu boots are illegal. 

Due to the pangolin import ban in the US, people sometimes get confused and think pirarucu boots are illegal too. 

The only reason pirarucu boots became so popular is because of the leather’s resemblance to pangolin. Nevertheless, pirarucu or arapaima are being harvested in a dangerous manner which might lead to its extinction at some point. 

However, it’s true that the pirarucu population is on the decline because of the increasing supply. 

And  Brazil can fix this problem by introducing strict regulations. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of money or nature. 

Should You Still Buy Pirarucu Boots?

Now that you have the whole story in front of you, what’s your take on it? Should you still buy pirarucu boots even though you know it’s an endangered and unregulated species? 

Even if you choose to buy pirarucu boots, it’s totally okay. On top of that, pirarucu boots are extremely durable because of the hard texture of the leather. And the way they repel water is quite impressive. 

If you already own a pair, here’s a quick guide on how to clean pirarucu boots

So, don’t feel guilty for wanting a pair of exotic pair of pirarucu boots. The way things are going, arapaima or pirarucu is not going to go extinct any time soon. 

On the flip side, if you really think about it, you’re contributing to Brazil’s plan in increasing pirarucu prices. As Jeremiah Craig tells it, it’s a double-edged sword. 

While it’s not your fault, you are helping Brazil’s plan by increasing the demand and shortening the supply. 

Final Words 

Are pirarucu boots illegal? No. Should you buy them? It’s up to you. I mean, I would. 

No matter how you see it, it’s a touchy situation. I’m not much of an environmentalist but I do think Brazil should do something about it. 

Instead, mass exporting arapaima or pirarucu skin, they should regulate the trade to some extent. Otherwise, the species might go extinct before we know it. 

Richard Nelson

Richard is the Head of Content here at Bootpedia. From an early age, leather boots have been a passion for him. So, he thought why not share his knowledge with the rest of the world? 

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