Before about 1850, most saddle blankets were made of animal hides. In addition to buffalo hide, a variety of thick animal pelts were used, such as wolf, grizzly bear, cougar, and otter. First developed as a functional object, the saddle blanket soon became a showpiece of decorative techniques.
After traders introduced European-style saddles, Native artists developed their own, made from indigenous materials, in two distinct styles: pad saddle and frame saddle. The pad saddle is simply a bag fashioned from tanned hide and stuffed with hair or other material. The frame saddle is constructed of wood and antler.