Skins and hides are perishable resources that can be damaged by parasitic diseases and human error, which result in downgrading or rejection. This study was conducted to identify defect types and to determine their prevalence in pickled sheep and wet blue goat skins and wet blue hides. Each selected skin or hide was examined for defects in natural light and the defects were graded according to established quality criteria in Ethiopian standard manuals. Major defects were captured by digital photography. The major pre-slaughter defects included scratches (64.2%), cockle (ekek) (32.8%), wounds or scars (12.6%), lesions from pox or lumpy skin disease (6.1%), poor substance (5%), branding marks (2.3%) and tick bites (1.5%). The presence of grain scratches in wet blue hides (76.3%) was significantly higher than in pickled sheep (67.2%) and wet blue goat (59.1%) skins. The major slaughter defects included flay cuts or scores, holes, poor pattern and vein marks, with a higher occurrence in wet blue goat skins (28.7%; P < 0.001) than in wet blue hides (22.8%) and pickled sheep skins (11.1%). The most prevalent post-slaughter defects were grain cracks (14.9%), hide beetle damage (8%), damage caused by heat or putrefaction (3.7%) and machine-induced defects (0.5%). Grain cracks (27.04%) and hide beetle damage (13.9%) in wet blue goat skins were significantly more common than in wet blue hides and pickled sheep skins. These defects cause depreciation in the value of the hides and skins. Statistically significant (P < 0.001) higher rejection rates were recorded for wet blue hides (82.9%) than for pickled sheep skins (18.3%) and wet blue goat skins (8.5%). Improved animal health service delivery, effective disease control strategies and strong collaboration between stakeholders are suggested to enhance the quality of skins and hides.