It can be tough making friends in a new nursery, which is why you need a guy like the Skin Horse. When those fancy-pants mechanical toys snub the Velveteen Rabbit, he befriends the Skin Horse.
This guy is the oldest toy in the nursery, so at first he doesn't look like much:
He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. (4)
But the Skin Horse has got mad knowledge. He actually belonged to the Boy's uncle so he's been around the block and he knows all about how a toy can become Real. So for $20 he'll tell you about it.
Just kidding, he tells the Velveteen Rabbit for free…and in the process gets to drop some of the best quotes in the book:
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." (6)
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." (10)
The Skin Horse is kind of like the Velveteen Rabbit's mentor. He gives our hero a deeper understanding of the world around him. And because the Skin Horse has already become Real he gives the Velveteen Rabbit a goal to shoot for once he begins his friendship with the Boy.
Fun retro toy fact: the Skin Horse is called a "skin horse" because he is literally covered in animal skin. Toys like that were popular up through the 1930s when it was relatively cheap to get calf-hides and use them as material to cover children's toys. You read more about it and see what the Skin Horse might have looked like over at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences.