Leatherhead appeared in the 1987–1996 TV series as an enemy of the Turtles, who fought them on several different occasions. He was redesigned for this series by his original Mirage Comics creator, Ryan Brown.
Leatherhead was a giant green alligator before he swam through a portion of Florida's Everglades swamp, which had been contaminated with mutagen (due to previous activities of Krang and Shredder, the one that gave birth to the Punk Frogs). Upon making contact with the mutagen, he mutated to his current humanoid form. But despite his new intelligence he could not shake off his ferocity and hunting instincts entirely, which is why he was a danger to anyone who crossed his path.
After his mutation, Leatherhead wears a yellow cargo vest, blue rubber waders (rubber pants that go over boots and regular pants, held up by straps over shoulders), a brown belt, and a disheveled pink hat. He usually carries bear traps and large crayfish on his person. He is a survivalist and tracker. Here he is portrayed as backwoods and is far more stupid than his other incarnations.
In his first appearance, the Turtles' allies, the Punk Frogs (Napoleon Bonafrog, Genghis Frog, Attila the Frog, and Rasputin the Mad Frog), who had also been mutated by the same swamp, find themselves enslaved by Leatherhead, until he was captured by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who came to save the frogs. He escaped thanks to Shredder and Rocksteady, though they are defeated in the end.
Then he went to New York City to get revenge on the Turtles. He then hunted the Turtles within their own turf the sewers. While he searched for the Turtles he got captured by the Rat King, towards whom he does not show much respect (thinking of him as "a few shrimp shy of a boatload"). He later freed himself and they bickered and attempted to kill one another until they decide partnering to eliminate the Turtles is more likely to succeed.
Later on, however, they made an alliance to capture the Turtles, luring them to isolated areas and capturing or attempting to kill them through different means. Their goal was to unleash robot rats and android alligators on the city, conquering it. Their plan was foiled by the arrival of Splinter, and the unexpected survival of Leonardo. After the other Turtles were freed, they successfully defeated Leatherhead and the Rat King.
In one episode called "Night of the Rogues", Shredder and Krang hire Leatherhead, the Rat King, Slash, Tempestra, Antrax, Scumbug, and Chrome Dome to destroy the Turtles. As with the other Rogues, Leatherhead departed once his payment was denied.
- "Leatherhead: Terror of the Swamp"
- "Leatherhead Meets the Rat King"
- "Splinter Vanishes"
- "Night of the Rogues"