Difference Between Hair and Fur

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 31, 2023

       

Difference Between Hair and Fur

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Introduction

Hair and fur are practically the same thing. They have the same chemical composition and are created from keratin proteins. When talking about the hairs on humans, we use the term “hair.” when talking about the hair on animals, we use the word "fur." This article explores other areas of difference between hair and fur.

Hair vs. Fur

There are broadly two types of hair, guard hair, and ground hair. Ground hair has a softer composition. Guard hair has fine composition and is longer. If a mammal has only one of these (ground hair), they are said to have hair. If a mammal has both guard and ground hair, it is said to have fur. The term "hair", is usually used when referencing human hair. Human hair is made up of keratin, a type of protein created from polymers of amino acids. Human hair grows independently and does not stop growing after it reaches a certain length. Unlike animal furs, human hair only grows on specific areas of the body. They have the same colour from the root to the tip. Humans usually groom and style their hair as a fashion statement. Commercially, human hair is used for making hair extensions and wigs.

The term "fur," is usually used when referencing non-human mammals, i.e., animals. Just like human hair, animal fur is also made from keratin protein. Animal furs grow in a synchronized manner and they stop growing after it reaches a certain length. They grow longer than human hair. Animal hairs grow all over the body. Their colours tend to change from root to tip. The fur of animals serves many purposes, they function as an insulator, camouflage helps differentiate males and females, helps attract mates, etc. In addition, animal furs have thermal regulating properties and help to the animals warm during winters and cold during summers. It also helps to keep off moisture. Commercially, animal furs are used to make yarn for knitting, fashion clothes, brooms, minks, etc.

Difference Between Hair and Fur in Tabular Form

  • Mammals that have ground hair are said to have hair. Mammals that have both ground hair and guard hair are said to have furs.
  • The term hair is generally used with humans, although it can be used with animals too. Fur is used when referencing non-human mammals.
  • Hair grows independently. Fur grows in a synchronized manner.
  • Animal fur stops growing after a certain length. Human hairs do not stop growing. This is why they need to be trimmed and groomed throughout the entire human lifetime.
  • Animal furs grow all over their bodies. Human hairs grow only in specific places.
  • Human hairs have a long and soft nature, while animal furs have a short and coarse nature.
  • Animal fur has thermal regulating properties and helps the animals warm during winters and cold during summers. Human hair, on the other hand, serves no such function.
  • Animal furs are thicker and denser than human hairs.
  • Human hairs only have one layer. Animals living in extremely cold climates have multiple layers of furs.
  • Human hairs maintain the same colour from root to tip. Animal furs, on the other hand, vary in colour from root to tip.
  • Human hair is commercially used for making hair extensions and wigs. Animal furs are used to make yarn for knitting, fashion clothes, brooms, minks, etc.
  • Animal furs serve many purposes, like functioning as an insulator, camouflage, helping differentiate males and females, helping attract mates, etc. In contrast, human hair serves no such purpose. It is usually groomed and styled for fashion purposes.
Parameters of ComparisonHairFur
Found inHuman mammalsNon-human mammals like beavers, dogs, foxes, lynxes, or cats.    
Growth patternGrows independently and does not stop after a certain lengthGrows in a synchronized manner. Fur stops growing after it reaches a certain length.
NatureLong and softShort and coarse
Properties of Hair FolliclesNo thermal regulating propertiesFur has thermal regulating properties. It also helps to prevent moisture.
Commercial UsesHair is used to make hair extensions and wigs.Used to make yarn for knitting, fashion clothes, brooms, minks, etc.
TextureHair is thinner than fur. It can be soft, straight, smooth, wavy, frizzy, etc.Furs are thicker and denser than hairs.
Colour PatternSame colour from root to tipThe colour of furs can vary from root to tip.
PurposeGroomed and styled for fashion purposesFurs function as an insulator, camouflage, helps differentiate males and females, help attract mates, etc.
LayersSingle layer. Human hair can differ in follicle size and the number of follicles.Multiple layers of fur.

More on Hair

Hair is a thread-like outgrowth found in mammals. It grows from hair follicles deep within the epidermis. The main component of hair is keratin. Keratin is a type of protein created from polymers of amino acids.

Unlike furs, human hair serves no survival functions. It can provide some amount of protection against outside elements, but not at a significant level. Humans generally keep their hair groomed and styled to appear more fashionable. There are different types of hair, for example, the hair forming eyelashes, hair on the back of hands, and hair on the head. When talking about hair in general, the hair on the head is the topic.

A few sentence examples using the word "hair" is given below,

  1. The woman has long, black, and curly hair.
  2. The man lost all his hair before he reached forty years of age.
  3. Raj has a lot of arm hair.
  4. The man had thick blond hair.

Different Features of Hair

Hair Follicles of humans

Unlike mammal furs, human hair does not provide any thermal regulation benefits; neither does it help to seal in heat and cold. They simply exist.

  • The growth pattern of Hair
  • The human hair grows independently.
  • Weather conditions do not affect their growth.
  • Once it reaches a desired length, human hair needs to be cut and maintained. This is because, in human hair (ground hair), the anagen phase is shorter.
  • Compared to animals, hair on humans doesn’t grow all over the body. Human hair only grows in specific places.
  • Composition of Hair

The composition of human hair is the same throughout the body. It has the same texture. The colours remain the same from root to tip. Comparatively, hair is thinner than furs.

Uses of Hair

Human hair gets utilized to make hair extensions and wigs. Hair is also found in commercial bread. The ingredient labeled as I-cysteine (dough conditioner) is created from human hair.

More on Fur

Fur is the thick coat of soft hair found in non-human mammals like lions, bears, foxes, cats, rabbits, dogs, monkeys, etc. In general, "all fur is hair". It is the term used to refer to the hair of animals. Animals like pigs and elephants have very coarse or sparse fur; hence, in their case, it is referred to as "hair" and not fur. The word "hair" is also used when talking about a few strands of animal fur. For example,  when discussing the fibres in your dress, you call them hairs. If you have dogs or cats, their fur sheddings are referred to as hair. For example, the bed is covered in dog hair. Animals that don’t have fur are called “naked” or “hairless.”

A few sentences explaining the use of the word "fur" are given below,

  1. I recently purchased a teddy bear with the softest fur ever.
  2. The coat she is wearing is fur.
  3. Mike's dog has black and white fur.
  4. A rabbit's fur is soft and white.

Different Features of Fur

Hair Follicle in Furs

In animals, the core of the hair follicle has thermal regulating properties. It allows the coating of their hair to supply insulation from heat and cold. In addition, it protects against rain.

The coarse nature of furs helps to hold in heat and cold, according to need and helps prevent moisture.

  • Growth Pattern of Furs
  • Animal furs tend to grow in a synchronized pattern.
  • Its growth depends on the weather conditions of the place where the animal is living.
  • Furs tend to grow up to a certain length, and then fall out; the hairs are replaced when the time is right. The length of hair depends on the traits of the particular species.
  • Furs are longer because they have a longer anagen phase.
  • Not all mammals can grow hair/fur, for example, whales.
  • Composition of Furs

The texture of animal furs tends to have a double composition. The colours tend to vary from root to tip. The difference in colour of furs helps to distinguish between male and female animals. Comparatively, furs are thicker and denser than hairs.

Commercial Uses of Furs

Fur is used for making a variety of things like yarn for knitting, fashion clothes, brooms, minks, etc.

Different Types of Furs

  1. Guard Hairs: These are found in the outer coat of animals. They help to shed water and protect the animal's inner skin and hair.
  2. Wool: It is a softer, finer and curlier hair. It keeps growing. Wool is specifically found in animals like llamas, sheep, and other ruminants.
  3. Tactile Hair/ Whiskers: They grow in areas like the head, shoulder, and ears. Tactile hairs/ whiskers help to provide sensory functions. Whiskers contain special nervous connections which help to make them sensitive to outside movement. These special nerves are directly connected to the region in the brain responsible for keeping track of that information. This helps the animals to interpret sensory information along with other information received from the nearby whiskers. Whiskers help animals like cats and dogs to find their way around in the dark.
  4. Porcupine Quills: They are found on porcupines. They are also called "spines". They are enlarged hairs. Porcupine quills are made of keratin.
  5. Pangolin scale: Pangolin is an animal from the Old World. They have scaly plates all over their body.  The scaly plates are considered "modified hairs.” Pangolin scales are made of keratin.
  6. In addition to these, there are special-purpose hairs, which are found on the manes and tails of animals. These hairs differ from the hair found on other parts.
  7. Pelage: These consist of under-fur, awn hair, and guard hairs.
  8. Definitive: The type of fur, which are shed after it reaches a certain length.
  9. Bristles: This type of hair is long. Bristles help with visual signals. For example, a lion's mane.
  10. Velli: This type of hair is also called "down fur." They help to insulate newborn mammals.

Purpose of Furs

  • The furs function as an insulator. It helps to keep the mammal warm during winters and cold during summers.
  • In certain species of mammals, furs help in camouflage. In the case of small animals, their furs match the colours of their environment; this keeps them safe.
  • The colours of furs help to differentiate between females and males.
  • Furs in certain species serve as aposematism. That is sending a warning signal to other species not to attack. For example, The foul-smelling fur of skunks helps to warn off predators.
  • All mammals spend a significant amount of time grooming their hairs/furs. If the furs appear dirty, dull, or matted, it might scare off prospective mates.

Main Differences between Hair and Fur (in Points)

  • Mammals that have ground hair are said to have hair. Mammals that have both ground hair and guard hair are said to have furs.
  • The term hair is generally used with humans, although it can be used with animals too. Fur is used when referencing non-human mammals.
  • Hair grows independently. Fur grows in a synchronized manner.
  • Animal fur stops growing after a certain length. Human hairs do not stop growing. This is why they need to be trimmed and groomed throughout the entire human lifetime.
  • Animal furs grow all over their bodies. Human hairs grow only in specific places.
  • Human hairs have a long and soft nature, while animal furs have a short and coarse nature.
  • Animal fur has thermal regulating properties and helps the animals warm during winters and cold during summers. Human hair, on the other hand, serves no such function.
  • Animal furs are thicker and denser than human hairs.
  • Human hairs only have one layer. Animals living in extremely cold climates have multiple layers of furs.
  • Human hairs maintain the same colour from root to tip. Animal furs, on the other hand, vary in colour from root to tip.
  • Human hair is commercially used for making hair extensions and wigs. Animal furs are used to make yarn for knitting, fashion clothes, brooms, minks, etc.
  • Animal furs serve many purposes, like functioning as an insulator, camouflage, helping differentiate males and females, helping attract mates, etc. In contrast, human hair serves no such purpose. It is usually groomed and styled for fashion purposes.

Conclusion

To sum up, scientifically hair and fur are the same. They contain the same chemical properties. Hair and fur contain keratin proteins.  Depending on what species you are referring to, the terms differ. The term "hair" can be used interchangeably with humans and animals. The word "fur" is specifically employed when referring to non-human mammals. If a mammal has only ground hair, they are said to have "hair." If a mammal has both ground hair and guard hair, they are said to have "furs." Human hairs do not serve specific purposes. They are used to look more fashionable. Fur, on the other hand, serves many purposes. They help to regulate the body temperature in animals, help to distinguish between males and females of a species, help in camouflage, help to resist moisture, helps to attract mates, etc.

References

  • https://www.southwestwildlife.org/news/blog.html/article/2020/07/31/wildlife-weekly-hair-vs-fur-what-s-the-difference-
  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-difference-be/#
  • https://examples.yourdictionary.com/difference-between-hair-and-fur-according-to-science.html
  • https://a-z-animals.com/blog/hair-vs-fur/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fur

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"Difference Between Hair and Fur." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-hair-and-fur>.



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