Hair? Fur? Wool? What’s the Difference


Since getting into this rugs, carpets and tapestries’ thing I keep coming up with questions the answers to which I either thought I already knew or never thought about before. “What’s the difference between hair, fur and wool?” is one of those I thought I knew. I was wrong.

I thought…actually I’m not too clear on what I thought. It kinda went this way: hair comes in individual strands, wool is all from sheep and fur is thick hair; humans have hair and cats have fur–although cats cough up hairballs. Dogs are covered In fur, but some of them have short hair and some long. Oh, and don’t forget that old hangover remedy, fur of the dog–I mean hair of the dog! Sheep

sick puppy

Oh what a night I had!

are woolly and goats hairy but the follicles of both make for wool rugs when spun into yarn. Get my drift here? I was just sort of making it up as I went along. Which apparently is what most all of my fellow humans do! We speak of distinctions between the three but not with any consistency.

The informative blog askanaturalist.com has this to say about these distinctions. “It seems … that the most general distinction is that a dense coat of fine fibers is usually called fur. A less dense coat of thicker fibers like what you find on a human or a horse or a pig is usually called hair. And then, just to complicate things further, a very fine, very dense coat of fibers is often called wool, as with sheep, alpaca, and muskoxen. On the o

ther hand, the animal with the finest, densest coat of all is probably the sea otter, but I’ve never heard their fur called otter wool.”  But, the post continues, “Scientifically, hair and fur are made of exactly the same material, a protein called keratin. From a developmental standpoint, there is no distinction between the follicles from which hair, fur, eyelashes, whiskers, wool, or porcupine quills grow. They’re all hair follicles and it’s all hair.”

So if you care to freshen up your cliches it would be perfectly proper to say,

Don’t let them pull the quills over your eyes…
I see you are having a bad fur day…
I got drunk last night and I’m having the whiskers of the dog…

And then there is the Rock Opera, Hair Wool!

She asks me why I’m just a woolly guy
I’m woolly noon and night
Wool that’s a fright
I’m woolly high and low
Don’t ask me why
Don’t know It’s not for lack of bread Like the Grateful Dead
Darling Gimme head with wool
Long beautiful wool Shining, gleaming, Steaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there wool Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy wool, wool, wool, wool, wool, wool, wool

There, that works!

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