Distinguishing Hair & Fur: A Comparison

Hair vs Fur

Understanding the distinctions between hair and fur allows us to use these terms correctly in the English language. It is often confusing why people refer to the hair on their dogs and cats as fur, but switch to the term hair when talking about their own. There must be some difference between human body hair and primate hair since there are two separate words for them. Interestingly, animals and mammals without fur are called hairless, not furless. For example, a whale is a mammal that is hairless. Additionally, apes, which are the closest species to humans, are very hairy, while we have hair mostly on our head and a small part of our face. Let’s explore the difference between hair and fur.

What does Hair mean? What does Fur mean?

Scientists have found that the chemical composition of hair and fur is the same, as both are made of protein (keratin). Any differences between the two have to do with our usage of the words. Fur is typically used to describe the hair on the bodies of cats, dogs, and other primates. Some scientists have proposed a definition to clarify the distinction, stating that fur stops growing after a certain length, while hair keeps growing. However, this definition does not account for hair on hands and legs that do not keep growing, even though they are not cut periodically. Thus, biologically, this definition does not hold up. Hair is a characteristic shared by mammals, and the difference lies in the pattern of growth in different mammals. Some, like whales, are hairless, while others, like cats, dogs, and apes, are hairier. Humans only have hair in certain areas of the body, such as the head for both males and females, and the face for males.

There are two classifications of hair: primary and secondary. Primary hair is longer and thicker, serving as protection against insects and twigs. Secondary hair repels water and regulates body temperature. This type of hair forms a fluffy coat known as fur in mammals. Polar bears, for example, have a thick fur coat that helps insulate them against extreme weather conditions. Hair serves as a great insulator and developed in the process of evolution for conserving the body temperatures of mammals. Hair also provides a mechanism to prevent injuries, such as the mane of a lion, which protects its neck from the attacks of other carnivores. Hair can also carry scent from inside the body to the outside. The reduced growth of hair on the human body is a result of our decreased need for hair during the course of evolution.

Key Takeaways

  • Biologically or chemically, there is no difference between hair and fur, as both are made of keratin.
  • The term “hair” is used to describe the hair on the body, head, and face of humans, while “fur” refers to the hair that is thick and in the form of a coat on the body of mammals.
  • Fur is primarily for warmth and body protection, whereas hair in humans serves fewer important functions.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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