The difference between fur and hair

I checked the archives and didn’t see this question asked or answered, so I thought I’d throw it at the biologists in our midst.

What’s the difference between hair and fur?

Thanks in advance for your input.

Well, here’s what those people at Merriam Webster have to say about it (did a google search on hair fur difference).

Here’s a guess, but I would say it’s that hair could grow indefinately, while fur has a present maximum length.

So head and facial hair are “hair” by my definition, because they can grow forever with no maximum length until they are cut off, while body hair is “fur” because has a maximum length, that when reached causes the follicle to “reset” and grow another hair.

Animals, whose hair generally has a maximum length, have “fur”.

True fur has ground hairs (the dense undercoat stuff) and guard hairs (the long bristly stuff that protects the ground hairs from rain, snow, and damage). However, animals that do not grow true fur are still said to have fur. Hair is what grows on people. Biologically, there is no great difference between hair and fur.

Not so – human hair (head, facial, and body) also has a maximum length, according to an old column of Cecil’s.

I’m seconding Nametag. Humans have hair, animals have fur. Biologically, there’s no real difference.

Found it. Sez Cecil:

Thanks for the input, everyone. This clears it up nicely for me. I’ll finally be able to sleep tonight! :slight_smile:

“Animals have fur, humans have hair” sounds good, but what about horses manes and tails? I don’t consider those “fur”. Manes and tails will grow to amazing lengths if treated right, exactly like human hair.

Some animals don’t have fur or hair, but have wool instead.

So the more you think about it the more you’re forced to accept that these are not strictly technical terms but are words that carry meaning through usage alone. Conventionally fur is soft, dense and finer than the stuff that emerges from human follicles (which we call hair); hair in other animals (horses’ manes, apes, pigs etc.) is called that because it seems to have similar length and texture to our own; coarser hair than that is called bristles, or whiskers if found on the face; hair on an animal we might like to harvest to knit or weave with is called wool.

And that’s all you need to know about the difference between fur and hair. Thank you and goodnight.