Fur is the hair covering of non-human mammals, particularly those
mammals with extensive body hair that is soft and thick. The stiffer
bristles on animals such as pigs are not generally referred to as fur.
The term pelage – first known use in English c. 1828 (French,
from Middle French, from poil for "hair", from
Old French peilss, from
Latin pilus) – is sometimes used to refer to the body hair
of an animal as a complete coat.
Fur is also used to refer to animal
pelts which have been processed into leather with the hair still
attached. The words fur or furry are also used, more casually, to
refer to hair-like growths or formations, particularly when the
subject being referred to exhibits a dense coat of fine, soft "hairs".
If layered, rather than grown as a single coat, it may consist of
short down hairs, long guard hairs, and in some cases, medium awn
hairs. Mammals with reduced amounts of fur are often called "naked",
as with the naked mole-rat, or "hairless", as with hairless dogs.
An animal with commercially valuable fur is known within the fur
industry as a furbearer. The use of fur as clothing or decoration
is considered controversial by some people: most animal welfare
advocates object to the trapping and killing of wildlife, and to the
confinement and killing of animals on fur farms.
2.1 Down hair
2.2 Awn hair
2.3 Guard hair
3 Mammals without fur
3.1 Natural selection
3.2 Artificial selection
4 Use in clothing
5 See also
7 External links
Fur clothing was first worn during the fourteenth to seventh
century and is a symbolic garment in European
History. The kings and queens of
England ordered proclamations to
regulate fur aka “sumptuary legislation”. Sumptuary legislation
established the stigmatism of fur being limited to the higher social
statuses and convey the idea of exclusivity. Exotic furs such as fox,
marten, grey squirrel and ermine were reserved for aristocratic
elites. The middle class were known to wear fox, hare and beaver while
the less fortunate wore goat, wolf and sheepskin. Due to clothing
being loose and garments were known to be layered, fur was primarily
used for visible linings. Different kinds of fur were worn during
seasons and social classes. Animals with fur decreased in West Europe
and began to be imported from the Middle East and Russia.
As new kinds of fur entered Europe, other uses were made with fur
other than clothing.
Beaver was most desired but used to make hats
which became a popular headpiece especially during the wartime.
Swedish soldiers wore broad-brimmed hats made exclusively from beaver
felt. Due to the limitations of beaver fur, hat-makers relied heavily
North America for imports as beaver was only available in the
Other than the military, fur has been used for accessories such as
hats, hoods, scarves, and muffs. Design elements including the visuals
of the animal were considered acceptable with heads, tails and paws
still being kept on the accessories. During the ninetieth century,
seal[verification needed] and karakul were made into indoor jackets.
The twentieth century was the beginning of the fur coats being
fashionable in West Europe with full fur coats. With lifestyle changes
as a result of developments like indoor heating, the international
textile trade affected how fur was distributed around the world.
Europeans focused on using local resources giving fur association with
femininity with the increasing use of mink. In 1970, Germany was the
world’s largest fur market. The International
Fur Trade Federation
banned endangering species furs like silk monkey, ocelot, leopard,
tiger, and polar bear in 1975. The use of animal skins were brought to
light during the 1980s by animal right organisations and the demand
for fur decreased. Anti-fur organisations raised awareness of the
controversy between animal welfare and fashion.
Fur farming became
banned in Britain in 1999. During the twenty-first century, fox and
mink have been bred in captivity with Denmark, Holland and Finland
being leaders of mink production. 
Down hairs (#1-2)
Awn hair (#3-4)
Guard hairs (#5-8)
Domestic tabby cat
The modern mammalian fur arrangement is known to have occurred as far
back as docodonts, haramiyidans and eutriconodonts, with specimens of
Spinolestes preserving compound follicles
with both guard hair and underfur.
Fur may consist of three layers, each with a different type of hair.
Down hair (also known as undercoat or ground hair) is the bottom—or
inner—layer, composed of wavy or curly hairs with no straight
portions or sharp points. Down hairs, which are also flat, tend to be
the shortest and most numerous in the coat.
Thermoregulation is the
principal function of the down hair, which insulates a layer of dry
air next to the skin.
The awn hair can be thought of as a hybrid, bridging the gap between
the distinctly different characteristics of down and guard hairs. Awn
hairs begin their growth much like guard hairs, but less than half way
to their full length, awn hairs start to grow thin and wavy like down
hair. The proximal part of the awn hair assists in thermoregulation
(like the down hair), whereas the distal part can shed water (like the
guard hair). The awn hair's thin basal portion does not allow the
amount of piloerection that the stiffer guard hairs are capable of.
Mammals with well developed down and guard hairs also usually have
large numbers of awn hairs, which may even sometimes be the bulk of
the visible coat.
Guard hair is the top—or outer—layer of the coat. Guard hairs are
longer, generally coarser, and have nearly straight shafts that
protrude through the layer of softer down hair. The distal end of the
guard hair is the visible layer of most mammal coats. This layer has
the most marked pigmentation and gloss, manifesting as coat markings
that are adapted for camouflage or display. Guard hair repels water
and blocks sunlight, protecting the undercoat and skin in wet or
aquatic habitats, and from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Guard
hairs can also reduce the severity of cuts or scratches to the skin.
Many mammals, such as the domestic dog and cat, have a pilomotor
reflex that raises their guard hairs as part of a threat display when
Mammals without fur
Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals; however,
several species or breeds have considerably reduced amounts of fur.
These are often called "naked" or "hairless".
Some mammals naturally have reduced amounts of fur. Some semiaquatic
or aquatic mammals such as cetaceans, pinnipeds and hippopotamuses
have evolved hairlessness, presumably to reduce resistance through
water. The naked mole-rat has evolved hairlessness, perhaps as an
adaptation to their subterranean life-style. Two of the largest extant
mammals, the elephant and the rhinoceros, are largely hairless. The
hairless bat is mostly hairless but does have short bristly hairs
around its neck, on its front toes, and around the throat sac, along
with fine hairs on the head and tail membrane. Most hairless animals
cannot go in the sun for long periods of time, or stay in the cold for
too long. 
Humans are the only primate species that have undergone significant
hair loss. The hairlessness of humans compared to related species may
be due to loss of functionality in the pseudogene KRTHAP1 (which helps
produce keratin) in the human lineage about 240,000 years ago.
Mutations in the gene HR can lead to complete hair loss, though this
is not typical in humans.
Sheep have not become hairless; however, their pelage is usually
referred to as "wool" rather than fur.
At times, when a hairless domesticated animal is discovered, usually
owing to a naturally occurring genetic mutation, humans may
intentionally inbreed those hairless individuals and, after multiple
generations, artificially create breeds that are hairless. There are
several breeds of hairless cats, perhaps the most commonly known being
the Sphynx cat. Similarly, there are several breeds of hairless dogs.
Other examples of artificially selected hairless animals include the
hairless guinea-pig, nude mouse, and the hairless rat.
Use in clothing
A seal fur coat
Carl Ben Eielson
Carl Ben Eielson (1897-1929)
USAF pilot & Arctic explorer
In clothing, fur is usually leather with the hair retained for its
aesthetic and insulating properties.
Fur has long served as a source
of clothing for humans, including Neanderthals.
Animal furs used in
garments and trim may be dyed bright colors or to mimic exotic animal
patterns, or shorn down to imitate the feel of a soft velvet fabric.
The term "a fur" is often used to refer to a fur coat, wrap, or shawl.
Usual animal sources for fur clothing and fur trimmed accessories
include fox, rabbit, mink, beavers, ermine, otters, sable, seals,
coyotes, chinchilla, raccoon, and possum. The import and sale of seal
products was banned in the U.S. in 1972 over conservation concerns
about Canadian seals. The import and sale is still banned even though
Animal Response Society estimates the harp seal population
is thriving at approximately 8 million. The import, export and
sales of domesticated cat and dog fur were also banned in the U.S.
under the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000.
The manufacturing of fur clothing involves obtaining animal pelts
where the hair is left on the animal's processed skin. In contrast,
making leather involves removing the hair from the hide or pelt and
using only the skin. The use of wool involves shearing the animal's
fleece from the living animal, so that the wool can be regrown but
sheepskin shearling is made by retaining the fleece to the leather and
Shearling is used for boots, jackets and coats and is
probably the most common type of skin worn.
Fur is also used to make felt. A common felt is made from beaver fur
and is used in high-end cowboy hats.
Furs of the red fox
Most animal rights activists are opposed to the trapping and killing
of wildlife, and the confinement and killing of animals on fur farms.
According to Humane Society International, over 8 million animals are
trapped yearly for fur, while more than 30 million were raised in fur
According to Statistics Canada, 2.6 million fur-bearing animals raised
on farms were killed in 2010. Another 700,000 were killed for fur by
Cat coat genetics
^ "Pelage". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
^ Peterson, Judy Monroe (2011-01-15). Varmint Hunting. The Rosen
Publishing Group. ISBN 9781448823666.
^ "Savannah College of Art and Design".
^ "Savannah College of Art and Design".
^ "Savannah College of Art and Design".
^ "Savannah College of Art and Design".
^ Thomson, Paul (2002). "Cheiromeles torquatus".
Animal Diversity Web.
Retrieved 29 October 2013.
^ Winter, H.; Langbein, L.; Krawczak, M.; Cooper, D. N.; Jave-Suarez,
L. F.; Rogers, M. A.; Praetzel, S.; Heidt, P. J.; Schweizer, J.
(2001). "Human type I hair keratin pseudogene phihHaA has functional
orthologs in the chimpanzee and gorilla: Evidence for recent
inactivation of the human gene after the Pan-Homo divergence". Human
Genetics. 108 (1): 37–42. doi:10.1007/s004390000439.
^ "Molecular evolution of HR, a gene that regulates the postnatal
cycle of the hair follicle". Retrieved 2012-03-13.
^ "Harp Seal", Marine
Animal Response Society.
^ Rules and Regulations Under the
Fur Products Labeling Act Archived
2008-07-24 at the Wayback Machine.
Wool Corporation, Australian
Wool Classing, Raw Wool
^ Chamber's journal, Published by Orr and Smith, 1952, p. 200,
Original from the University of Michigan.
^ Humane Society International
Fur production, by province and territory"
^ The fur industry. Peta, n.d.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Furs.
"Fur-Bearing Animals". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
"Fur-Bearing Animals". New International Encyclopedia.
Non-timber forest products
Edible plants / roots
Saffron milk cap
Chaulmoogra (Hydnocarpus wightiana)
Sal-seed (Shorea robusta)
Sap / Gum / etc.
Dehesa (Iberian agroforestry)
Forest farming / gardening
Indian forest produce