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Vessel rattle
MFA# 1984.314


The hair from the manes and tails of horses (family Equidae). Horsehair is primarily produced commercially from China, Russia, Australia, Canada, Uruguay, and Argentina. Horsehair is usually coarse and strong. The resilient, lightweight fibers are used for industrial paint and household brushes. Short or curled horsehairs are used for mattress and upholstery padding while the longest fibers are used for making horsehair cloth. Horsehair cloth was formerly used as interlining or stiffening for tailored garments and millinery but is being replaced synthetic fabrics. Horsehair mats have been used as an Abrasive for polishing Veneer, burnishing Clay, and smoothing Gesso grounds. High quality, fine, white horsehair is used for the strings of fine violin bows. Cut tips from these fibers have been used for artist and domestic brushes, but the hairs are inelastic and often fail to hold their shape. Strainers made from horsehairs are customarily used to filter Japanese Starch paste.

Lakota shirt
MFA# 1991.962

Synonyms and Related Terms

horse hair; horsehair cloth; pony hair

Physical and Chemical Properties

Mane: Length = 7.5 - 20 cm (3 - 8 inches); Diameter = 50 - 150 micrometers Tail: Length = 20 - 90 cm (8 - 36 inches); Diameter = 75 - 280 micrometers


Properties of Natural Fibers

Properties of Common Abrasives

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • M. Doerner, The Materials of the Artist, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1934
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 124
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Identification of Textile Materials, The Textile Institute, Manchester, England, 1985
  • WAAC Newsletter - Volume 8, Number 3, Sept. 1986, pp.11-12 - . Horsehair strainer, a classical Japanese paste strainer...
  • Edward Reich, Carlton J. Siegler, Consumer Goods: How to Know and Use Them, American Book Company, New York City, 1937
  • F. Kidd, Brushmaking Materials, Bristish Brush Manufacturers, London, 1957
  • Zora Sweet Pinney, 'A Handle on the Terms used for Artists' Brushes', unpublished glossary, 1999