Human and Animal Hair – Similarities, functions, and differences
One of the features of mammals is the possession of hair. In fact, many animals ranging from rabbits, lions, to goats, and even cats have hairs. Humans have hair as well; being more scanty on the entire skin surface and abundant on the scalp. In general, the hair on the scalp is more abundant in females, than in males.
Hair has similar functions in both animals and humans; some of which are highlighted below.
In both man and animals, hair serves the purpose of beautification. It is a major beautifying factor for human females. In human females, hair can be curled or straight; depending on the origin of the individual.
Hair on the eyebrow and eyelids of humans is another significant source of beauty for the face.
This function is also well pronounced in animals. The way hair (fur) is patterned on the skin of different animals, makes it easier to identify, compare, and differentiate animals. The lion for instance, has a circle of fur round its chin which the dog or goat does not have.
Porcupines which have a mixture of hair and quills are also easily identifiable.
In humans, though this doesn’t hold all the time; an easy way to identify a female is by her long hair, and vice versa for males.
Hair as a protective tool works more in animals. Animal skin is duly covered with fur. Animals like the porcupine which have fur mixed with quills use their quills to attack predators and protect themselves.
The hair in the nostrils of humans helps to trap dirt and prevent them from getting into the body; similarly, the hair on the eyelids also prevents dirt, sweat, and foreign objects from entering the eye.
Again, this works more for animals. During the cold periods, the animal fur serves as a means of insulation to enable them to conserve heat. In camels, hair serves to protect them against excess heat.
The hair traps air in between the skin and the environment, creating an insulating layer.
Though the function of hair in both human and animals may be similar, human hair differs from animal fur in a number of ways.
These differences will be grouped into physical and biological differences.
Growth of hair
In most animals, at birth, they have already attained hair growth. The changes that occur in animal hair and in human hair are very distinct.
For instance, hairs on the human scalp and on the beards grow constantly and need to be trimmed and taken care of; whereas in animals, there is no scalp hair to be trimmed or taken care of.
In newly born humans, their type of hair is called lanugo which is smooth and soft. The major feature of lanugo hair is its lack of pigment.
As humans grow older, the hair pigment is lost and hair becomes white. White hair is a very important feature of ageing in humans.
In both animals and humans, hair on various parts of the skin grows just a little more after birth.
Consistency of colour and texture
While a strand of animal hair may have different colours, this is naturally rare in humans. You’d only find this type of variance in hair that has been treated. This serves as a very important differentiating factor.
Human hair has more consistent pigment throughout its cortex, whereas in animals, the hair is more pigmented towards the medulla.
The human hair is consistent and alike in many aspects, unlike in some animals.
Length and width
Human scalp hair is longer than animal hair. Similarly, hairs in other parts of the human body are quite shortened and may have little variances.
Additionally, hair has two parts: cortex, and medulla. The medulla in animal hair is thicker than that of human hair. The thickness is one factor that aids insulation of animal skin.
The DNA pattern of humans and animals are very distinct. If hair is taken up to the level of its root, it will be possible to find the DNA; which makes identification easier.
Differences between human and animal hair is usually employed in forensic studies.