While there are a number of similarities between human and animal hair, there are also a few significant differences as well. While these differences are relatively well known to scientists as well as companies that manufacture hygiene products that are formulated for household pets, most people are unaware of how animal hair or fur differs from human hair. Some of these differences include the properties of the follicle core, growth patterns, and hair composition.
One of the key differences between human and animal hair is the core of the hair follicle. With animals, the core has properties that allow for the coating of hair to provide excellent insulation from not only heat and cold, but also a fair amount of protection from rain as well. The combination of thermal regulating qualities along with the coarse nature of animal hair work as a great means of holding in cold or heat, as well as preventing rain and moisture to work all the way to the skin of the animal. Human hair, by contrast, does little to nothing to provide temperature regulation for the body, and lacks the ability to prevent rain from soaking through to the scalp.
The growth pattern also differs between human and animal hair. In humans, the strands of hair tend to grow independently. For animals, the process of hair growth tends to be more synchronized. This is an important distinction, as it sets the stage for shedding during periods when the coat is too heavy for the weather conditions related to the season. While human hair can be cut to the specifications of the individual, animal hair will grow to a certain point and then simply fall out, to be replaced by new hair when and as the time is right.
One other notable difference between human and animal hair is the composition of the human head of hair and the pelt of an animal. Human hair tends to have the same texture, while animal hair generally includes a double composition. In addition to the coarser top layer of hair or fur, there is a shorter, finer layer that is referred to as the under fur. The under fur is found closer to the skin and helps to provide some of the temperature control for the animal. Along with helping to keep the body of the animal at an acceptable temperature, the under fur also helps to protect the roots of the longer hair strands from harm.