Do Dogs Have Hair or Fur?
How To Describe Your Dog's Coat
The question of whether dogs have hair or fur is one that often sparks curiosity among pet owners and animal enthusiasts. It's a seemingly simple question with a complex answer that delves into the science behind canine coats.
In this article, we'll explore the intricacies of dogs' coats, examining the differences between hair and fur, and shedding light on how genetics play a role in determining the type of coat a dog possesses.
Hair vs. Fur: Is There a Difference?
To understand whether dogs have hair or fur, it's crucial to differentiate between the two. While the terms "hair" and "fur" are often used interchangeably, they do have distinct characteristics.
- Hair is typically associated with mammals that have longer, finer, and more densely packed strands. Human hair is a prime example. Hair grows continuously and tends to shed less frequently, resulting in minimal seasonal changes. Hair can also be groomed and styled.
- Fur, on the other hand, refers to shorter, denser, and coarser strands that cover the bodies of animals, especially those adapted to colder climates. Fur usually grows in cycles, with some animals experiencing significant shedding during seasonal changes. Fur provides insulation and protection from harsh weather conditions (1).
So, where do dogs fit into this categorisation? The answer lies in their genetic makeup and the specific breed characteristics.
In short, dogs that have strands of hair which grow continuously (i.e., they need to be cut in regular intervals) are considered to have hair, while dogs that have coats that grow to a certain length and then stop are considered to have fur (2).
The Doggy Coat Spectrum
Dogs exhibit a wide range of coat types, from short and smooth to long and flowing. These variations are primarily influenced by genetics. The following are some common coat types found in dogs:
1. Hair Coats
Some dogs, often referred to as "hypoallergenic" breeds, possess hair-like coats that more closely resemble human hair. These breeds include Poodles, Bichon Frises, and Yorkshire Terriers. These dogs have hair that grows continuously and requires regular grooming, much like human hair. These breeds are known to produce fewer allergens, making them a popular choice for individuals with allergies.
Related: The Best Dog Brushes Australia.
2. Fur Coats
Many other dog breeds have fur-like coats characterised by shorter, coarser strands. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers fall into this category. Dogs with fur coats typically shed seasonally, often in preparation for a change in weather. This shedding can be more substantial and noticeable.
Related: How Often Should I Clip My Dogs Hair?
3. Double Coats
Some breeds, like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, have a double coat. This means they have both an insulating undercoat (fur) and a protective topcoat (hair). The combination of these two coat types provides excellent insulation and protection against extreme temperatures. Double-coated breeds often shed heavily during seasonal transitions.
The Genetics of Canine Coats
The type of coat a dog has is primarily determined by its genetics. Genes control the length, texture, and colour of a dog's coat. The interaction between different genes leads to the incredible diversity of canine coats.
One essential gene responsible for coat length in dogs is the FGF5 gene. Variations in this gene can lead to either hair or fur. Dogs with two copies of the "hair" variant have continuously growing hair, while those with two copies of the "fur" variant have a coat that grows to a certain length before shedding (3).
Additionally, genes like MC1R control coat colour and patterns, while genes like KRT71 influence coat texture. The interplay of these genes contributes to the vast array of coat variations we see in different breeds (4).
Related: Home Remedies For Matted Dog Hair.
Shedding Light on Shedding
Shedding is another critical factor in determining whether dogs have hair or fur. Shedding refers to the natural process of hair or fur falling out and being replaced by new growth. It's a normal part of a dog's life cycle.
Related: The Best Dog Hair Remover Australia.
Dogs with hair-like coats tend to shed less frequently and minimally. Instead, their hair grows continuously, similar to human hair. However, regular grooming is necessary to prevent matting and tangling.
In contrast, dogs with fur-like coats, especially those with double coats, often experience more noticeable shedding. This shedding typically occurs as seasons change, with the dog's coat adapting to the temperature variations.
My Final Thoughts
In the debate over whether dogs have hair or fur, the answer is both—it depends on the breed and genetics. Some dogs have hair-like coats that require more grooming, while others have fur-like coats that shed seasonally.
Understanding your dog's coat type is essential for proper care and maintenance. Regardless of their coat, all dogs deserve the love and attention that keeps them happy, healthy, and comfortable in their furry or hair-covered skin.
- Puotinen, C.J. February 16, 2023. “Does Your Dog Have Hair or Fur?”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2023. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/grooming/does-your-dog-have-hair-or-fur/
- Coile, C. November 28, 2022. “Does My Dog Have Hair or Fur”. America Kennel Club. Retrieved September 26, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dogs-hair-fur-grooming/
- Dierks, C., Mömke, S., Philipp, U., Distl, O.. (2013). “Allelic heterogeneity of FGF5 mutations causes the long-hair phenotype in dogs”. Animal Genetics, 2013 Aug;44(4):425-31. Epub 2013 Feb 6. PMID: 23384345. https://doi.org/10.1111/age.12010
- Saif, R., Iftekhar, A., Asif, F., & Alghanem, M. S. (2020). “Dog coat colour genetics: A review”. Advancements in Life Sciences, 7(4), 215-224. https://www.als-journal.com/articles/vol7issue4/745.20/988.pdf