You have probably heard that violin bows are made from horse hairs from the tail of the horse. But how does this happen, are they actually killing horses to get the precious hairs for the violin bows?
Are Horses Killed To Make Violin Bows?
Most horse hairs for violin bows are when the horses are already dead. So no horses are killed or harmed in order to get horsehair for violin bows. Violin bows are also made with synthetic hair but the best bows are made from horse hairs.
Violin bows made from horsehair have been very popular among violin players.
They are simply better and create a much more rich sound than bows made with synthetic materials.
How Are Horse Hairs Collected For Violin Bows?
Horsehair for violin bows is typically harvested at the slaughterhouse or at the veterinarian when a horse is put down. The hair is then sold to violin manufactures. They are highly valuable and some of the finest bows from horsehair will cost up to $8,000 or more.
The hair from horsetails can be collected in many different places. Whenever a horse dies it will usually happen at the vet’s place and they might sell the hair.
From living horses
You can easily cut off a bunch of hairs from the tail of a horse without harming or causing any stress to the animal. Much like you and I would go to the hairdresser to get our haircut.
Luthiers prefer the thicker hair that you find on horses and the hair is sorted multiple times in order to find the most perfect strings of hair.
Luthiers prefer to use the hair from horses in cold climates. This is why Mongolia is one of the primary countries when it comes to horsehair production. Besides Mongolia, we also find the very fine and thick horsehair in other cold countries such as Siberia and Canada.
The cold weather causes the horse to produce thicker hair in order to keep warm. It’s a basic survival issue that is often observed among the AMAZING animals in the arctic areas.
At the vet’s place
If you have tried to have a horse put down (God forbid!) you might have experienced that the vet will typically cut off the tail first for “surgical reasons”. If this happens to you-you need to make sure that you are getting that precious horsehair. Not only is it worth a fortune but it would also be a great memory to keep for the rest of your life.
The vitamin area and shouldn’t have to sell that horsehair to make a profit.
Then you can decide what to do with the hair of the horsetail.
At the slaughterhouse
It can also happen at the slaughterhouse where the fine hair is collected before the horses disposed of.
The horse slaughterhouses work quite similar to slaughterhouses for cattle. The horses will arrive on a trailer after being purchased at a horse auction. The horse will then be killed with a pressure gun (bolt pistol) being pressed to the forehead.
The horse will be hang upside down to drain the blood and the meat will be sold as a delicacy to countries like France or Italy.
But before that happens the horsetail is typically cut off. The fight hair is now sold to a company that creates violin bows as the fine hair from the horsetail is excellent for this purpose.
So, as you can see, the horse is typically not killed in order to make violin bows (or any other products) because the hair can be harvested when the horse is dead or while it is alive.
And so are several other various parts of the horse that are used for many products such as glue. You can read here how horses are turned into glue.
Are Horses Killed To Make Other Products?
There is actually a long list of products being made from dead horses.
Most products are made from fine hair but other products are made from the hooves which contain gelatin. The gelatin is often used for glue and other sticky products such as Gello and gummy bears.
In Mongolia, Siberia, and Canada you find most of the horses that are being used for violin bows. They have a cold climate that is perfect for getting thick hair. In Mongolia especially, horses are treated much more like cattle and they will kill the horses in order to get the meat, the milk, and the horsehairs.
They will drive the horses to the slaughterhouse as the most natural thing in the world. The horses are bred for food and the various products that can be made from the hooves and the horsehair.
We have created a separate article that lists all products made from horses.
Why Are Horse Hairs (Still) Used For Violin Bows?
The reason we started using horse hairs to produce violin bows is that the hair from a horse is very strong and durable. On top of that, it creates the perfect sound when you slide it slowly over the strings of the violin, a cello, or similar instruments.
People are also using artificial products for violin bows today. But generally, they have not been able to produce violin bows with as rich a sound as those made from horsehair. This is because nature has produced the perfect piece of hair that is both durable and able to make the strings vibrate at the perfect frequency.
That being said, a lot of vegans are playing the fiddle and there has been a growing demand for a great violin bow made from artificial materials.
Some have even argued that they have been able to come up with an artificially made violin bow that was able to produce as good a sound.
But I think you have to look long and hard in order to find a professional violin player who wants to play the violin with anything else than a bow made from horsehairs.
As you can imagine, this is a HUGE industry and one that especially Mongolia is well-known for. A horse is a commodity in Mongolia and you can buy a horse for as little as $100.
One man was famous for keeping as many as 14,000 horses at one point which goes to show just how huge this industry is for this country.
The horses are used for milk, meat, and hair.