We all know that dogs have fur, but did you know some dogs are said to have hair instead? Even though hair and fur are chemically the same, we tend to use the word fur when we’re talking about dogs, but some dog experts say certain breeds only have fur, others only have hair, and some have both.
What about the Old English Sheepdog? Where does it fall on this spectrum?
At first glance, the Old English Sheepdog appears to have hair, but its coat actually has the characteristics of both hair and fur. You could say that to argue over which one it really is would be “splitting hairs.” Continue reading to learn more about what makes this breed’s coat unique…
The Difference Between Hair and Fur on Dogs
Scientifically, hair and fur are the same. The main difference is that we refer to the hair of non-human animals as fur. So in a sense, all dogs technically have hair. Even so-called hairless breeds still have hair – just not much of it.
Nevertheless, some would argue hair and fur are different. That is, if you separate them by the distinctly different characteristics a dog’s coat can have.
Fur is typically much shorter and denser than hair, only grows to a finite length, and sheds frequently so that thicker coats can grow in cold weather, and thinner ones in hot weather. Dogs with fur usually have two coats: a soft undercoat, and a coarse top coat.
Hair, on the other hand, is typically much longer than fur, and can sometimes grow indefinitely, like the hair on a human’s head. While fur is usually straight, hair can be straight, wavy, or curly. Hair goes through a much longer growth cycle, and grows in a single layer.
Dog with hair shed less than dogs with fur, though hair still falls out. However, it is less apparent because most of the hair that falls out gets trapped in the coat.
Old English Sheep Dogs Have Coats with the Characteristic of Both Hair and Fur
What makes it so difficult to tell if Old English Sheepdogs have hair or fur is that both characteristics are present.
Like hair, their coat will grow indefinitely if not cut; however, they shed a lot, like fur, so their coat will eventually settle at a final length. So even though it grows like a human’s hair, it is unlikely you’ll ever see one walking around with a six-foot long coat.
Like a dog with fur, Old English Sheepdogs have a soft undercoat and a coarse top coat. Their coats should be brushed frequently to remove hairs that have fallen out. If not, matting will occur, which is both painful and unhealthy for the dog.
Old English Sheepdogs have both straight and curly hairs, and their coats are also thick and dense.
So, Which Is It: Hair or Fur?
Again, there is no scientific difference between hair and fur, which means choosing one over the other is semantical.
I think most would agree Old English Sheepdogs have hair because it is long and needs to be cut. Though, many owners and experts still often refer to it as fur because that is the term we commonly use when referring to the hair dogs and other non-human animals. Maybe we should just agree that it is very furry hair.
Stacey Hughes Hammond (2006). How to Groom an Old English Sheepdog. Retrieved from https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/b809550e/files/uploaded/How-To-Groom-An-Old-English-Sheepdog.pdf
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