Are Horse Hair Shaving Brushes For You? Don’t Say “Neigh” Just Yet!

Horse Hair

Sharpologist has recently discussed synthetic hair shaving brushes (summary here).  Let’s now look at horse hair shaving brushes.  Horse hair brushes are coming back after a hiatus of nearly 100 years, following an anthrax scare around World War I.  Though still relatively difficult to find compared with other types of shaving brushes, horse hair shaving brushes offer some unique properties. 

“Animal-Friendly”

Material for horse hair shaving brushes are simply cut from the horse’s mane or tail: the animal is not harmed.  On the other hand badgers and boars are killed for their hair (and meat).  Of course, in some areas the animals are considered pests so this is not necessarily a “bad” thing, but if it is a concern then your conscience should be clear by using horse.

“Middle Of The Road” Performance

I have found horse hair shaving brushes to perform better than boar hair and less “scratchy” than many “pure” grade badger brushes.  Although I don’t think they hold quite as much water as “super” or “silvertip” badger brushes, they are more than adequate for the job.

Price

The price for horse hair shaving brushes are usually quite reasonable for their performance and build quality.  The downside here is availability: they are not found as easily as other brushes.

My Usage

I have two horse hair brushes, both Vie-Long (I got them from Fendrihan), a “pure” horse (mane/tail hair) and a “mixed” brush (horse/badger).  I quite like the “pure” horse hair brush: it broke in quickly, makes a generous lather, works well with soap and cream, and is reasonably soft on the skin.  The “mixed” brush is a bit softer but I didn’t notice it performing any better than the “pure” brush.

One Word Of Caution

The only real downside to a horse hair brush is the smell.  The first few times it gets wet the smell can only be described as ghastly.  Do yourself a favor and wash it thoroughly with a pet shampoo, rinse well with warm water, and allow to dry before its first use.  In fact, you may want to do this a couple times before you start using it.  Of course, over time the smell will disappear.

Do you have a horse hair shaving brush?  What do you think of it?

Mark H Mark H (509 Posts)

also known as "Mantic59." Shave tutor and sharpologist.


Comments

  1. Gotta admit, I tried the very inexpensive #6 and immediately liked it better than any of the half dozen boar brushes I own. Now I’m in the market for a better quality horse, because this little brush has opened my eyes to horse.

  2. Bambooculm says:

    I use a Turkish number 6 horsehair brush, and it’s great !!!!
    I did wash it with dog shampoo when it was new, only once and the smell was gone. I also use an Omega boar brush and a Parker synthetic. I only face lather as I feel that it is more efficient than using a bowl or mug. Regardless of what some critics say, I find that my Parker synthetic works very well when face lathering. The Turkish number 6 horsehair brush is so much better than a boar brush, and is only $2.45 from bestshave and is the best budget priced brush available.

  3. I too am becoming a fan of Badger alternatives. (though the boar we eat and the badger is a pest: think “giant rats”)
    I have a horse hair knot that I purchased from PC Woodcraft which has become my favorite.

    Needs about a 2 minute soak before it’s ready lest it suck up moisture as it’s lathering on the face. Even with a very short loft on that 24mm knot, while not floppy, it becomes quite “squishy” against the face after it’s properly soaked. After soaking it holds heat, water and suds well enough.

    And I really like the feel of quality horse hair on my face. Better than badger and far better than boar. IMHO/YMMV- to each his own. Synthetics will come next for comparison…

  4. I like my horse hair brush, and I’m a vegetarian, but don’t try to convince yourself the hair comes from live horses. Some small amount may come from trimmings off live horses, but the largest source of horse hair in the world today is slaughterhouses in China.

    One source: http://www.johnsonstring.com/horse.htm

  5. Mondo Johnson says:

    I have 3 Vie-Long brushes all are excellent brushes although I’m partial to the natural 13061m with a 50 mm loft. You didn’t review the mixed horse badger which I like enough to get another. I really want to try the horse boar mix but don’t like the handle and will need a custom loft. If your reading this Juan one with the 13061 handle would be keen. Anyway thanks for the review.

Trackbacks

  1. […] – however, horse hair has quite a few advantages as a shaving brush apparatus. Horse hair is animal-friendly, affordable, and much softer than boar’s hair. It is a nice middle ground between badger and boar in terms of hair stiffness, making them a […]

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