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.
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.
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.
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?