Why Do Some Dogs Have Hair and Not Fur? We are used to referring to dogs as our “furry friends,” but if some dogs have hair instead of fur, would a better nickname be warranted for these fellows? It often sounds odd to think of dogs as having hair, perhaps because when we think of hair we imagine braids, bangs, buns, pony tails and other stylish hairdos often seen in humans. Turns out though that the terms “hair” and “fur” seem to often be used interchangeably when it comes to dogs, but it may be useful to make a distinction between the two.
Hair Or Fur?
What distinguishes hair from fur? The answer really varies depending on who you ask. Some people may just state that there really is no difference among the two so they use both terms interchangeably, while others may state that the distinguishing factor is growth; basically, hair keeps growing while fur grows only up to a certain length. And then some others may say that the term hair is simply for humans and the term fur is just for animals. Who’s right? From a scientific standpoint, hair and fur share the fact that they’re both made of the same material (keratin) and both grow from hair follicles, and the same applies to eyelashes, whiskers, wool and even porcupine quills. They basically all come from hair follicles so it’s all hair; therefore, there’s no biological difference between hair and fur, explains Tom Pelletier, a naturalist with a masters degree in Biology.
A Matter of Growth
All hair is programmed to go through different phases and grow to a certain length. Once the length is reached, the growing stops, hairs fall out and then a new growth cycle starts. In most dog breeds, hair grows during the anagen phase, and then, during the catagen phase the hair stops growing after reaching a certain length. After resting for some time in the telogen phase, the exogen phase finally takes place and the dog starts shedding, and boy, that’s sure an event that’s quite difficult to ignore!
Exceptions to the Rule
Interestingly, there are some dog breeds who are blessed with hairs that have a much longer growth phase compared to other breeds. Compared to other dogs who typically grow hair to their genetically predetermined length and then the hair falls out, these breeds just keep growing their hairs. For example, poodles are said to be in continuous anagen, and as such, they do not shed as much as other breeds, explains Thomas P. Habif, Professor of Medicine of Dermatology at Dartmouth Medical School and author of the book “Clinical Dermatology.”
The Hypoallergenic Myth
Several dogs breeds who are claimed to have hair and not fur are often advertised as being “hypoallergenic” because they do not shed like other dog breeds. This has been a selling point for breeders for many years, but it’s important for prospective dog owners to realize that there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog. Contrary to popular belief, allergies to dogs are mostly triggered by saliva, urine-derived proteins and dander, microscopic dead skin flakes that are transported through the air and that enter the mucous membranes in the lungs. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology allergies to dog dander “are not affected by length of hair or fur, nor by the amount of shedding.” So even if you get a hairless dog, it’s still going to produce the allergen,” explains Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, chair of the Indoor Allergen Committee for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Increased Grooming Needs
While it may sound appealing to own a breed that minimally sheds, there’s a trade off for less hairs around the home. Dogs who have longer hair growth rates compared to the average dog, often require extensive grooming to keep their coats in order. Because the hair keeps growing instead of falling off, there are high chances that the hair gets tangled, and in curly-coated breeds, when the occasional hair falls off, it’s likely to intertwine between all those curly strands of hair. To prevent this, several dogs who have hair and not fur, require extensive grooming under the form of frequent brushing to prevent mats from forming and regular trips to the grooming salon so to keep the coat short and free of tangles.
Dogs With Hair and Not Fur
Dog breeds with hair and not fur come in different shapes and sizes. Their hair varies as well in texture ranging from straight, flowing hairs to curly and rough, wiry, corded and even partially coated. Dogs with straight, flowing coats include the Lhasa apso, coton de Tulear, Havanese, Tibetan terrier, Maltese, shih tzu and Yorkshire terrier. Dogs with curly hairdos include the poodle, Portuguese water dog, lagotto Romagnolo and Irish water spaniel. Wiry specimens include the Brussels griffon, wirehaired fox terrier, Airedale terrier, schnauzer, Bedlington terrier and Kerry blue terrier. Dogs with corded coats include the Hungarian puli and the Bergamasco breed. Finally, for those who don’t mind the almost naked dog breeds, the partially haired Chinese crested, Peruvian Inca orchid, lowchen and Xoloitzcuintli may be good options.
Did you know? If your dog makes you sneeze, don’t just assume you’re allergic to dogs, instead, get some allergy testing done. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology pollens and dust may accumulate on a dog’s coat causing allergy symptoms. In this case though, the allergy is to dust or pollen and not the dog!