Have you ever wondered why horse hair is used for bows? It’s a question that many people have, and the answer is actually quite interesting. Horsehair is strong and elastic, which makes it the perfect material for bows.
Horsehair is used for bows for a variety of reasons. Horsehair can withstand the tension of being pulled back, and it will quickly return to its original shape once released.
Officers in the military have used horsehair in their bows for centuries because it has a great strength-to-weight ratio.
The high tensile strength of horsehair makes it ideal for use in bows and crossbows.
Horsehair is also moisture resistant, which means it won’t absorb any moisture from the air and will maintain its structural integrity even in humid environments.
Horsehair bows and crossbows aren’t the only things that use horsehair. Horsehair is often used in violin bows, as well as bassoon reeds and cello strings.
Besides military and musical uses, horsehair has been used for a number of other things throughout history.
For example, it’s been used to make fishing rods, tennis rackets, snowshoe bindings, buggy whips, lariats, and even bookmarks!
Are horses killed for violin bows?
Are horses killed for violin bows? People have been asking this question for years, and the answer is still not clear. Some people say that no horses are killed specifically for their hair, but instead the hair is taken from dead animals.
So if you are wondering if horses killed for violin bows? No, they are not.
Horsehair is used for the bows on stringed instruments because it offers remarkable strength and elasticity, which allows it to easily be flexed back and forth yet return to its original shape with ease.
It’s also moisture resistant so that it won’t swell or dry out as a result of atmospheric changes.
It is not unusual for bows to last many years, but over time they will require rehairing. There are likely countless numbers of horses that have had their hair used to make violin bows.
Why do you need to Rehair your bow?
Horsehair is moisture resistant so it won’t absorb any moisture from the air and will maintain its structural integrity even in humid environments.
However, with regular use, the horsehair on a bow will eventually become worn out causing it to lose its flexibility and effectiveness.
This happens as a result of frictional forces caused by abrasion on the surface of the string. When this happens you’ll want to rehair your bow for sure.
If you don’t rehair your bow, the bow hair will eventually break. Once this happens, there’s nothing to stop the tip of the bow from flying off when you least expect it!
The cost of rehairs can be expensive depending on where you take your instrument for service. Some people prefer to learn how to rehair their own bows in order to save money
Can you replace violin bow hair?
Several famous string musicians learn to rehair their bow on their own, but most people take their bow to a professional. Rehairing a violin bow costs around $50 or less, whereas cello and bass bows cost somewhat more.
Replacing the hair on a violin bow is something that many string players have to do at one time or another. The good news is that it’s not a difficult process, and can be done in just a few minutes.
Replacing a violin bow’s hair is a fairly simple process. The first thing you’ll need to do is to gather the supplies that you’ll need for this project.
A new set of bow hair, water, your violin bow, a small vise or clamp, and some paper towels or cloths.
Steps for replacing a violin bow
- Make sure that your work area is clear of clutter so that you have ample room to work with things comfortably.
- Next, remove the noose from around your violin bow using your fingers.
- Slowly slide the old string out of the frog on your instrument being sure not to tear it in any way as this will create unevenness in how it fits back into place later on.
- Once all of the old horsehair has been removed from the frog, wipe any excess moisture from the frog so it doesn’t get any of your new bow hair wet
- Next, open up the package containing your new bow hair and separate about 18 inches of it using your fingers. The quality of oil in the hair will determine how tight this newly separated section is
- Make sure that you leave about an inch or two of tag at one end to tie onto later on. Once this has been done insert the tip into the top-center hole in the frog and pull it through until there is about three inches hanging out each side
- At this point twist the horsehair upwards against the concave curve of frog inserting more strands as necessary until you are satisfied with its fullness. Proceed totie off the tag at the end that you left earlier to avoid any complications in doing so later on
- Now, if desired you can clamp your violin bow in a vise or clamp in order to make sure it’s completely secure and straight when you are applying new hair
- Once this is done, curl the frog up towards its tip using your fingers (which should be covered with cloths or paper towels so that you don’t get the horsehair dirty). Proceed to lift up just enough of the strings with your other hand to insert another small clump of horsehair until it reaches around half an inch below where strings attach
- Repeat this process until both sides of your instrument have been completed. You’ll want to dothis carefully so you don’t break any of the strings on your instrument while doing it
- Once this has been completed, slide the bow hair towards the tip of the frog until it reaches about half an inch away from where they attach
- Now, with your fingers curl up around all four sides of the strings to place them back in their original position (this will also help compress or ‘crown’ the new hair further adding to its smoothness).
- Proceed to curve all of the strands together forming them into a point that is facing downwards at about 45 degrees. Next insert your bow’s spring into the small hole located on top center of violin bow (closest to frog) and pull it down until tight.
This process will require a bit more trial and error, but can still be done in just a few minutes by following the easy steps provided above.
Once your bow is fully rehaired, you should have a quality bow with years of good use left in it.
Final Thoughts on Why is horse hair used for bows?
Horsehair is usually used for bows because the hair from a horse’s tail is stronger and more flexible than the hair from other animals.
The strong yet pliable nature of bow hair makes it a great choice for creating quality stringed instruments such as violins, violas, and cellos.
Bows are also easier to make when horsehair is used because it is much more durable than other strings.