Sources of quality bow hair are found from the stallion (male) horses in the cold climates of Mongolia and Siberia. A great deal of that quality is really determined in the dressing stages.
A majority is used in paint brushes and other products. A small fraction is reserved for bows due to the length and particular quality needed. At Fiddlershop we only sell bow hair of great quality, and it's available in both "Natural" and "Black" bow hair.
During recent years, synthetic bow hair is coming closer in regards to replicating the feel and sound of "real" horse hair, and is gaining traction among string players around the world. Fiddlershop's new Forever Bow is featuring synthetic bow hair, making it completely free of animal products.
What Makes Good Quality Hair?
Starting with the source of a cold climate, those Siberian and Mongolian horses have adapted to a climate with a thicker and tougher coat. This applies to the tail in terms of stronger hair.
Beyond the raw material, the rest is really determined in the sorting or “dressing stage”. A primary focus of sorting for best strength and consistent texture.
The best hair is striking a balance of smoothness and ability to hold rosin, known as the “bite”.
Looking at the electron microscope image of a hair strand, it's clear to see how the cuticle, the outermost layer, creates the friction against the string to create sound. The spaces and texture of the cuticle determine the sound, pull and the rosin retention.
Beware of hair that is white, because it has been bleached. Bleach makes hair dry and weak. One more thing to watch out for is synthetic hair. Like old worn out horse hair, synthetic hair lack the friction from the cuticle to generate sound. As a result, you are solely dependent on the grip of your rosin which is less than ideal.