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Hairy Animals

Things that are rare, or different from what is considered "normal", always attract interest. For example, hair or feathers that are longer than is usual in their species, or grow in unusual places, or in unusual ways.

The following are some examples of animals, and people, who are bit hairier than the norm--sometimes for reasons we know and understand, and sometimes quite mysteriously.

Also known as:

  • Hypertrichosis
  • Hirsutism (in humans)

Wild Animals


Paolo Torchio photographed an antelope with an unusually hairy coat. It appears to be a young female Thomson's gazelle and it was located in the Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya). And in 2010 Robert Berntsen later photographed the same animal again.

The cause of its condition is not known but it can be generically described as having hypertrichosis (excessive hair).It has been suggested that this might be symptomatic of Cushings disease.

Domestic Animals

Many domestic species have naturally occurring long-haired forms, which may be selectively perpetuated as 'long-hair' or 'angora' breeds. Sometimes these breeds have been around long enough that it is easy to forget that their species is not naturally long haired (e.g. cats, gerbils, teddy bear hamster).



"Featherduster" Birds

Various bird species such as budgies and parakeets (shown right) sometimes produce birds whose feathers are long, curly and constantly growing. This condition (colloquially called "Feather Duster" for obvious reasons) is caused by a recessive gene whose action causes the mechanisms controlling feather growth are inactivated. Some argue that feather duster birds should be euthanized as their feathers can impede their movements and they often have a shortened lifespan, equally it can be argued that those with the resources to care for accidental occurrences of this mutation should feel free to do so. However it is not a trait that should be bred for deliberately.

The Phoenix Rooster

Some breeds of chicken have been bred for amazing long tail feathers: for example the Japanese Yokohama and Onagadori and the related European Phoenix rooster.

Phoenix rooster and hen

Phoenix rooster and hen


Across all dog breed there are only three genes that control hair length. Hypotrichosis is sometimes a symptom of disorders such as hydrocephalus.


In fur-farmed foxed hypertrichosis is thought to produce a "superior" coat. It is associated with an inherited gum disease called hereditary hyperplastic gingivitis which caused large growths on the gums.


Hypertrichosis, involving growth of hair on the face, has been described in a gibbon.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs comes in several long-hair varieties. The short-haired version is often referred to as "American" and the long-haired varieties as as Peruvian and Sheltie (a.k.a. Silkie).


Cushings Disease

In older horses over-growth of the coat may be caused by hyperadrenocorticism, also called Cushings disease, or by other conditions that ause disruption of normal pituitary function. Cushings can is found in other equids including zebra and Przewalski's horses. (In other animals such as dogs, Cushing's disease leads to hair loss and baldness).


Hypertrichosis has also be observed in horses with certain forms of cancer such as pituitary adenoma or lymphoma where the function of the pituitary gland is affected.

"Wonder Horses"

Genetically and physically normal horses may grow a particularly long mane and/or to that falls to the ground, or even longer. Some horses with very long manes and tales have been exhibited in circuses such as several Oregon horses exhibited under the name of Linus. The first Linus dates from 1884 and was purchased by the Eaton brothers as an sideshow animal. His long hair may result from a lineage including Clydesdales and wild horses from the Oregon region that were already known for their long manes and tails. Linus's son (Linus 2) continued as an exhibit after his sire was killed by lightning. At least one other horse has also be exhibited as "Linus", whose lineage is not known.

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Another sideshow horse with long mane and tail was exhibited in the 1890s and went by the name of White Wings,

The current record holder for longest tail is an American paint horse called Summer--with an attractive black and white tail measuring in at 12 feet, six inches.

Equine Cushings Disease

Equine Cushings Disease

Human Hypertrichosis

Bearded ladies are usually women who have higher than typical levels of androgens, causing them to exhibit secondary sexual characteristics more commonly found on on men. However the hypertricosis in women may also be caused by many other conditions such as polycistic ovary syndrome.

  • Helena Antonia
  • Madame Delait ("the Bearded Lady of Plombières")
  • Mrs Myers ("The Bearded Lady of Elk County")
  • Delina Rossa ("Bearded Lady from Paris")

In men hypertrichosis may cause hair growth across most of the body including the entire face. Examples include:

Hypertrichosis can be produced by a range of pharmaceuticals including Minoxidil, Cyclosporin, and Phenytoin. It can also occur after laser hair removal or around a vaccination site.


Human Hair Growers

As human head hair is constantly growing it is possible to grow it to a very impressive length. One promonant example is the singer Crystal Gayle who has trademark long dark hair which she wears at a length that touches the floor.

The current record holder for longest hair is Xie Qiuping (right), at 5.6m (18'6").

The longest beard at 1.9m belongs to Sarwan Singh, Radhakant Bajpai is known for extraordinary ear hair, and the longest eyebrows (15cm) belong to Japanese woman Edogawa-ku.

Distinguished mention also goes to Tran Van Hay (deceased), Georgia Sebrantke, and the Sutherland sisters.

Animal Hair Growers

Many other animals have hair that continues to grown unless cut. Thus you will see floor length hair and creatures such as alpaca.


A sheep that goes unshorn for several years can develop an impressively round fleece, such as with Shrek (shown right). Shrek is a Merino who managed to evade shearing for six years prior to becoming a minor media celebrity in 2004. When "he" was finally sheered, the fleece weighed an astounding 27 kg (60 lb) and he turned out to be a she.


Of course fish do not have hair, but the do grow fins and some fish (such as danios) come in varieties with unusually long fins.


  • Alajlan, A., Shapiro, J., Rivers, J. K., MacDonald, N., Wiggin, J., & Lui, H. (2005). Paradoxical hypertrichosis after laser epilation. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 53(1), 85-88.
  • Burton, J. L., & Marshall, A. (1979). Hypertrichosis due to minoxidil. British Journal of Dermatology, 101(5), 593-595.
  • Clark, J. A. B. J., Whalen, D., & Marshall, H. D. (2016). Genomic analysis of gum disease and hypertrichosis in foxes. Genetics and molecular research: GMR, 15(2).
  • Geissman, T. (1993). Hypertrichosis in a gibbon (Hylobates muelleri). Journal of medical primatology, 22, 317-317.
  • Jones, B. R., Alley, M. R., & Batchelor, B. (1996). Hydrocephalus and hypertrichosis in Golden Retriever dogs.
  • Madrigal, R. G., Andrews, F. M., Rademacher, N., McConnico, R. S., Duplantis, D., & Eades, S. C. (2018). Large pituitary adenoma in an 8‐year‐old Arabian stallion. Equine Veterinary Education, 30(6), 295-300.
  • Mitsui, I., Jackson, L. P., Couëtil, L. L., Lin, T. L., & Ramos-Vara, J. A. (2007). Hypertrichosis in a horse with alimentary T-cell lymphoma and pituitary involvement. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 19(1), 128-132.
  • Poonia, K., Gogia, P., & Bhalla, M. (2018). Localized hypertrichosis at vaccination site. International Journal of Trichology, 10(3), 138.
  • Wysocki, G. P., & Daley, T. D. (1987). Hypertrichosis in patients receiving cyclosporine therapy. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 12(3), 191-196.


Jennifer Theories from Canada on January 10, 2011:

Interesting topic. It's a short article but a fun little read.

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