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Household uses for horsehair

Blue velvet lined dressing case holding two hair brushes, two clothes brushes, a comb and a mirror.
Velvet lined dressing case holding two hair brushes, two clothes brushes, a comb and a mirror

Horses’ hair was one of the most readily available and versatile materials of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lightweight and durable, the fibre could be combed, woven, teased or shredded.

It was used, depending on its quality and length, for a variety of household or manufacturing purposes, including padding furniture, insulating walls, adding bulk to clothing, to make horse collars and saddles and as medical ligatures.

Kingsford Smith and Ulm

Horsehair was widely used in brushes for male and female grooming. Soft but hardwearing body hair was often combined with thicker mane and tail hair, and sometimes mixed with the bristles or hair of other animals.

This dressing case with horsehair brushes was presented by pioneering aviators Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm to their secretary, Ellen Rogers, in 1928.

Explore more Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

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