Vegan Violin Bow Hair

September 28th, 2013
violin and bow

Violin with my custom-made vegan bow

Years before this site became a blog, perhaps even before blogs were a thing, I wrote about my vegan violin bow that I had specially made for me. Since that post is buried in the pages of the old non-WordPress site, and since I recently received a question about it, I’ll repost information about that now.

Violin bows are normally made with horse hair. There are a couple of different options for synthetic bow hair. One is the cheap plastic-type hair that is commonly used on children’s bows. You don’t want that. The other is a synthetic hair that outdoor musicians often use because it doesn’t stretch and contract with variations in humidity. It’s called Hervex. Here is the description of Hervex on Columbia River Music’s website:

A synthetic fiber that is superior to horsehair in every way. Stronger, more resilient, withstands greater stress without breaking. Holds all rosin with a better bite. 31 inches in length-all useable. Professional quality. Made in U.S.A.

I was very happy with the quality of the Hervex and recommend it, but it didn’t seem to me to hold rosin as well as I thought it should. It wasn’t a problem – I just had to rosin my bow well once before playing and it sounded great.

I also needed to get an entirely new bow made at that time. Aside from the horse hair, violin bows typically contain small pieces of bone and leather. I found a woman in Austin (where I lived at the time) who made violin bows and agreed to make me a vegan one. Her name is Margaret Adie and it looks like she still makes bows. She used pieces of silver in place of where bone and shell pieces normally would be and a special rubber piece in place of the leather grip. It’s a top quality bow.

If you’re wondering why anyone would object to using a little bit of horse hair, you’re probably imagining a field of frolicking horses having a lock of hair cut by a gentle barber each time a bow needs to be rehaired, without the horse ever noticing. In fact, most horse hair comes from horse meat farms in China.

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4 Responses to “Vegan Violin Bow Hair”

  1. Jenna Ames Says:

    Thanks for this blog. I’m currently transitioning to vegan and I don’t think I should continue using horse hair. Someone on another website said that there are people who cut hair off of living horses and blahblahblah but I couldn’t find any evidence of such a place.

    I’d be ok with rosining my bow more frequently if that’s really the only difference????

  2. vegangirl Says:

    It’s the only difference I noticed, but I’m hardly a concert violinist. But this is bow “hair” that is used by professionals so it has to be pretty good. It’s at least worth trying. Unless something newer and better has come out since 2013, get the Hervex and not the cheap stuff they use on kids’ violin bows.

    And if the Hervex isn’t good enough, don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t find an alternative to this one thing in your life. We’re all doing the best we can.

  3. Lil Says:

    Our family has a white horse and can’t imagine cutting the hair off her tail! So when our son began violin lessons, I was happy to find the Incredibow. He has been using this for over a year and not a strand broken (rental violin on the other hand, needs TLC). I don’t play violin myself but it seems to perform well. The company offered trade-in value to move up from 1/12 to 1/10 but we decided to keep 1/12 for little brother to use next.

  4. Claire Says:

    Just finding your blog: in case you are interested, I help promote Coruss, a vegan hair created for the Orchestre de Chambre de Toulouse in France, by scientists specialized in fiber (anti-torsion cables, high performance fabric). You can google that name and find their story. I work with Coruss US distributor to help players try it and benefit from its mechanical advantages. Clearly an alternative to Hervex if at all needed, showing that this topic is of growing interest among players. Let’s leave animals alone and safe !!!

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