Sunday, December 30, 2007

One Person Arrested For Manufacturing Brushes From Bird's Hair

11 March, 2005

A man was arrested under different sections of Wildlife Protection Act after thousands of painting burshes worth Rs two lakh made from hair of mongoose and squirrels were recovered here today.

People for Animal Haryana Chairman Naresh Kumar Kadyan had complained that manufacturer Rajinder Nath of Ashok Nagar Ambala cantonment was manufacturing brushes from hair of mongoose and squirrels after killing them.

Police also recovered brushes during raids from Shahbad. The Maheshnagar SHO with his team raided Rajinder's factory.

However, Rajinder and his wife Suman denied that they manufactured brushes made from hair. They said that they manufacturer nylon brushes and marketed them in the area.

However, a few brushes made from hair were purchased from Sherkot district Bijnaur in Uttar Pradesh. The couple alleged that they were implicated in false case.


Rich haul of mongoose hair, 5 held
Our Correspondent

Gurgaon, January 30
The district police have seized around 25 kg of mongoose hair and arrested five persons, including the owner of the factory engaged in making brushes used for painting and white-washing.

This huge quantity of hair had been generated after killing more than 6,000 mongooses, observed the Chairman, People for Animals (PFA), Haryana, Mr Naresh Kumar Kadyan. As per a central government notification, the species of mongoose had been inserted in Part II of Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The Act states that no person shall hunt, use animal’s articles, trophy etc for any purpose.

Mr Kadyan informed mediapersons that the Chairperson of the PFA, Mrs Maneka Gandhi, got information that brushes were being made of mongoose hair in Gurgaon and surrounding areas and supplied to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Acting on the tip provided by her, Mr Kadyan with his team visited the place in 4/8 Marla and found that the unit had been shifted to a new place in Feroz Gandhi Colony recently. The police raided the place and found four workers busy at the job of making brushes. The police seized a large quantity of finished brushes of different sizes and around 25 kg of hair, which were to be used in producing brushes. The police have also taken possession of other raw materials used for the purpose.

The cost of the seized hair was more than Rs 5 lakh, said Mr Kadyan. More than 50,000 brushes could have been manufactured from the seized hair. The SSP, Mr Kuldeep Singh Siag, informed the owner of the unit, Mr Prabhu Dayal Chawla, and four workers, Kanahya, Ashok Kumar, Rafik and Sanjay, had been arrested. The police have lodged an FIR.

Huge seizures of mongoose hair brushes in Hyderabad

A police team raids premises of a dealer for mongoose hair brushes in Hyderabad

Hyderabad, June 27, 2006: In one of the biggest seizures of mongoose hair brushes this year, the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department on June 24 has seized more than 18000 paint brushes from several premises allegedly used by the dealers in the Hyderabad city.

Acting on the information provided by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the People for Animals (PFA) about the illegal mongoose hair brush trade in the city, forest officials have arrested six traders - Mohit Bharadwaj, D. Nagaraju, T. Nageshwar Rao, Atul Shah, Radha Krishna Tata, Vijay Kapoor, Ather Mohammed, and Shafi Ur Rehaman from different localities.

The other two accused have absconded. Prior to these arrests, a covert operation was initiated by WTI and PFA in the city after this illegal trade was noticed.

A team of forest officials – the Divisional Forest Officer, Wildlife Management Division Hyderabad and three Forest Range Officers from the KBR National Park, Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park and Mrugavani National Park conducted the seizures. Representatives from WTI and PFA were also present during the raids.

All the accused were produced before the court of 2nd Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Nampally in Hyderabad and a case has been registered against them under various sections of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. The accused have been sent to judicial custody for further investigation by the authorities. Two witnesses in the case, Mir Ahemad Ali, a driver and P. Venkatesh, a laborer who worked under one of the traders have also been examined.

Mongoose hair brushes displayed at a shop just before the raid

Samples of the seizure that were sent to the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad for examination of the hairs have certified that the samples are of Common Mongoose (Herpesten edwardsi).

According to Ashok Kumar, Vice Chairman of WTI, “The facts and evidences collected in these cases have established that the accused persons have committed the offence under sections 9, 39 (1)b, 39 (3), 40 (2), 44 & 49 B (1)a, and 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.”

“WTI undercover operatives had gathered information on the ongoing trade in the city and the week before this operation, they were able to narrow down on these traders.”

“Information received from other states in South India have indicated that at the moment the traders dealing in mongoose hair brushes are more active here as compared to North India.” said Kumar.

Naresh Kadyan of the PFA said, “Twenty-five cases have been registered against individuals dealing in mongoose hair brush trade in Haryana. Most of these cases are also linked to several states in North and South India.”

Police raids premises on a busy street in Hyderabad

The common mongoose is protected under the Part II of Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. Offences committed under this provision are punishable with a minimum of three-year imprisonment, which could extend up to seven years and with a fine - not less than rupees ten thousand.

A few decades ago, the common mongoose was widespread across India however due to extensive hunting of the species for their hair - commercially used for making paint brushes has threatened their existence in the wild.

WTI in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been working to stop the commercial use of this animal in several states where mongoose hair brushes are being manufactured and marketed. Awareness campaigns were organized at schools to educate the children and to discourage the use of these brushes who have been the primary users.

Pix credit: WTI / PFA
50,000 Mongooses Killed for Hair to Make Paintbrushes

NEW DELHI -- Nearly 50,000 mongooses were killed to extract 1,000 kg of hair meant to make leading paintbrush brands, a nationwide raid has revealed.

The voluntary group Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) conducted the raids in Moradabad and Sherkote towns in Uttar Pradesh and then in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Moradabad in western Uttar Pradesh is notorious as a center for killing mongoose. About 700 kg of raw hair and paintbrushes were recovered from here last week. Two people have been arrested.

Delhi was the transit point for mongoose hair and also served as a major manufacturing center of paintbrushes from where they were exported to other countries.

Ashok Kumar, head of the legal and enforcement department of the trust, said: "Brushes made of mongoose hair are considered better than those made of hog hair, pig hair or nylon.

"All major paintbrush brands were using it and exporting the product abroad.

Only license holders are permitted to kill mongoose, a nine to 26 inches long, gray or brown-colored animal.

"It is in complete violation of law. You can find these brushes in all the shops. People don't know about it, and our environment-friendly artistes and children use it. So many mongooses are killed to make just one brush."

Each animal yields about 10 grams of hair.

"Hundreds and thousands of mongooses are killed every day all over the country. People never pay attention because it is a small animal and is found in plenty. It has been killed traditionally," said Kumar.

The animal is trapped and then beaten to death. The hair is plucked by hand.

Mongooses live about seven to 12 years in the wild, but in captivity they may live more than 20 years.

The trust has demanded better legal protection for the mongoose and regular raids. Otherwise the animal, which is found in abundance and helps farmers in their fields and storages, would fade away, warned the group.

"We need to create awareness and convince children and artists not to use brushes made of mongoose hair," said Kumar.

Mongooses are known to attack even the largest and most poisonous of snakes. They has been introduced in many parts the world to control the population of rodents and snakes.

Types of Hair and Bristle (Western & Asian)

Hairs, bristles, BRISTLES, and nylon filaments work as devices for holding and applying ink or paint because of capillary attraction-the natural attraction of a liquid for a solid and its tendency to flow toward it. When hairs, bristles, and nylon filaments are grouped together to form a brush and dipped into a liquid, the liquid will tend to be drawn up between the hairs and be held in place. When the tip of the brush is touched to an absorbent surface, the liquid will be transferred to it with the help of gravity. Thick paints rely more on pressure than on gravity to be transferred to an absorbent surface.

There are two main characteristics that distinguish one hair from another, as well as hair from bristle and nylon filaments. The first and most important characteristic is the hair's degree of absorbency. Hairs have scales, and the more scales, the greater the surface area to attract and hold liquids. This increased absorbency provides greater control in the application of inks or paints because they are held within the body of the brush, allowing for even flow off the tip of the brush. Brushes made of less absorbent hairs, or nonabsorbent synthetic filaments, accumulate liquids at the tip. Inks or paints tend to run quickly and often uncontrollably off the tips of such brushes during application.

Spring or stiffness is the second most important characteristic. The presence or lack of it in a particular hair will define how it can be used and with what type of liquid. The large variety of hairs, bristles, and nylon filaments, as well as the way they can be blended and shaped into brushes, provides a vast opportunity for differing styles of expression. Only a knowledgeable painter can, however, take full advantage of this potential.

The availability of choice, natural hairs for brushes is shrinking while the price is rising. One of the major causes for this situation is the increasing number of animals placed on endangered-species lists by importing and exporting countries. The current explosion of new regulations about what is legal for one country to export and what is legal for another country to receive has led to absurd occurrences. There is one story of an importer of hairs from around the world who was attempting to declare to customs the importation of some nylon "hair." The customs agent insisted on knowing the name of the animal from which nylon "hair" was obtained so he could check it against his list of endangered animals. No amount of explanation that these were synthetic hairs would deter this agent from his appointed duty. Ultimately, it took a phone call to a local congressman to get the shipment released.

The following descriptions are of hairs, bristles, and nylon filaments that are considered in most countries to be both desirable and legal for brush making.

Click to enlarge


The name "sable" was made up by trappers to refer to the marten, and especially one particular marten, Martes zibellina. The name "red sable" was used to denote both the weasel and the Asian mink (also known as the kolinsky), which have a yellow-reddish tint to their brown hair. All these animals are so closely related that they are part of the same family, Mustelidae. The red sable is of primary interest to the artist because the finest sable brushes are made from its fur. White sable and golden sable are merely trade names for synthetic filaments used as substitutes for animal hair.

Sable is chosen for its spring (the ability to return quickly to its original shape) and its point (the ability to return to a fine pointed shape). The shape of an individual hair resembles an elongated pear. There is greater width in the middle of the hair than at the tip, which is pointed. This hair shape is what gives sable its strength to spring back and to come to a very fine point. The strength of the spring and the length and fineness of the tip of the hair together determine the quality and the price of the brush. Consequently, hairs collected from wild animals that live in colder climates are preferred because their fur grows thicker and longer. The best-quality brushes are made with hairs that are collected from the middle, or belly, of the tail. The hairs are longer at the end of the tail, but also are thinner, have less body, and are usually damaged, blunted, or kinked from the animal's activity. These hairs are used in lower-quality sable brushes and sometimes as filler in medium-quality brushes.


Kolinsky is a particular strain of mink that lived at one time in the Kola Peninsula in the western part of Russia and was the source for the finest red sable brushes. Today, there are no kolinskys left in the area. This animal is virtually extinct and is, therefore, a protected species in Russia. The name "kolinsky," however, is currently used to denote the hair acquired from the Asian mink, Mustela siberica, that lives in Siberia, northern China, and Korea. Hairs from the tail of this animal were highly prized and set the world standard for length (up to 2 ½ inches), spring, and point. The finest varieties, the longest and the thickest hairs, come from the coldest climates and, because Siberia is farthest north, the best kolinsky comes from the Soviet Union.

The longest and strongest hair is taken from the male winter coat of the kolinsky. The Soviets have severely restricted trade of the animal, and at this time the German brush manufacturer daVinci (who produces brushes under the names Realité and Cosmos), is the only one who claims still to be trading with them and using this hair. It is the only manufacturer that I have found that will volunteer information about its finest brushes, such as whether it is using male winter coat hair and how much is being used. Other manufacturers, such as Grumbacher, claim still to be using old stock that they accumulated before the restrictions. Manufacturers that have exhausted their stock are now using the Chinese and Korean kolinsky.

The color of Siberian kolinsky hair is brown with a distinctive yellowish-red tint. The Chinese variety tends to be slightly darker with less red. Tiny dark spots running the length of the hair are not unusual. The term "red sable" comes from the reddish tint this hair naturally possesses. Because this hair often sells for several thousands of dollars per pound, it is not uncommon to find hair that has been cosmetically treated to look like the Siberian variety. Crudely treated hairs can often be recognized by an unnatural bright orange tint.

Red Sable

Red Sable is a large category, which includes hair from "seconds" of kolinsky and hair from the weasel. The kolinsky hairs are called seconds because they are thinner overall, particularly in the longer hairs. Hair from the marten, particularly Mantes zibellina, is included in this category by some manufacturers more because of the quality than the color. The finest red sable is always separated from the rest and called either "kolinsky sable," "kolinsky mink," or just "kolinsky."

Red sable hair has slightly less spring than kolinsky and is a little stiffer, and the tips are a little blunter. These characteristics can be attributed more to the warmer climates in which the animals are found than to the differences among species. Most red sable hair, darker in appearance than kolinsky, can vary widely in quality and appearance. In some cases, the better red sable is almost indistinguishable from the kolinsky. In general, red sable makes fine-quality brushes when the hairs are selected for quality and are arranged properly during brush making. When hairs from the end of the tail, which are often thin and kinked, are used, and quality control is poor, the performance can be far less than that of synthetic "sables."


Weasel is a Mustela, as is the kolinsky. The hair is similar, but of inferior quality, shorter and with less thickness, or belly. This hair is commonly used as a filler in sable brushes. Weasel hair is preferred in certain styles of Oriental brushes.

Sable or Brown Sable

Sable or Brown Sable brushes that are not designated either red sable or kolinsky, are made of hairs obtained from varieties of the marten, or are left over from the production of the other sable brushes. The quality of brushes made from these hairs varies greatly, from a brush that is virtually useless to an adequate student-grade brush.


Ermine was used a century ago in Europe and America when better sables were less common. The hairs are very short by comparison and could only be used for making small brushes. Ermine has essentially been replaced by red sable.

Synthetic Sables

Synthetic Sables are known by many names. The two most common are White Sable, created by the Simmons Brush Company, and golden sable. White or colored, all synthetic sables are some variation of nylon filaments developed and manufactured in Japan. Most of the brushes, with or without handles, are assembled in Japan, regardless of the label. There are some differences in synthetic brushes because of variations in the assembly of the filaments, which are specified by those commissioning their manufacture. These differences are small, however, when compared to the difference between synthetic and natural sables.

The shape of the nylon filament is pointed at the tip, and the body is straight and uniform. The filaments used to duplicate hairs range in diameter from 0.08mm to 0.15mm; those for bristles are 0.20mm or more. Nylon has remarkable spring, so much so that many professionals feel it is a drawback. Some manufacturers have attempted to deal with this by varying the width of the filaments or blending the synthetic with natural hair.

Another common complaint is the nonabsorbency of the synthetic hair. This is a particular problem with watercolor because the color gathers excessively at the tip and runs quickly off the brush onto the more absorbent surface, making control difficult. Recently, some manufacturers began trying to increase the absorbency of nylon either by etching the surface of the filament to simulate the scales of natural hairs or by coating the hairs to reduce the surface tension. Both do help a bit, but there is the question of whether the improvement is worth the extra expense.

There are significant advantages to synthetic brushes. These include the cost of the larger-size brushes, which can be one-tenth the price of red sable. A good synthetic filament is better than a bad red sable.


Sabeline is light ox hair dyed to a reddish tint so that the brush's appearance will resemble that of red sable. Only the astronomical price of sable and the lack of absorbency in synthetic hairs keep ox hair in use. Ox hair, which comes from the ears of oxen, has springiness similar to that of sable, but it does not have the fine tip. The tip of the hair is actually quite blunt when compared to sable and will not form a fine point when used to make a round brush, or a fine edge when used to make a flat brush. Both Grumbacher and Winsor & Newton claim that the lighter shades of ox hair are superior to the darker shades.. Max Sauer Company claims that the color has less to do with quality than do the method of preparation and the origin of the animal. I believe, light or dark, you should test the brush first to see if it is right for you.

Since the darker varieties of ox hair are longer, they are more commonly used in large flat brushes. The lighter-colored hairs are shorter and are usually used in watercolor flat and round brushes.


There is no such hair as camel hair used in the making of brushes. "Camel hair" is a trade term for various inexpensive, poor-quality hairs such as pony, bear, sheep, lesser grades of squirrel, or whatever else is available at the time. These brushes are unprofessional and have no redeeming qualities, except that they are inexpensive and resemble artists' brushes.


Squirrel hair, with one exception, is a thin hair with a pointed tip and a more or less uniform body. It is soft and absorbent, and it has a natural affinity for itself, which means that when a brush made of squirrel hair is fully wet, it can come to an exceptionally fine point. Squirrel hair, however, has little or no spring.

Squirrel is basically misunderstood. When sable rose dramatically in price, many artists turned to squirrel as a less expensive alternative and became disillusioned when it did not perform like sable primarily because of the lack of spring. A good-quality squirrel brush was never meant to be used as a cheap sable replacement. Its particular qualities make it ideal for watercolor wash technique, lettering, and for the application of paints when an exceptionally smooth finish is required.

There are four kinds of squirrel that are primarily used in the making of artists' brushes.

Kazan Squirrel

Kazan Squirrel is named for its home province in the Soviet Union. Hair derived from the tail of this animal is highly prized for its superb tip and elasticity, and is considered the best of the squirrel hairs. This hair is used in making the finest watercolor brushes. It can range in color from black to black with red tips and flecks of gray along the shaft.

Blue Squirrel

Blue Squirrel hair is similar to kazan, except that it is longer and of slightly lower quality. The hairs are blue-black with a gray root.


Taleutky hair is stronger and longer than the other squirrel hairs and is primarily used to make lettering quills.

Canadian or Golden Squirrel

Canadian or Golden Squirrel hair is shorter and thicker than the other Soviet varieties; it is the only squirrel hair that possesses a "belly." This belly resembles sable hair not only in appearance but also in handling. Although it is too short for round brushes and possesses little spring, it does make a fine-quality watercolor flat and is a reasonable alternative to the high cost of sable. The hair appears variegated with gold and black coloring.


Hog, boar, and pig hairs are called bristles because of their stiff and coarse appearance. They are actually so stiff that they were used as the balance spring in the first pocket watch. Bristle has a relatively uniform body with natural curve and a "flagged," or split end. The curve is either removed or reduced during the boiling and preparation of the bristles. Interlocked brushes are made from hairs that have been boiled for only two hours so that some curve remains. An interlocked brush takes advantage of the curve; the bristles are assembled so that the curved bristles oppose one another. As with a broom, this helps keep the tip from splaying to give better control.

One of the desirable characteristics of hog bristle is flagging-the multiple tips provided by split ends. The greater the flagging, the better the control. Wild hogs have more split ends than the domesticated animal. Currently, the best hog bristle comes from China, where there are more wild hogs. Bristle from the Chungking province of China is said to be the best.


Badger hair, which has a variegated black and white appearance, is not commonly used to make artists' brushes. The one important exception is in blending brushes, for which it is excellent.. Sable is too expensive for this purpose, and because of the fineness of the hair it has to be frequently cleaned of paint buildup. Badger, however, is longer and thicker than sable and less costly.


There are more than forty species of mongoose throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, all of which are considered in most countries to be endangered. India at this time seems to have far more mongoose than it cares to, and is, therefore, one of the few legal sources for this hair.

Mongoose hair is closer to sable in appearance and performance than it is to bristle. The tip of the hair comes to a tapering point like sable, but the belly is much thicker and therefore stiffer. The hairs, on average, are a bit longer than most sable. Mongoose is also similar in appearance to badger; both have a variegated colored body. Badger is often used as a cheap filler for mongoose brushes. One way to tell the difference is that mongoose hair has a dark tip and badger hair has a white tip.

Brushes made of mongoose are made primarily for oil painting, and are excellent for times when bristle is too crude and sable is not stiff enough to push thicker paint mixtures over the painting surface. Mongoose is priced between sable and bristle, and is often sold as a cheaper alternative to sable. It makes a fine brush for certain jobs, regardless of the price.


Fitch, pony, and monkey, as well as the lesser grades of badger and mongoose hair, are animal hairs used in the making of Western brushes to produce less expensive alternatives to such hairs as sable and squirrel. These hairs are most often used as fillers. A percentage of sable, for example, will be replaced with fitch hair to produce a more moderately priced brush. I tend to avoid brushes that have filler because their performance is unpredictable.

Monkey Hair

Monkey Hair, a relatively short hair that often appears light brown in the middle and almost blond at the tip, is usually found in combination with other hairs. These brushes are produced as a less expensive sablelike oil painting brush. I find the savings and the performance not great enough to overcome my own inhibitions about using brushes made of primate hair.

Fitch Hair

Fitch Hair, which is from the polecat (a close relative of the weasel), is similar to but coarser than weasel. The hair ranges from dark brown to almost black. Brushes made from Fitch hair can be a cost-effective alternative to sable oil painting brushes. I have found that these brushes are not manufactured with the same quality control, possibly due to the low cost, and should be examined carefully for defects and for tips that have been cut to make them even. Fitch hair brushes are sometimes called Russian sable, black sable, or Russian black sable as a marketing gimmick to promote sales.

Pony Hair

Pony Hair is coarse, often kinked, and very inexpensive. This hair is used to manufacture school brushes and can sometimes be found as a filler in squirrel hair brushes. Pony hair does not perform well and should be avoided.


Samba, horse, deer, weasel, cat, sheep, and goat are the animals whose hair is most often used in the manufacture of Chinese and Japanese brushes. The coarsest and stiffest hair is that of the samba, the horse, and the back of the deer. The hair of the weasel and the inner arch of the deer is less coarse and stiff. The hair of the cat, sheep, and goat is softer, finer, and has less spring. Brushes made of bamboo resemble samba hair in coarseness and behavior.

There are Oriental brushes that are labeled or called wolf hair. All such brushes that have been shown to me were actually sable or combinations of sable and weasel. One of the oldest importers of Oriental artists' materials explained that the confusion lies in some old and poor translation from Chinese to Japanese. Today, when a Japanese importer orders wolf from a Chinese exporter he knows that sable or weasel will be delivered. This situation is further complicated by the recent involvement of Western importers and the English language. Rather than add to this confusion, suffice it to say that Chinese brushes called sable are usually made of high-quality sable and Chinese brushes called wolf are usually sable and weasel mixed, and are of a slightly lesser quality.

Samba, or Sambar,

Samba, or Sambar, which is also called the mountain horse in the Orient, is a large Asian deer that is the source of a stiff and coarse hair used in the making of Oriental calligraphy brushes. The hair appears slightly kinked and has a variegated dark brown and tan appearance.


Horsehair is one of the commonest hairs used in Japanese brush making; it is particularly popular for calligraphy brushes. Horse hairs do not have a great affinity for themselves even when wet; they will not necessarily maintain a brushlike shape without assistance. Consequently, horsehair brushes are often left partially starched near the ferrule, or are wrapped with a layer of sheep hair, which can keep the horsehair in shape. In general, horsehair is strong, slightly coarse, resilient, and long. The better hairs are a cream-colored brown; the darker the shade the poorer the quality. White horsehair is strong like other horsehair, but more flexible and used fully loosened. Microscopically, horsehair appears as a series of tapering scales stacked on top of one another. Where one scale ends and the next begins there are little pockets that trap the ink and hold it until used. It is these pockets that make horsehair more absorbent than most other hairs. (The exception is sheep hair, which has many more pockets.)

The quality of a horsehair brush is, to a great extent, determined by the part of the animal from which the hairs come. Hair from the mane or back is coarse and of poor quality. Tail hair varies greatly in quality. It is often sorted into various grades and is used primarily for making large brushes. The finest horsehair is obtained from the belly and the ears. The shorter, better-quality hairs are used mostly in watercolor brushes, the longer and coarser hairs in calligraphy brushes.

Deer Hair From the Back

Deer hair from the back is similar to that of the samba, but is not as coarse and has more spring than stiffness. The hair is usually variegated white and tan. This hair is used as an additive to increase the resilience of softer combinations of hairs.


Weasel is common to both Japan and China, while sable is found only in China. Greater availability of weasel than sable has played an important role in its popularity, but since a brush made of weasel hair has less spring than sable it is even more desirable. Too much spring is considered a drawback. The Chinese, who do not generally distinguish between calligraphy and painting brushes, use weasel for both. In Japan, weasel is used mainly for detail-painting brushes.

Deer Hair From the Inner Arch

Deer hair from the inner arch is similar to so-called wolf hair, but is a little coarser. The combination of deer with other, softer hairs adds resilience to a brush. Deer hair is used for painting brushes in Japan.

Cat Hair

Cat Hair is popular for making detail brushes. It is therefore not uncommon in the Orient to find the village cat missing large clumps of hair, yet not suffering from any particular ailment. Cat hair is soft with some spring and has a natural affinity for itself, causing it to hold a good shape.

Sheep or Goat Hair

Sheep or Goat Hair is the hair most used in Oriental brush making. It is made into large calligraphy brushes and flat wash brushes, and is combined with other hairs. The hairs are boiled to straighten them, and resemble squirrel hair in behavior. They have no spring, but do have a fine point and a uniform body that, under a microscope, appears to consist of tapering, individual scales that are attached end to end. As on horsehair, there are small pockets where these scalelike shapes meet that allow ink to be trapped and held until used. Both sheep and goat hairs have these pockets, which contribute to their absorbency, but sheep hair has many more. The Japanese word jofuku is used to describe calligraphy brushes made of sheep hair. It means, "dip once, lot of ink." The best-quality sheep or goat hair has a very fine tapering tip. When made into a brush, this tip will have a distinctly yellow tint, but brushes of this quality are rarely found in the West and are extremely expensive.

Miscellaneous Animal Hair

Miscellaneous Animal Hair, including badger, rabbit, and tiger, is used in Oriental brush making.

Badger hair

Badger hair has a variegated black and white appearance. The hair is longer and thicker than sable, especially the belly of the hair. Badger is used in combination with other hairs to lend resiliency and to act as a filler in Japanese painting brushes.

Rabbit hair

Rabbit hair, from nondomesticated rabbits, is similar to badger hair but is shorter. It is used in combination with other hairs to make Japanese painting brushes and in China, for both calligraphy and painting brushes.

Tiger hair

Tiger hair resembles a longer wolf hair. It is white, yellow, and black. It is said that the best hairs are obtained by plucking from a startled wild animal. Brushes of this type are extremely rare and may now exist only in legend.

Brushes made from goats' eyelashes, squirrel and rat whiskers, and even human baby hair (taken from the first haircut) are not uncommon in the Orient. These brushes are more novelties than practical artists' brushes and are not available in the West.

Mongoose hair worth Rs 6 lakh seized

Friday December 21, 12:47 AM

A TEAM of forest officials has busted a gang which was involved in making brushes with hair of endangered mongoose. Six sacks of mongoose hair of worth Rs 6 lakh and semi-finished brushes were recovered from the gang.

After receiving a tip off about the gang, a team of forest officials led by DFO Chandrabhawan and ACF Joga singh raided the house of Mohd Dilshad in Loharpura locality of Lisari Gate area. The team members found a huge quantity of mongoose hair from the house.

Gang leader Shamsad and seven labourers escaped during the raid but the team managed to arrest Dilshad from the spot. He told the team that the hair was purchased from Sherkot village of Bijnore district and that Sherkot is a big supply market of mongoose hair.

According to Dr R.P.Bharti, conservator of forest, an adult mongoose can yield only 40 to 50 grams hair. "To collect such a huge quantity of hair as found during the raid, more than 5000 mongoose would have to be killed. In view of the declining population of mongoose, the animal was enlisted part II of schedule 2 of Wildlife Act which makes its killing a non bailable offence with at least 10 years imprisonment and fine of Rs 10,000," Dr Bharti said.

"It is a non compoundable offence," added the conservator elaborating that Sherkot, Jwalapur and Hardwar area in Uttarakhand have become big suppliers of mongoose hair. "I have asked the forest and wildlife officials of the respective areas to keep a close watch on the killing of mongoose," he said, adding that the arrested person will be booked under Wildlife Act and teams have been dispatched to arrest the absconding members of the gang.


by Prasanna Yonzon


The mongoose lives in a diverse habitat which ranges from forest to open woodland, savannah, semi-desert to desert. It belongs to the Order Carnivora, Family Herpestidae and there are 35 species, 2 sub-families and 17 genera. A few are arboreal and semi-aquatic. Mongooses are close evolutionary relatives to the civet and genet family of Viverridae (MacDonald, 2001).

Mongooses have strong family bonds and a well developed hierarchical system. They are agile and resilient carnivores. In appearance, the mongoose has a long pointed face with small rounded ears and a tubular body with short legs and a tapering bushy tail. The coat color varies from species to species, e.g. dark grey, brown, yellowish, reddish brown.
The life span is 7-12 years, but the animal can live up to 19 in captivity (Hinton and Dunn, 1967). The average gestation period is 60 days, but for the small Indian mongoose and narrow striped mongoose it is 42 days and 105 days respectively.

The diet consists of insects and other invertebrates, small vertebrates, birds' eggs, crabs, fish and occasionally fruit and other vegetable matter. The mongoose's quick reflexes also enable it to eat snakes and scorpions as well.


The mongoose is found from western Africa to Madagascar, southwest Europe, from the Near East to India and Sri Lanka to south China, Southeast Asia to Borneo and the Philippines. The small Indian mongoose was introduced to the West Indies and the Hawaiian islands in the late 1800s to control rats in sugarcane plantations. Mongooses are prolific breeders and thus are widely spread (MacDonald, 2001).

There are 7 species of mongoose found in Asia, i.e. Indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii), Indian brown mongoose (H. fuscus), Crab-eating mongoose (H. urva), Small Indian mongoose (H. javanicus). Short-tailed mongoose (H. brachyurus), Ruddy mongoose (H. smithii), and Striped-necked mongoose (H. vitticollis). Three species are found in Nepal, i.e. Indian grey mongoose, Indian brown mongoose and Crab-eating mongoose (Chapagain & Dhakal, 2001).

Mongooses tend to live near human settlements, where they more or less depend on human trash. In Nepal, it is an edge dwelling species, surviving on rodents, small insects and other small vertebrates.

Cultural status

The mongoose is considered to be the farmer's friend because it preys on rodents and other insects that destroy crops. The enmity between mongooses and snakes is legendary in myth and in reality. Rudyard Kipling, in his story of the loyal mongoose Rikki Tikki Tavi from his Jungle Book series, immortalized the mongoose as one that could dare a cobra. Similarly, Nepalese folklore is replete with stories where the mongoose is portrayed as a friend of people.


Previously, mongooses were traded live and brought in to prevent field rats, insects and snakes from destroying crops (Israel and Sinclair, 1987). Today, however, it is killed and traded for its hair. The hair is used in making paintbrushes which are pliant and soft. These paintbrushes are favored by both students and artists. Each animal yields about 10 g of hair (Source: documentary on Mongoose Trade in India: A brush -with death - a Wildlife Trust of India undertaking). Quality-wise, mongoose hair is considered to be a little inferior to sable, but much better than bristles of badger, pig and squirrel hair. The tip of the hair of mongoose tapers to a fine point like sable does, making it more preferred. Softer than hog bristle but stiffer than ox hair, mongoose hair makes versatile, durable brushes for oil, tempera, and acrylic painting. Mongoose hair brushes can be identified by a circular dark brown tip, cream colored center, and dark roots. The darker tip distinguishes it from badger hair, which has a white marking on the tip (MacDonald, 2001).
The mongoose is also exploited by street performers in India and Nepal who use them to stage bloody fights with snakes. Illegal trading in mongoose hair boomed in India because the mongoose was not protected by any wildlife laws.

Protection level

In Nepal, the mongoose is not included in the protected list of mammals, as they are distributed everywhere (BPP, 1995) except in the high mountain region. Farmers like them for their ability to control field rats, although sometimes they upset the farmers by burrowing in the fields.

Mongoose status and trade in Nepal

In Nepal, not as many mongooses are killed as in India, but it is evident that Nepal produces paintbrushes with mongoose hair. Since the total ban on the mongoose hair trade was introduced in India, it is probable that Nepal will meet the demand. The illicit trade in mongoose in Nepal has yet to be researched.
A survey conducted by Wildlife Conservation Nepal (WCN) in urban settings of Kathmandu found stationery shops that sold mongoose paintbrushes. Today, three factories operate in Kathmandu that deal with mongoose hair.

Previously, Indian companies supplied mongoose brushes to Nepal, but since the mongoose was put in Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife Act, the trade was restricted and local establishments have opened in Kathmandu to make mongoose paintbrushes. This means that either the illegal import of mongoose hair from India still exists or mongoose is being hunted in Nepal. The trade seems to be thriving in Kathmandu.

Controlling trade

Actions that can be done to control the trade in mongoose:

1. An awareness campaign could be launched by the College of Fine Arts, Lalit Campus, to lobby that schools and institutions should not use brushes made of mongoose hair. With the support of line agencies such as the Department of National Parks, Department of Forests and WCN, circulars can be sent to schools asking them not to use paint brushes made from mongoose hair. This could have a big impact on the market. Awareness classes on mongoose could also conducted on television and through other media.

2. The protected list of mammals of Nepal must be updated, as it has not been amended during the last 30 years. The mongoose must be kept in the Schedule I list so that it is not hunted any more and given total protection by the Nepalese government.


Biodiversity Profiles Project. 1995. Biodiversity Profile of the Terai and Siwalik Physiographic Zones. HMG Nepal.
Dhakal, J. and C. Diwakar. 2001. An introduction to CITES. DNPWC, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Gurung, K.K. and R. Singh. 1998. Field guide to the mammals of the Indian sub continent:
Where to watch mammals in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Pakistan
. Academy Press, London.
Hinton, H.E. and A.N.S. Dunn. 1967. Mongooses: Their natural history and behavior. Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh & London.
Israel, S. and T. Sinclair. 1987. Indian Wildlife Sri Lanka Nepal. APA Production, Singapore.
MacDonald ,D. 2001. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals, Oxford University Press.
Wijnstekers, W.2003 The Evolution of CITES. 7th edition. CITES Secretariat, Geneva

Authors’s Address : Prasanna Yonzon,Chief executive Officer, WCN

This Article was published in Tiger Paper, Regional Quarterly Bulletin on Wildlife and National Parks Management, ,Vol. 32, No 2, April –June 2005.