Fur is a natural advantage to survival in the wild. With fur animals are protected from exposure to the elements. Fur insulates against both cold and heat and provides some modicum of protection from water. But what if humans were suddenly forced to survive in the wild? Would some of them adapt to having fur instead of hair on their bodies?
Both hair and fur are made of a protein called keratin. This is the same material your fingernails and an animal’s claws are made from. Chemically they are identical. So the human body would be able to produce fur chemically.
The texture of hair and fur is very different. This is because fur is typically thicker than hair. This thickness allows fur to stand up and away from the skin thus creating an insulated and protective barrier. Hair is thinner and softer than fur. Fur will often have different textures on the same animal. The animal may have a longer outer coat with stiffer fur with a shorter undercoat with thinner softer filaments.
Fur and hair are produced in the same way through hair follicles. It is these follicles where the differences are made. In animals the hair follicles differ in that they can create a coating to go over the filaments and this give the fur its thickness and water repellent abilities. Follicles are usually more densely packed together on the skin of an animal so that more filaments can grow in creating better coverage and thus better protection.
Finally a huge difference is growth patterns. As stated above fur grows in denser, but additionally fur grows in synchronized patterns. This means that all the hairs will typically grow to the same length and the patterns will adjust according to needs. In the summer time a lot of fur will be shed to allow for a cooling effect while in the winter the fur will grow in denser and thicker to provide better protection from the cold.
So can a human grow fur instead of hair? I would have to say yes. It would require a change in the human’s follicles to make to make the filaments grow in thicker and coated. The follicles would have to work together to be synchronized in growth, and they would have to be more densely packed in the skin.
One other evidence that humans can grow fur. There is a young girl in China that is growing fur. Li Xiaoyuan, from Fengkai in southern China has an increasing amount of fur starting to grow all over her. It started on her back and has been spreading out.
“Fur vs Hair”. Diffen contributors.
Diffen LLC, 2013. Web. Mon Mar 11 2013