How can I know if my brushes contain pig or hog hair? And for what purpose are these brushes actually used; acrylic, oil or watercolor?

1 Answer 1



Hog hair or hog bristle brushes are stiff, strong, and durable. Having frayed ends, the bristles are usually not appropriate for watercolouring, as they aren't able to soak up a lot of water, but they are sometimes used for adding texture or scrubbing away faulty layers of watercolour.

Exactly because they don't absorb a lot of fluid, they can be used well with oil and acrylic paints, as you can more easily move paint around. With their rough ('flagged') ends they don't allow for much precision, hence they are often formed into larger and rougher brushes, and can be used for covering larger areas, for grounding, or for more expressive approaches and impasto techniques.
However, by whipping the brush the ends will fray more, making the hairs softer, allowing them to be used for softer brushwork or even blending. This softening naturally occurs the longer you work with hog hair brushes.


To identify these brushes - which is not easy - you can look at the colour, and the structure of the hairs.

  • As organic hairs, they are usually quite easy to tell apart from synthetic ones (unless the latter are made to imitate animal hair), as the shafts are a lot more 'noisy' (see images below), both structure- and colour-wise.
    Synthetic brushes also tend to have tops with much straighter cuts:

    enter image description here

  • Another, surefire way to distinguish organic hairs from synthetic ones is to burn them: organic hairs will burn as separate threads, and have a distinctive bad smell, while synthetic hairs will melt together and smell of chemicals.

  • Hog/boar bristle brushes are (almost) always a broken white, and don't have a strong sheen to them, especially when compared to most synthetic hairs.
    Sometimes a streak of black paint is added to make them look like badger hairs:

    enter image description here source

  • As mentioned before, hog hairs tend to fray at the tip, and this is visible in the brushes as having a distinctly diffuse tip, more so than with ox hair, for example:

    tip of a hog hair bristle brush
    edited from original

  • The hairs are also quite inexpensive, so the brushes are usually on the cheaper side of a producer's brush spectrum.

There aren't any clear-cut differences with other organic brushes, so I hope this is sufficient information to help you distinguish hog hair brushes from others.

  • 1
    I am not an expert on what hair most brushes come from. But I work in a tool store, and it is very common for the inexpensive brushes to have a 'wirey'/natural look appearance to them. [As shown in the last two images Joachim provided] They are usually used for quick, "get the job done" brushes for painting houses. Very commonly tossed in the garbage after use for being inexpensive.
    – Lyssagal
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 17:26
  • Yeah, it's a pity how cheap stuff is overproduced and undervalued.
    – Joachim
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 19:11
  • So,the hog hair has flagged/split ends.Is this visible?
    – Fariha
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 5:20
  • @Fariha Yes, see the fourth bullet point under 'Identification'.
    – Joachim
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 7:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .