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What are Some Mammals with Very Short Hair?

Many mammals boast incredibly short hair, a trait that aids in survival. The sleek coat of a cheetah allows for swift movement, while a hippopotamus's sparse hair is perfect for its aquatic lifestyle. Elephants have minimal hair to keep cool in hot climates. Intrigued by nature's adaptations? Discover how these unique features benefit each creature in their environment. What other animals share this trait?
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Most of the 5,400 mammal species are covered with enough hair that it is thick enough to be called "fur" — both marsupials and placentals are usually covered with a conspicuous layer of fur, which helps keep them warm. Obvious examples are kangaroos, mice, bears, cats, and dogs.

Some mammals have hair so short, that when you look at them from a distance, it isn't noticeable. Only when you look at them close is it apparent that these are just mammals with very short hair. Examples of mammals with very short hair include elephants, rhinoceroses, cetaceans (whales and relatives), the naked mole rat, and us humans. In particular, humans being among the mammals with very short hair has caused no small amount of controversy, with some creationists claiming that the human absence of long hair is evidence that we were created by God as a fundamentally different entity than the rest of the animal kingdom.

A pig with short hair.
A pig with short hair.

Even to evolutionary biologists, the reasons why hair gets so short that it practically disappears are unclear and a subject of much controversy. For marine mammals, like whales, the reason seems clearer — to be streamlined for swimming. The naked mole rat is one of the mammals with very short hair because of its underground lifestyle. Although the naked mole rat does have a few long hairs for sensory purposes, most of its skin is relatively hairless, giving it the name "naked."

The body hair on a whale is extremely short and fine.
The body hair on a whale is extremely short and fine.

The most controversial of the mammals with very short hair is, of course, the humans. Why did humans lose most of their hair a million years ago or so? Currently, no one knows. Some scientists believe that early members of the genus Homo, from which humans evolved, spent so much time in the water that they evolved various adaptations for a semi-aquatic lifestyle, including short hair and increased subcutaneous fat. Others believe that it had something to do with the regulation of sweating. Overall, more research and theorizing is needed.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Learn more...
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Learn more...

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    • A pig with short hair.
      By: Anatolii
      A pig with short hair.
    • The body hair on a whale is extremely short and fine.
      By: apfelweile
      The body hair on a whale is extremely short and fine.
    • The length of a dog's hair varies by breed.
      By: Rita Kochmarjova
      The length of a dog's hair varies by breed.
    • Humans have very short hair that covers most of the skin.
      By: Deyan Georgiev
      Humans have very short hair that covers most of the skin.