Is glue really made from horses? Let’s find out once and for all and put this perennial question to rest.
Is glue really made from horses?
In 2020, glue is not manufactured from horses. In fact, most glue is now fully synthetic and made from petroleum derivatives.
Manufacturing glue from horses is an archaic practice that largely died out after new, modern synthetic adhesives like PVA were discovered in the 1920s.
Although our equine friends are largely spared from this cruel fate today, there are other glues that are made from other animal products still in production today, including hide glue and fish glue.
How did horses make glue?
Horses were used to make glue by making use of the collagen found in horses’ bodies.
Collagen is a sticky protein found in skin, muscles, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Horses have a lot of collagen compared to similar-sized animals.
You may notice the same sticky collagen on your fingers if you eat roast chicken with the skin still on. This is what makes the glue strong, collagen is sticky but still malleable while wet, and becomes solid once dry.
Other types of animal glue:
Our furry equine friends are largely safe from the glue factory nowadays, but there are still animal glues around, made from various different animal products.
Hide glue is still available today and is sometimes used in bookbinding and woodworking (especially on antique furniture).
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Hide glue has some drawbacks compared to modern synthetic glues, so it’s generally only used on antique furniture or where there is existing hide glue on an existing project.
Disadvantages of using hide glue:
- Hide glue is not as strong as PVA glue
- Hide glue is less flexible once dry than PVA glue
- Hide glue dries with a brown/orange color compared to PVA which dries clear
- PVA glue is cheaper than hide glue.
- Hide glue usually comes in solid pellets and must be melted manually to be applied
Like hide glue, fish glue is made from collagen extracted from the bones and skin of fish.
Fish skin is a byproduct of the fishing industry. Although it’s not used for human consumption, it’s a valuable resource that’s used in many other secondary industries, including the cosmetics industry, agricultural industries, and of course in the adhesives industry.
In the adhesives world, fish bones and skin is used in the same way cattle byproducts are used to make hide glue. The collagen found in the bones and skin of fish is refined and processed into an adhesive.
Fish glue comes in dried pellet/granule format and needs to be heated until it melts before it can be used.
It’s most commonly used in antique furniture, bookbinding, painting restoration, and carpentry/woodworking.
What is animal glue used for?
Animal glue is only really used nowadays for antique/restoration projects.
Modern, synthetic glue is cheaper, stronger, and more versatile.
Animal/hide glue is used for preserving the original state of antiques. Where hide glue was used historically, a new application of hide glue can be applied over the top without having to remove the old glue and risk damaging the piece. (This is not possible with PVA as it needs to be able to soak into the pores of the wood to work properly)
Is Animal Glue Cruelty Free?
Even for animal-derived glues, there are strict standards imposed on the industry by the FTC.
Animal glue is made from byproducts left over from other industries including the tanning/leather industry, the fishing industry, and the meat industry.
Animal glue is cruelty-free. Animals are not raised specifically to be used in the adhesives industry.
Is glue made from animal products?
Most glue is vegan and contains no animal products.
Modern glue is synthetic, being made from petroleum derivatives.
Unless you count the dinosaurs who died 200 million years ago, forming the oil that the glue is made from, no animals are involved in the glue manufacturing process.
Some glue is made from animal byproducts even today, though this type of glue is much less common than synthetic glue. This type of glue is usually known as animal glue, or hide glue.
Why does Elmer’s Glue have a cow on the bottle?
Elmer’s glue used to be made from casein, a protein found in milk.
After the discovery of PVA, Elmer’s became 100% synthetic, but they decided to keep Elmer the cow as the company mascot since the brand had become so well known in North America already.
Horses are no longer used to make glue.
Although there are still some types of animal glue manufactured today, they are made from animal byproducts from other industries including the fishing industry and the meat industry.
Most glues are synthetic and do not contain any animal products at all, instead, most are made from oil derivatives.
Thanks for reading