Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Origins of Kolinsky sable hair brushes Part 1 - The Animal

Kolinsky sable brushes are a misnomer. The animal it is made from is not sable at all, but Siberian weasel.

Kolinsky refers to a type of Asian weasel / mink.  Historically probably from the Kola Pinninsula of northwest Russia, near Finland.  Sable is a type of marten (small, sleek long animal).  They are in the same Family and are closely related animals.

Picture by Elena Lapshina

It's fur is coveted because it's smooth and glossy from every direction that it is stroked.  When stroked opposite the grain, fur from other animals feels rough. But enough of the sable.  Let's talk about paintbrushes. 

aka Siberian weasel
aka kolonok
aka red sable

The Siberian weasel is an amazingly animal that lives in forests from Siberia to Eastern Asia.  It lives near rivers and lakes. It's a hunter. In some places, it's considered a pest because it kills chickens and muskrats in farms, more than it can eat.

The best hair comes from northern Siberia, where harsher winters means the winter coat is long and thick.

The Siberian weasel is NOT an endangered species.  I looked at WWF, IUCN and CITES to confirm this.  However, it is placed in the endangered animals category and is subject to CITEs.

Winsor & Newton says that its natural hair brushes are obtained from sustainable sources and animals are not sourced for the sole use of manufacturing its products.


  1. cool, good to know this now. I was wondering when I was about to buy a paintbrush wish told me it was made out of sable hair. I like to know the source and be sure these little furry cuties still live in respectable numbers.
    As far as the article goes, nice one. really detailed, answerring questions with research to back the answers up.

  2. Horrors!!Just want to get rid of my brushes,though the poor animals won't come alive.