What Are Horsehair Boxing Gloves?

Yes, horsehair boxing gloves are exactly what you think they are. Let me explain.

Horsehair boxing gloves are gloves that use horsehair as a form of padding in the glove. The hair is used instead of, or as well as, standard latex foam padding that is found in most boxing gloves today. Some boxers prefer horsehair padding as it is more compact than foam. This allows for a more powerful punch and therefore inflicts more damage on the opponent.  

What are the origins of horsehair boxing gloves? 🐴

In the early days of modern boxing, before foam had been invented, horsehair was stuffed into the leather gloves as a form of padding to protect the boxer and his opponent. All boxing gloves used horsehair.

What happened, though, is that boxers could manipulate the hair within the glove, moving the hair away from their knuckles so that their knuckles pushed right out through the hair. This meant the only layer between a boxer’s fist and his opponent’s face was the leather exterior. Ouch.

To prevent this, foam padding was eventually developed and has now become the standard, although horsehair gloves are still considered a legal glove today.

old boxing photo
In the good ol’ days all boxing gloves were made with horsehair

Why do fighters use horsehair boxing gloves? 🥊

While today’s horsehair gloves are safer and more secure than the dodgy gloves of the past, they are still considered to deliver more powerful punches. Horsehair padding is thinner than foam so it absorbs less of the power of the punch, meaning greater impact is transferred to whatever is being punched.

Horsehair gloves absorb more sweat than foam gloves do, and when the hair gets damp, it moves around more, potentially leaving the knuckles exposed. Over time they get more and more compact, creating a harder and thinner layer of protection.

Horsehair gloves are also considered to be more comfortable than foam gloves.  The more flexible, thinner padding allows for greater movement of the fist. You can open and close your fist more easily in a horsehair glove than a standard full latex foam glove.

Due to their extra punching power and thinner padding, horsehair gloves are known as a “puncher’s glove”. They are favored by heavy hitters like Tyson Fury who often go for the KO and try to deliver maximum damage to their opponent.

It bites both ways, though. Less padding also means greater impact on the puncher’s fist and therefore heightened risk of hand injury.

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Are these gloves made from real horse hair? 🐎

As far as I know, yes! Real hair from a real horse.

But, it’s important to note that these gloves are not just filled with horsehair. They also contain some standard foam padding too, as shown in the main photo for this article where you can see layers of both foam and horsehair.

Controversies around horsehair boxing gloves 😠


Floyd Mayweather often had it written into his contracts that his opponents weren’t allowed to use horsehair padding. Conor McGregor was famously banned from using horsehair for their fight back in 2017. Mayweather has notoriously fragile hands and relied on technique and movement more than power to win his fights. So, for him, wearing horsehair gloves provided little extra attacking advantage while increasing the risk of injury to his own hand.

In 2014, Argentinian Marcos Maidana was forced to change his gloves for his fight with Mayweather after Mayweather complained about the lack of padding on Maidana’s gloves in the pre-fight glove inspection. To be fair, Floyd does have a point, look how soft those gloves look. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those. 👇👇👇

Fury vs Wilder

After both of the first two Fury vs Wilder fights in 2018 and 2020, Wilder complained that Fury’s gloves, which were made of horsehair, contained an insufficient amount of padding and therefore gave the Gypsy King and unfair advantage.

“They [NASC officials] were trying to convince me the horse hair in the gloves makes up for everything because the horse hair is actually harder than the foam. I was telling them they were wrong because the thing about the horse hair is that over time the horse hair can spread, and if it spreads the horse hair gets thinner, that way you only feel that small padding that’s under the horse hair.’” – Deontay Wilder

Once Wilder found out that Fury would be using the same gloves for their third and final bout, he decided to use Everlast MX gloves, a horsehair-foam mix, to be on a “fair playing ground”. Fury still won the fight…

Tyson Fury’s horsehair gloves that he used in his three fights against Deontay Wilder

Horsehair boxing gloves vs foam❓

As already noted, horsehair boxing gloves are more comfortable than foam gloves and can also deliver more impactful punches as the padding is sometimes thinner. However they are less durable and there is a a higher chance of injuring your hand. So…

Horsehair boxing gloves are for you if: you value comfort over longevity and are big puncher looking to beat your opponent through sheer force.

Stick with foam boxing gloves if: you have previously injured your hand or believe your hand is vulnerable to injury. Or, you don’t want to have to buy new gloves too often. If you’re just sparring in the gym and don’t want to risk hurting your opponent too badly.

12th Round 🔔

Perhaps boxing gloves should be standardized to ensure that both boxers have exactly the same padding. This would leave no room for any sort of controversy or complaints of unfair advantages. But, as it stands, horsehair gloves are legal gloves so it’s down to each fighter what they prefer to use.

In reality, the advantage horsehair gloves afford is minimal. I don’t believe that wearing them or not will change the course of any fight. The best way to get more power is to get down to the gym and put in the hours.

Happy fighting! 🥊🥊

“Sure the fight was fixed. I fixed it with a right hand.” – George Foreman