On mentioning a mongoose, better known as nevalaa in India, one can’t help but immediately think of a snake and mongoose fight. After all, there was a time when in India pet mongooses were kept to guard people and their dwellings against snakes.


Since they are natural enemies, they have in the past been brought together and enticed to fight each other, with the cobra being picked up just before it’s too late for it to survive. Such fights have been illegal ever since snake charmers’ street shows were prohibited.

Adequate Protection

Six mongoose species are found in India and they are not allowed to be exploited or kept as pets. They are protected when living, and when dead their body parts can not be used without attracting the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. All species of genus Herpestes (mongoose) are listed in Schedule II Part II of this Act. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) gives them added protection under Appendix II with a zero quota for commercial trade.


Farmers consider wild mongooses as their friends because they eliminate pests in their fields. Small animals such as snakes, rats, lizards, frogs, birds and their eggs, and scorpions too form a substantial part of these carnivores’ diet.

Modus Operandi

Despite the efforts of several leading wildlife organisations and government raids, mongooses continue to be shot, snared or noosed, and beaten to death for their hair. The animals are found all over in the country which probably makes it more difficult to catch the hunter-poachers. Not only is their hair (which gets converted into artists, shaving and make up brushes) but also finished brushes made from it, are smuggled out of India via Nepal and Bangladesh to the Middle East, Europe and USA.


It is shameful that India is the largest, albeit illegal, exporter of mongoose hair brushes for artists. There are many units in India, including manufacturers of famous brands that clandestinely produce thousands of brushes to meet the global demand. Abroad they are sold with the claim that every aspect of the brush is hand-made and inspected to ensure proper shape and working qualities. And, to confuse consumers and circumvent the law, mongoose hair is often labelled Indian sable, badger, kolinsky, pony, Kevin or natural hair. Such labelled brushes are also available in our stationery stores.

Mongoose hair for artists’ paint brushes is favoured internationally because it is said to be strong, resilient
and makes long-wearing medium- to professional-quality brushes found to be suitable for oil and acrylic painting. Sellers can easily pass them off as the more expensive sable, kolinsky or badger hair brushes. Some times the brushes are mongoose with badger hair used as filler.

More Vigilance Required

Beginning 1990 Beauty Without Cruelty repeatedly complained to the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests that most brushes in paint boxes used by school children were made of mongoose hair although they were labelled Indian sable. We gave them a sample to prove that the brush was indeed made of mongoose hair.


In 2002 after the mongoose was upgraded under the Wildlife Act, almost simultaneous nationwide raids with the help of the Wildlife Trust of India yielded hair of at least 50,000 illegally killed mongooses.

So many years later, the trade in mongoose hair for artists’ brushes continues to flourish without buyers being aware of what they are using or how the hair was obtained. Large and broad brushes used to write graffiti on walls can also be of mongoose hair – and they contain at least ten times more hair than the other paint brushes. Somehow artists are under the false impression that synthetic brushes are no good.


Undercover investigations prove mongooses continue to be mercilessly hunted down and battered to death for their hair in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar.


About 40 grams of hair is plucked (pulled out with fingers) from the just killed, warm bodies of mongooses. Usually no more than about 50% or 20 grams turns out to be of paint brush quality. Thus, 50 mongooses lose their lives for a kilogram of useable hair.

The specie is being pushed towards extinction due to its coat. Its coarse hair is in shades of grey and brown, is moderately long, and looks streaked or grizzled because each individual hair is typically banded in black and cream colours.

In 2015 Traffic India launched a campaign on social media to save the mongoose. They enlightened consumers with pictures on how to identify mongoose hair brushes, saying the hair is stiff and in shades of grey, brown and dark brown.

In March of the same year forest officials seized from a wholesale dealer in Kochi (Kerala) around 14,000 brushes made of mongoose hair. The brushes found in different sizes had been manufactured in Uttar Pradesh.

In October 2019 the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Police together with the Wildlife Trust of India cracked down on the illegal acquisition and use of mongoose hair with their Operation ‘Clean Art’. Raids were carried out in Sherkot Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Mumbai, Pune and in Kerala on the same day. In Sherkot aone 26,000 brushes along with over 100 kgs of mongoose hair was seized and about 26 persons were arrested. It was estimated that for 150 kgs of hair at least 6,000 mongooses were killed.

The figures information released with regard to seizures over three years:

Year  Brushes seized Cases Arrests
2017 62,924 15 23
2018  79,021 16 19
2019 54,352 27 49

In 2019, 113 kgs of raw mongoose hair was also confiscated. Suppliers of mongoose pelts, the commonly found species being the Indian grey mongoose which is hunted by the Narikuruvas of Tamil Nadu, Hakki Pakki of Karnataka, Gonds of Andhra and Karnataka, Gulias, Seperas and Nath of Central and Northern India who mainly supply to Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. The hunters consume the meat and sell the hair for profit.

The WCCB tries to reduce the demand for mongoose hair brushes. They provide alternative sources of livelihood for people form indigenous communities who are involved in the business. They also spread awareness and deter users, whether artists or school students, from purchasing such brushes.

In 2021 a total of 1735 paint brushes made from mongoose hair were seized from 5 manufacturers by the forest officials in Karad, Maharashtra. During the same year in August 2021 a clandestine factory in Delhi that was involved in manufacturing mongoose hair paint brushes was raided and 2025 brushes and 10.5 kgs of loose mongoose hair were seized. It was the 4th such seizure during that year following information received from the Wildlife Trust of India. Earlier two raids were in Sherkot, and one in Dehradun.

All Animals Matter

If the hair in a paint brush is that of mongoose it will be stiff and be pointing upwards. The colour will vary from grey, cream, brown and dark brown, with the brush tips and base being darker and cream or greyish in the centre.

BWC believes no animal hair brushes, not only those that contain mongoose hair, should be purchased. Animal or natural hair brushes utilise hair derived from pigs to ponies, to human hair.

If imprecisely labelled, or not labelled at all, do not despair. By looking at, and feeling the texture of the hair, it is easy to make out whether the hair is that of an animal or synthetic. Moreover, animal hair will burn separately one hair at a time and smell similar to human hair when burnt; and the hair on the tip of the brush is more likely to be tapered, whereas the synthetic ones will have probably been cut straight across.

Wildlife enthusiasts should not forget that mongoose hair is almost always dubiously labelled as some other animal.

So if in doubt, it is best not to buy.

Page last updated on 19/12/22