Catgut is the traditional material for the strings of a number of musical instruments, including harps, violins, lutes and cellos. It was also used for bowstrings and stringing tennis racquets. The cord is resilient and long lasting.
Catgut strings on instruments gave a rich sound, still preferred by some performers. It gave a taut powerful stringing on tennis racquets, and was for long used to make bowstrings for bows in archery. It was also once commonly used for surgical sutures, and apparently still is used in some places.
The material is made by processing natural fibers found in the walls of animal intestines. Catgut comes primarily from the intestines of sheep and goats, and sometimes other animals such as horses and mules. It’s been used for thousands of years.
Catgut strings on instruments were partly replaced by steel strings from around 1900, and then also by nylon strings following World War 2.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about catgut is its name: it has nothing to do with cats and catgut never comes from cats.
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