QuickCheck: Are some tennis strings made out of animal intestines?

Swiss former world tennis champ Roger Federer uses tennis strings made from natural gut.

TENNIS is a captivating sport that combines athleticism, strategy and finesse on the court with players unleashing shots of raw power with every move.

A tennis ball can go up to 190kmh, and it takes a player with precise control of his racket to return such a serve to his/her opponent.

As the racquet is one of the crucial pieces of equipment for the game, one can wonder – are some strings for tennis rackets made out of animal intestines?



Yes. While modern strings are typically made of nylon, the first set of natural gut tennis strings was created by Frenchman Pierre Babolat in 1875, and they were made of animal gut – sheep intestines to be precise.

In the 1870s, Babolat had established a business making strings for musical instruments in France. Later, he would turn his attention to the then-newly established game of lawn tennis and began making racket strings from the same raw material.

However, over the years, several factors – including using sheep intestines for sausages instead – have taken sheep out of the picture. They turned to the outer intestine lining (called serosa) of bovines instead.

Bovine serosa has greater tensile strength compared to sheep gut and is also longer.

However, the process of creating the gut strings is complicated and time-consuming – which contributes to the high price. It also takes about three cows to produce a set of natural gut strings for one tennis racket.

Fortunately for tennis players, the introduction of synthetic materials in the 1950s provided a more cost-effective string choice for them.

Today, some professional players still prefer to play with natural gut strings in tournaments, including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Aryna Sabalenka.


1. https://mytennishq.com/what-are-tennis-strings-made-of/

2. https://www.si.com/tennis/2015/11/25/history-of-strings-natural-gut-spin-tennis

3. https://tennisnerd.net/gear/strings/why-pros-still-use-natural-gut/26599

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