The next task they tackled was making a suitable binding matrix.
This, Dr Vollrath and his coauthor Mi Ruixin made from a fibrous protein-rich glue of the sort produced naturally by spiders and silkworms.
They bundled the treated horse hairs as tightly as they could in a matrix of this glue, and then left the bundles in an oven to dry.
The result was a material that, with some polishing, looked like rhino horn.
Specimens on the black market are, however, inspected carefully before sale,
so for the false horns to be effective they would need to stand up to closer scrutiny than the naked eye.
To this end, Dr Vollrath and Dr Mi decided to test their product in detail.
DNA analysis would certainly reveal fakes, but such analysis is complicated
and therefore hard to do in the sorts of back rooms in which rhino-horn sales tend to take place.
The forgeries passed other tests with flying colours, though.
First, fake and real horn looked the same when examined under a scanning electron microscope.
Next, they behaved similarly when tested by a technique that compared their capacity to absorb heat.
Finally, when stressed or strained and then relaxed regularly for long periods, to probe their underlying mechanical properties,
the results for real and false horn were indistinguishable.
Whether using clandestine means to launch impeccable fakes onto the rhinoceros-horn market
would truly reduce prices and sabotage demand remains to be tested. But it might.
It is an old trick in warfare to flood the enemy with forged, worthless money. Something similar may yet help save the rhino.