by Jeri Ramsey
Mohair (known as the “diamond fiber”) has been prized for centuries for its luster and shine, softness and durability. It belongs in the highest luster category of any natural fiber. One of the most beautiful fibers in the world, it is also one of nature’s most renewable and sustainable resources.
Angora goats (the source of mohair) originated on the plains of Turkey. They were so valued and guarded that their exportation was forbidden until the 1500s when some were exported to France and Spain. None were brought to America until 1849. America, now, is one of two countries with the largest production of mohair in the world. We are also considered the largest supplier of the world’s highest quality mohair. With an annual production of over half a million pounds in the US, Texas produces about 90% of that total. The climate and terrain of Texas most closely resemble their native habitat. But Angoras can be raised successfully in other states with careful management.
For the first 100 years of Angora breeding in the US, only the most brilliant white goats were selected for breeding. But now, Angoras are bred for a wide range of natural colors; varying shades of red, chocolate, taupe, silver, gray and black.
The majority of the mohair is used commercially by the aeronautical, automotive, building, textile and fashion industries. Mohair has high flame resistance and sound-proofing qualities. It is used in the making of quality upholstery, drapes, and carpets. The fashion industry has long valued mohair for its luster, softness, durability, wrinkle and odor resistance and affinity for dyes. Mohair is also prized by hand-spinners, crafters and fiber artists.
So why mohair?
High luster and shine
Softness and silkiness
Strength (stronger than wool)
Long wearing fabric
Odor and wrinkle resistant
Lovely natural colors but takes dye well
Mohair is known and prized as the “diamond” or “noble” fiber for many reasons.
Angora goats are a sensitive and intelligent breed that tends to be of a more delicate nature. They are slow growers and take longer to reach maturity than other goat breeds. Bucks mature at 3 to 5 years of age, 125 lbs to 200 lbs while does reach maturity at around 4 years, 65 lbs to 125 lbs. They are seasonal breeders, with the bucks going into “rut” in the fall to late winter. The males do not have musk glands as found in the males of other goat breeds. The herd has a very well-defined social hierarchy and is led by a matriarch (an older, larger doe).
Angoras are a very productive fiber animal, growing mohair continuously, around an inch a month, typically sheared twice a year. This requires a high nutritional level year-round. Unlike most fiber animals, an Angora will slow growth and sacrifice body condition to produce mohair. The fiber will range from a 21 micron, 1 lb to 3 lbs, kid fleece to a 40 micron, 8 lbs to 10 lbs, older adult fleece.
Sources: Mohair Council of America
Raising Angora Goats for Beautiful Mohair by Sharon Chestnutt
Jerri Ramsey, along with her husband Gary, operate Merry Go Round Farm which is located in northern Rockcastle County on land owned by Jerri’s family for over 60 years. The farm is home to a purebred Angora goat herd and a purebred Shetland sheep flock along with numerous other four-legged residents.