The Angora Goat – Fibre
Originally from the region in Asia Minor from which it takes its name, the Angora goat is one of the most long-lived and well-known of all types of goats on the planet. Mohair, the name for the Angora goat’s highly sought after hair, is mentioned as far back as the biblical Old Testament, making it one of the oldest still-in-use production fibers anywhere in the world.
Despite the Angora goat not being as bulky or sturdy as most of its cousins, the unique physical characteristics of its hair have long ensured Angora’s find the human help they need to survive during drought, severe weather, and other issues that might have otherwise threatened the survival of the Angora.
Today, Angora goats are raised throughout the world. The major exporters of mohair today are the United States, South Africa, and of course Turkey – where the breed originated and from where it was originally shipped to the US and South Africa during the 19th century.
Since the survival of the Angora goat has been most closely related to the economic value of its hair, the breed was long ago mixed with the sturdier and larger common stock of goats in the Turkish region in order to boost the amount of hair each goat would yield. Though this has resulted in stronger and more vigorous Angora breed than they were originally, they still grow to a smaller full size on the same feed that would produce larger common stock or milk goats or sheep. At full growth, which usually takes an Angora goat around 5 years, bucks typically weigh around 200 pounds while does only reach 80 – 100 pounds.
A picturesque goat with heavy, droopy ears – both the female and male Angora goats are horned. The male horns, however, grow to be quite significantly longer (up to 2 or 3 feet on full grown males) than their female counterparts and almost always have a significantly more pronounced spiral in their horns. Conversely, female horns are shorter (rarely exceeding 8 – 9 inches) and do not have much spiral.
Like a sheep, the Angora has a straight back, developed rib cage, and a deep, uniform body. However, the Angora is, in general, the slighter creature with less developed mutton characteristics.
The Economic Value of the Angora Goat: Mohair
As stated, the angora’s hair is the reason it has been domesticated and raised for thousands of years. Mohair, because of several unique characteristics, remains a premium choice for production today.
Not all Mohair, however, is created equal. Today, angora’s fall into two classes: Type C – which has ringlet hair, and Type B – which has flat locks. The ringlet haired angora are more sought after and to be considered Type C, the locks must be in tight ringlets throughout the entire length of the hair. If it is wavy, inconsistent, or flat, the hair is not as fine and does not produce as lasting or aesthetically pleasing results. Such goats produce hair that receives the lower Type B rating.
Mohair Production Facts
Here are some of the basic information about the modern Mohair production industry:
- The US is one of the largest exporters of mohair in the world. In the US, the average mohair sheared from a single Angora is 5.3 pounds.
- Angora goats are typically sheared two times a year in the US.
- The average length of a single strand or fiber of mohair is around 14cm.
- Though Angoras are sturdy when fully haired, they are vulnerable to the elements just after birth and shearing. It is during these times that livestock deaths are at their highest.
- Mohair is most similar to wool, but it’s thinner and much smoother making it lack the “felting” qualities wool is commonly used for.
- Mohair is strong, elastic, with considerable luster, and able to be dyed with great results. These qualities make it ideal for use in upholstery and the production of plushes.
- The market value of mohair is not as stable as wool. Thus angoras that produce Type C mohair are highly sought after. Typically young goats produce the best hair so livestock that is young or of breeding age tends to have a higher value.
Angora as Livestock
Besides their smaller size and often more valuable hair, angoras offer some unique challenges and benefits when comparing raising them to similar livestock like milk goats or sheep.
One strong quality of Angora goat as livestock is they can forage areas that would traditionally not sustain the same size heard of sheep. Angora may be smaller, but they stand on their hind legs and in general eat everything they can reach. This gives them a strong advantage to farmers and ranchers who have rocky or difficult terrain that other livestock does not do so well on.
On the downside, Angoras rarely give birth to more than one goat at a time. This means that in larger herds, Angoras tend to kid as low as 65-70%. This can, however, be offset by keeping purebreds in small, well managed groups. In such installations, the reproduction rate can reach 100% or more. Additionally, angoras are more delicate than other breeds. This means they are more susceptible at birth and after sheering to cold and the elements. Storms in particular can wreak havoc on an Angora population if proper precautions are not taken. Angoras are also more susceptible to internal parasites than their more hardy cousins.
As far as their meat goes, it has been traditionally sold as low-grade mutton. This is because of the diminished size and thinner overall flesh in comparison to real mutton. The flavor and quality of the meat itself, however, is very acceptable and even considered a delicacy in some areas. Therefore, there have been efforts over the years to redress the presentation of angora meat as low grade mutton and instead rebrand it as “chevon,” which it is now most commonly sold as.
Origin of the Angora Goat, Ankara Region, Turkey