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Mohair, Its Nature And Uses

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Sources of Mohair.-There are three principal sources of mohair in the world: Turkey, South Africa, and the United States. According to the most reliable information available, there are in Turkey in the region about Angora where the breed of Angora goats originated, approximately 1,200,000 of these goats. In all Africa, but mostly in the Cape Province of the South African Union, there are about 3,585,00o Angoras, with about 5,000,00o goats of the common breeds.

Unfortunately for the preservation of the pure Angora blood, the Turks many years ago began to cross their flocks with the common "Kurd" goats, which resulted in so great an infusion of inferior blood that today all goat raisers agree that there are no pure-blood Angoras left, those now used all being more or less contaminated with the common blood. To conserve its flocks and to preserve to the Turkish people the Angoras in their purest state, the Turkish government some years ago prohibited the exportation of Angoras.

The American Angora raiser has, therefore, but the one source for obtaining new blood to build up the flocks in this country-South Africa; but, fortunately, before the Turkish embargo was passed, some of the best of the Turkish goats had been exported to the United States and also to South Africa, so that in all probability, due to the more intelligent interest taken by the Angora raisers in these countries, it is not likely that much better blood can be procured in Angora itself than can be found in either South Africa or the United States.

Mohair and its uses.-As stated before, in 1910 the American mills used almost 5,000,000 pounds of mohair, about two-thirds of which was of American raising.

Comparing the imported hair with the domestic, manufacturers agree that the domestic lacks brightness and luster and does not spin so well as the Turkish hair. Owing to certain climatic conditions, especially in the Southwest, it is necessary to shear the goats twice a year, which of course results in a much shorter staple, whereas the foreign goats are generally shorn but once a year. Every effort is made to grow as long a staple as possible; in Oregon and in some parts of California, where the goats are sheared but once a year, the production of hair between fifteen and twenty inches in length is not unusual in flocks where the grade has been kept to the highest possible standard. For the United States as a whole, where the fleece is allowed to grow an entire year, the average length is about ten inches.

The following articles are made from mohair: plushes used for railway cars and upholstering furniture, coat linings, dress goods, men's summer suits, automobile tops, braids, rugs, and carriage robes, imitation furs for women's and children's wear, couch and table covers, portieres; false hair from crimped and curved mohair. The skins tanned with the hair on are used extensively for carriage robes, muffs, and trimmings for coats and capes.

The market for mohair is unusually dependent upon the caprices of fashion; let there be a change in fashion's edict and there may be a great demand for mohair; a remarkable falling off is no less likely to occur at any moment.

Considering the amount of domestic hair now being used by the American mills, it is apparent that the future of Angora goat-raising industry lies in improving rather than increasing the output of mohair. The American people must also be educated to the eating of "Angora mutton." Most mohair experts agree that when proper care and attention are given, American mohair equals the best South African or Turkish product.

Quality of the hair.-The manufacturers state that the production of domestic hair has improved greatly during the last few years, both in staple and in freedom from kemp or dead hairs. In using the domestic and imported hair the manufacturers usually blend the imported in such a proportion as to enable them to use the mixture in most of their products.

As the goat grows elder, the fiber of the hair becomes straighter and thicker and loses its curly quality as well as its luster; hence the best hair comes from the kids, young wethers, and young does.

The highest grade of mohair should hang in curly ringlets from all parts of the animal's body. The mohair manufacturers prefer hair not less than six inches in length, one of the most prominent stating that he could use very little of the Southwestern hair on account of its being too short, Some Texas flocks were investigated where the growers had produced fleeces from fifteen to twenty-two inches long; such fleeces were sold for special purposes, bringing very high prices.

The majority of the manufacturers purchase a large percentage of their hair direct from the growers in person, or from selling agencies established by the Angora Goat Association in the West.

The great effort of the Angora raisers of today is to develop a goat that will shear a long, lustrous, curly fleece of fine character and free from the obnoxious "kemp." Kemp is the long, coarse hair which, with very few exceptions, is found in some quantity on even the best Angoras. It is believed to be a last reminder of the common blood bred into the original herds in Turkey; in the judgment of some of the best growers it will never be completely eradicated. Kemp is objectionable in that it will not take any of the dyes used in dying mohair; for this reason the manufactured goods are defective whenever the kemp is used. Kemp can readily be discovered in a fleece as it lacks the luster or sheen of the true mohair, being a dead, chalky white and coarser than the rest of the fleece.

The average shearing value of the American Angora is not so high as it probably might be, because of the mixture of common blood in many of the flocks. The average goat of higher class flocks shears a trifle over three and one-half pounds, but taking the country over, the average is probably somewhat under two and one-half pounds. A high shearing average is not altogether an evidence of superior mohair. According to the best authority available the average for the Turkish Angora is but two and three-fourths pounds a goat, while that for those of South Africa is above three and one-half pounds each.

Handling goats on range.-In general, the goats are handled much the same as the sheep, save that the constant presence of the herder is not necessary. Many goatherds turn the animals out of the pens in the early morning, sending a dog with them to keep away wild animals. During the day the herder rides out to the herd once or twice to note the direction in which they are feeding. Usually if they are allowed to graze alone, the goats will travel too fast and cover too much country, which is injurious to the range as well as to the animals. Careful herders remain with their goats and check this tendency to travel.

The necessary equipment for raising goats is somewhat similar to that for sheep raising. It is especially necessary that proper sheds should be furnished to shelter the goats during wet weather, as they are very susceptible to moisture.

Contrary to general belief, no domestic animal is more fastidious as to its food than the Angora. When fed hay or other artificial food, every care must be taken to keep the food away from the mud and dirt; Angoras will refuse to touch any food which is soiled or trampled into the ground. Muddy or foul drinking water will not answer, and fresh water must be furnished if these animals are to do well either on the range or in feed lots.

Angoras will always endeavor to find shelter from approaching storm and must have sheds under which to creep during stormy weather. As long as it is clear and cold, or the snow is dry, they are comfortable and remain out; but their long, open fleece is soon soaked in the rain, and is seriously affected by the moisture on their bodies.

Angoras require plenty of air and light, and all sheds provided must be open as much as is compatible with keeping out rain or snow. The pens should never become muddy, for the long, silky fleece will easily pick up a great weight of mud, which not only burdens the animal but stains and injures the fleece as well.

Contrary to the general idea, the raising of Angora goats is rather difficult. The young are more delicate than lambs, and their mortality is greater, especially among the well-bred animals. Incessant personal care is absolutely necessary in raising the kids until they are about two months old. The methods of raising the kids are many, especially during their early weeks, when it is inadvisable to let them follow the doe out upon the ranges.

The browsing habit of the goats renders them available even on land where other domestic animals would not find sufficient feed. Goats relish and thrive on all manner of browses; on leaves, shrubs, and small trees, and on moderate amounts of weeds and grass. Despite the general opinion, goats will not do well on brush alone, although a large part of their food is browse. Because of their liking for browsing, goats are occasionally introduced into many states solely for the purpose of clearing the land of brush and bringing it into pasturage. This same browsing habit has caused their exclusion from many parts of the national forests throughout the West, and from watersheds where it is desirable to protect the brushy cover in order to prevent erosion and the filling up by silt of the reservoirs for water supply.

The land upon which goats thrive best being generally useless for other domestic animals, its actual or rental value is generally much below that of pasture land for sheep or cattle, although on the various national forests practically the same fees are charged for goats as for sheep. The total average yearly cost for grazing for one goat is about the same as that for one sheep in the same region, or sometimes a little less. This statement refers, of course, to rangeraised goats and not to those raised in small flocks upon farms or within small pastures.

Receipts from raising Angora goats.-The average receipts from mohair are approximately $1.02 for each goat. Owing to the varying conditions under which the mutton is sold it is impossible to compute any averages from that source which would be applicable to the entire goat-raising region.



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