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A Brief History & Homely Care for Angoras

By Alma M Bode, 1970.

Mohair Australia Ltd

Introduction

Goats have been domesticated from very earliest days. Mention is made of the Assyrians, the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Romans and Greeks possessing large flocks of goats.

The origin of the Angora dates back prior to early biblical history. Mention is made of the use of mohair at the time of Moses, which would fix the first record of the Angora sometime before 1571 B.C. and 1451 B.C.  Jews sacrificed goats as offerings to Jehovah and goats’ hair was used for weaving into cloth.

From what the writings of Theocritus (3rd Century B.C.) tell us the Romans divided their goats into classes.  Those with fine hair and sawn-off horns and those with shaggy hair.  A good he-goat should have a large body, thick legs, full and short neck, flaccid and very long shiny hair.  The Romans used either to shear or pluck the hair from the goats as they did their sheep.  (They even had an instrument for shearing he-goats, a “Tragokourice machaira”).

The wild goats of the East were doubtless in very early days domesticate and made useful to men.  Although migratory tribes took their livestock with them, in the East, was the original home of the goat and especially in many districts of Persia.  Unfortunately, historically, little, if any, is known of the earlier times of Persia, and not until the wars of Alexander and his successors, according to Aristotle (384 B.C - 332 B.C.) do we pick up any threads.  Goats, and especially Angoras, were first kept as household pets, and they still retain to a high degree the gentleness and tameness derived from their early method of domestication.  The beauty and the silkiness of their fleece attracted the admiration of the female members of the household who quickly appreciated its value.  Each family would keep about five to ten Angoras for their especial use.  So we are indebted to those ladies of long ago for preserving these delicate and valuable animals long before mohair because of commercial value.

There is a widely believed legend that Our Lord’s Coat which was without seam and for which the soldiers, at the foot of the Cross, cast lots, was woven of mohair.

Although Asia Minor is regarded as the home of the Angora, it is recognised that it has been introduced at a comparatively recent date - having been brought, it is believed, from the mountains of Tibet.  Some authorities maintain these were the Cashmere, not Angora, goats.

The mohair goat of Turkey is the product of a little more than the last two hundred years and differs from the original Angora which was confined to a small area peculiarly adapted to it.  Angora, capital of the province of that name, produces five different varieties from five different districts: Yabanoon produces a heavy lustrous fleece; Tchorba, a mohair so fine and soft that it falls to pieces as it is shorn from the goats’ back.  Tchiboukooa is remarkable for its length and fineness.

The first European record of mohair goats dates from 1541 when the Dutch Ambassador of Charles V (of France) secured a pair of these animals and sent them to his majesty.  He explained they had just been introduced from Armenia into Asia Minor.  Here they were kept as household pets.

Mohair first became an article of commerce in 1749, when a branch of the Levant Company, consisting of a few Dutch and English merchants, settled in or near the town of Angora, and commenced buying mohair and spinning yarns for export.  The export of the article in its raw and un-manufactured state was then prohibited by the Turkish Government.  But an early writer says that in 1655 mohair yarn was spun into textures at Brussels and in England was used in making into periwigs.

It was about the year 1836 that the spinning of mohair became an industry in England.

Supplied by:
Mohair Australia Ltd. - Hunter Region
Sandie Smith - Delegate to the Hunter Division.

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