Faithful reader and goat lover, the lovely 8-year-old LuccaBella in Italy has written to me to ask:
Can you shave goats hair? Because lambs you can shave hair & you can make clothes & cotton. Can you do that with goats?
This is an *excellent* question, and something I bet many people don’t know about . . . because cashmere (that oh-so-soft, wonderfully warm sweater and sock material) actually comes for goats. The cashmere goat, in fact.
Yes, cashmere wool comes from the soft, fluffy, fine-haired undercoat of these gorgeous goats:
As many of you probably know, cashmere wool products will keep you super warm and cozy throughout the winter, which is exactly why these goats have their coats. Cashmere goats tend to live in cold, often mountainous climates and begin moulting (losing their hair) in the spring as they’ll no longer need that undercoat to keep warm throughout the summer.
And that’s where cashmere producers come in.
The cashmere from goats may be gathered by combing through or shearing the hair. In order to collect what will become cashmere for clothes and other fabrics, the fine hair of the undercoat must be separated from the coarser hair of the outer coating (called guard hair). The guard hair may be used for brushes and other non-clothing items.
In fact, LuccaBella, you and your Mamma might be interested to learn more about Chianti Cashmere run by American expat Nora Kravis (who has given me great advice on finding goat minerals) — not too far from where you live. Nora offers handwoven products, and her farm prides itself in leaving “no carbon hoofprint” with its Sustainable Cashmere® movement.
Now, if you’re wondering whether Pasqualina and Pinta produce wool for clothes, the answer is no. They just aren’t that type of goat, and in fact, they both have quite fine hair. Here in Calabria, our dairy goats (like Pasqualina) don’t tend to have very thick hair because they don’t need it as temperatures don’t drop below freezing very often in the winter. That said, some of the other breeds of goats around here do have thicker hair (you may remember Carmelina for instance), but even they are not shaved for wool — they just aren’t that kind of goat either.
Thanks so much for the question — I hope my answer helped clear it up!
By the way, for answers to many goat questions, check out The Maaaaa of Pricilla’s excellent “goatucation” series.
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