Weird ways to get wool

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach world history. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


I've been working on an article about fiber-producing animals that can be used as inspiration for worldbuilding ā€” for example the fictional nightsheep developed by L. E. Modesitt Jr. in the Ā Corean Chronicles, which eat crystalline cactus and produce coats that can be processed into a cloth known as nightsilk.

Fun Facts

  • Cashmere is made from the soft undercoat of cashmere and pashima goats.
  • Although some goats are shorn like sheep, higher quality wool is combed out during moulting.
  • Angora fibers, which are actually hollow, comes from angora rabbits, whereas mohair comes from Angora goats.
  • Lambswool is known as "virgin wool" because it's taken from a baby sheep's first shearing.
  • The Inuktitut word "qiviut" refers to either the inner wool of a muskox or the down feather of birds.

Wooly Island Dogs

Salish wool dogs were fed a diet of fish and elk tallow to keep their coast strong, so their hair could be used as wool by the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest before European contact. The wool as mostly used for clothing and blankets.

Wooly Lard Pigs

Mangalica pigs were bred for a high lard content, but they also have a lot of curly hair. They're the last pig breed that produces a fleece. The fleece can be either black or red, but is usually blond. They look like sheep until you see their faces.

Roo The Baa

Some "primitive" breeds of sheep shed their wool in late winter or spring, so instead of being sheared, they are "plucked" like a turkey to get their fleece off. This process is known as rooing.

Meaty Sheep

Sheep were domesticated circa 8000 BCE in eastern Anatolia and western Iran as a captive source of meat; it wasn't for another 4000 years before their wool undercoats got long enough to be usable.

šŸ“— If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy the follow-up edition on obscure clothing materials.

šŸ’š If you learned something from this overview, consider forwarding it to a friend and encouraging them to sign up for more overviews of my research into obscure history and science.

šŸ§„ Do you know something neat about the history of wool? Please reach out ā€” I'd love to hear about it, either via email or in a comment where other readers can see.


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