Mohair is a silky textile produced from the hair of the angora goat. It is most often spun into a thread that can be woven, knitted, or crocheted depending upon the application. Mohair is durable, warm, insulating, and light. It also has moisture wicking properties that carry moisture away from the skin of the wearer. The hair of the angora goat has been used to produce textiles for centuries, and the term mohair entered English usage from the Arabic mukhayyar, referring to a type of woven head cloth.
Despite being very soft, mohair can be irritating to the skin, like many animal products. As a result, many mohair garments are lined with silk or cotton, and mohair is frequently mixed with other fibers for comfort. The fiber has been used in the West since the 16th century, when Charles V first brought angora goats to Europe, although the delicacy of the species made mohair difficult to obtain and prohibitively expensive for many.
During the Second World War, the United States became concerned about wool production, as military uniforms were made from wool. The decision was made to blend wool and mohair, and the government began to heavily subsidize wool and mohair farmers in 1954 for their products in an attempt to keep the supply lines open. As late as 2005, mohair and wool producers could still receive financial assistance from the United States government.
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Angora goats originate from Turkey, in the region now called Ankara. Bred for their special wool and milk products, the goats were used extensively throughout the Middle East for centuries before being introduced to the West. Angora goats are very delicate and highly susceptible to infestations of external parasites due to their shaggy coats. Angora goats also have high and very specific nutritional requirements, and they will begin to suffer from health problems if these are not met.
Goats are sheared for their mohair one or two times a year, depending upon production requirements, the health of the goats, and other factors. They also need to be combed regularly, to prevent clumping and the collection of debris. One angora goat can produce 11 to 17 pounds (5 to 8 kilograms) of mohair in one year. Mohair takes and holds dye well, making it a common choice for novelty knitted products.