The Angora comes to us from the Himalayas of Asia Minor. Its origins are so ancient that the details have been lost altogether. It is believed to be a direct descendant of some species of wild goat, perhaps the Persian bezoar or perhaps the markhor, famous for its twisted horns.
In any case, mohair, the fiber produced only by the Angora breed, has been a product of value since at least the time of Moses. That the people of Turkey prized mohair is evident in the origins of the word itself. Mohair is derived from the Arabic mukhaya, “to choose or to prefer.” When mohair began to reach Europe in the 1400s and 1500s, the demand increased so rapidly that the Turkish sultan was obliged to place an embargo on the export of the raw fiber to prevent a shortage in his own country. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V attempted to make mohair more available in the mid-1500s by importing a pair of Angora goats, but was not successful in establishing a European population.
In the early 1800s, mohair was once again exported to Europe, but again there was a shortage of the fiber. The Angora breed was upgraded with Kurdish goats in an attempt to increase the population as rapidly as possible. While this introduction of outside blood did improve the size and hardiness of the Angora, it also introduced the genes for undesirably coarse hair, called kemp.
The new, sturdier Angora was successfully exported to other countries beginning with South Africa in 1838. The breed first came to the United States when the sultan of Turkey gave seven does and two bucks to Dr. James B. Davis of South Carolina as a thank-you gift for his work in aiding Turkey in cotton culture. This flock arrived in the South in 1849. At this time, however, Cashmere and Angora goats were thought to belong to the same breed. In fact, Davis’s new flock may have included a Cashmere doe. This confusion was largely cleared up over the course of the following decade, but probably not before there was some indiscriminate crossbreeding.
At least three more importations of Angora goats into North America occurred during the late 1800s and early 1900s. These goats had been yet again upgraded thanks to a severe drought in Asia Minor that had decimated the population. The upgrade resulted in still hardier goats that could thrive well in America. Further improvements to the breed occurred in Texas, where goats were selected for kemp-free fiber and ease of shearing. The result was that, by 1900, American mohair rivaled the native Turkish product.
Even today, much of the global supply of mohair comes from the United States, particularly from the state of Texas. Angora goats are raised commercially on large ranches in the Lone Star State, but recent interest in hobby farming is bringing the breed to new locations in small numbers. Commercial Angora goats are traditionally selected for white hair. On small farms, however, red, brown, black, and pinto goats are gaining in popularity to supply unique colored mohair to the hand-spinning niche.
The primary use of the Angora goat is to produce mohair. (Note that fiber from Angora goats is not called angora; that term is reserved for the fiber collected from Angora rabbits.) Mohair is an extremely valuable product, especially when direct marketed to hand spinners, making Angora goats a profitable enterprise for hobby farmers and agripreneurs alike. Combine valuable mohair with the breed’s docile personality, and the result is an excellent first business for children, as well.
Seeking to maximize profits from an Angora enterprise? Consider adding value by washing, carding, spinning, and maybe even knitting a garment out of the fiber. Each step can increase your profits considerably.
Angora goats can be raised for meat, although castrating males and keeping them for their fine mohair is a far more profitable use of surplus animals. They are also excellent land reclamation and pasture management tools, as they are quite efficient at destroying brushy undergrowth and eating undesirable weeds. For this reason, Angora goats can be excellent additions to a rotational grazing system involving cattle or horses. If the rotation is set up correctly, the goats will both improve the forage quality and reduce the parasite load for the larger animals.
Angora goats are among the quietest of the species. They are laid-back and gentle, taking regular handling in stride. In fact, they are friendly by nature, and if treated as pets they will willingly become pet-like in seeking and returning affection. Compared to other goats, they are easy on fences and will not spend all day looking for ways to cause trouble.
Note, however, that while Angora bucks are docile, they are still bucks and will behave in unruly and possibly dangerous ways if hormonally driven to do so. Always be on your guard when handling a buck of any breed.
Most Angora does are not particularly good mothers, although there are exceptions. Bonding with the kids is a delicate process, and it is best to interfere with an Angora doe and kid as little as possible at first to prevent abandonment. Once properly bonded, however, the maternal instinct takes over and the doe will keep vigilant watch over her young. In fact, a group of Angora does will take turns babysitting kids while their herdmates browse.
This breed can have a rather delicate constitution, probably because of the high demands that mohair production places on the body. Proper food, shelter, and hygiene are essential for good health, and Angora goats can be more demanding in these three particulars than most breeds.
These goats are very prone to parasites, both internal and external. Flies and lice are major problems, so keep the goats generally healthy and keep them sheared on schedule. Rotational grazing is a must to avoid a buildup of flies and worms in the pasture.
Angora goats need shelter all year long, as they are not waterproof like sheep. Shelter is particularly important just after shearing. This housing does not have to be elaborate, and it does not need to be heated in temperate climates unless there are newborn kids in the herd. The main objective is to allow the goats to escape rain and cold winds. Fighting to maintain body heat will lower the goats’ immune systems, which can leave them vulnerable to serious diseases such as pneumonia.
Pay close attention to the diet of breeding and pregnant does. Most Angora does only have one kid at a time, but bigger does may be able to bear twins if well fed before the breeding season. This supplementary feeding may need to be continued through the pregnancy to ensure the kids are born alive. Likewise, try to prevent as much stress on the doe as possible, whether that takes the form of shipping or cold weather.
Newborn Angora kids require special care. It is crucial that they be kept warm, so a snug shelter is a must. When kids are expected, plan on being at hand during and immediately after the birth to revive chilled goats as needs be. Mildly chilled goats can be warmed with a heat lamp. Severely chilled kids may need to be immersed in warm water for rapid recovery; it is crucial that they be completely dried again, however. Once the body temperature of the kids is restored, they may need some assistance in feeding at first. As they grow, they will become hardier as long as they receive adequate milk and, later on, feed without being bullied by larger goats.
- Size and temperament suitable for children.
- Relative safety of horns due to shape and docility.
- Relative absence of odor.
- Respect of most fences.
- Adaptability to most climates.
- Efficient browsing habits.
- Longevity if cared for properly.
- Kidding ease.
- Extremely high fiber production levels.
- Greasy fiber, which keeps electric shearing heads cool.
- High values for mohair, due to its strength, luster, ability to take dye, and many other desirable characteristics.
- Acceptable meat flavor from young goats in good condition.
- Lean meat that is high in iron.
- Expense of breeding stock.
- Intensive labor requirements.
- Need for special feeders to prevent contamination of mohair with hay.
- High nutritional requirements.
- Susceptibility to internal and external parasites.
- Lack of hardiness.
- Low fertility unless managed in small groups.
- Few kids per doe (generally only one at a time).
- Extreme fragility of kids.
- Frequent failure of does to bond with their kids.
- Low meat yield.