Mohair is the fibre of the Angora goat which originates from Ankara region of Turkey and is known a the ‘noble fibre’ for its softness, fantastic insulation properties and remarkable receptivity to dye. In modern times, South Africa has taken the lead as the worlds largest producer of mohair, an industry which weighs in at around 4 million kilograms annually and equates to over 50% of the global supply at an export value of over $100 million. The industry employs 30,000 people and has currently has over 800,000 registered sheep on more than 700 commercial farms across the Karoo – the vast semi-desert plateau which covers 40% of the central region of the country and spans four of our nine provinces. 

While the vast majority of the fibre serves the export market it also supplies a growing domestic product manufacture industry. Mohair is also the choice fibre for the majority of the fledgling South African handloom industry as well as those of our landlocked neighbours, Lesotho and Swaziland. In the local contemporary handloom sector mohair is almost exclusively for the weaving of rugs.

So, how did Mohair get to South Africa and why is it so successful? Back in the 1830’s a couple entrepreneurially spirited farmers approached the Sultan of Turkey, Mahmud II, attempting to persuade him to supply a couple of angora goats. In 1838 the Sultan gifted twelve rams and one female to Port Elizabeth which he sent to Port Elizabeth. In an attempt to protect his Mohair Empire, the Sultan made certain that all the rams had been neutered. Upon arriving in the Cape however, the cargo emerged with an additional and singly fertile ram birthed during the voyage by the inconspicuously pregnant ewe, thus establishing the local mohair industry. Port Elizabeth has now earned the title of mohair capital of the world with the bulk of the worlds supply moving through her port.

The fibre is regarded as a highly sustainable, particularly in the Karoo where the goats thrive in the arid conditions, naturally producing fleece all year round and grazing on the hardy naturally occurring and highly water efficient vegetation. They are shorn twice a year, enabling a winter and summer auction and thus maintaining a reliable supply chain and long term prosperity to the severe, semi-desert environment. Furthermore, a Sustainability Compliance Assessment and Registration is provided by Mohair South Africa, the organisation responsible locally for the marketing and promotion of Mohair which ensures agricultural best practices. This authority has also introduced the Mohair Mark, a consumer facing quality certification for traders which certifies use of the natural fibre.

Mohair is classed as a luxury animal fibre and is considered amongst the most beautiful and exclusive due to its lustrous, lightweight and durable nature. It produces a highly versatile yarn which is famously dye responsive, crease resistant and uniquely virtually non-flammable.


Angora goats are shorn twice a year using either electric or manual shears. In the interest of the farmer, the animal and the quality of the fibre, this is done in such a way that the goats are not harmed.

The fibres are then sorted into classes depending on the length, diameter and length of the fibre. 

Once the fibre has been classed it is thoroughly washed to remove any impurities, dirt and oils. Generally this scouring process is more gentle than the same process applied to other wools as mohair is more reactive to chemicals and heat than many other of the wools.

After scouring the raw material, it is passed through a mechanical carding machine which removes the majority of vegetable matter and produces a sliver or coil of untwisted, uniform lengths referred to as ‘carded sliver’.

The remaining vegetable matter and shorter, irregular fibres are then removed through the process of combing which transforms the carded sliver into the soft and luxurious mohair “top”. 

The top is then spun into a yarn through a mechanised or hand twisted process in accordance with the necessary count (thickness), surface and structure. Finally, the mohair yarn is often brushed or twisted giving it fuller, fluffier finish. 

Recently the South African Mohair industry and its international buyers have come under major fire after a series of investigations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). After an investigation into the practices of twelve local farms, the international animals rights organisation claims that many are committing gruesome acts of animal cruelty, particularly during the shearing process. Their reports claim that  because shearers salaries are based not on hours worked but on volume shorn they are pushed to work in a rushed and careless manner which results in major bodily injury to the animals. While these allegations are being seriously investigated by local authorities and governing bodies, the international market is already shifting at great risk to the local industry. Many major international brands have already withdrawn mohair from their shelves or committing to doing so from their future collections, placing the future of the industry in major jeopardy. 


Reading List

Harrison, A. & Caboz, J. 2018. “Mohair farmers say Peta misrepresented angora farming in a shock documentary – that could cost South Africa R1.5 billion per year”. Business Insider SA. Read it Here

Matavire, M. 2018 ‘Mohair SA Intensifies Abuse Investigation’. City Press. Read it Here 

Stone, J. 2016. ‘The Fascinating History of How The Angora Goat Ended up in South Africa’. 2Oceansvibe. Read it Here

Mohair South Africa website see Here 


Image credits

Image by Joubert Loots from his feature on Adele’s Mohair.
See the feature Here and find Adele’s Mohair Here.

Featured Image: Angora goats in South Africa’s Karoo, Copyright Mohair South Africa

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