MOHAIR, the hair of a variety of goat originally inhabiting the regions of Asiatic Turkey of which Angora is the centre, whence the animal is known as the Angora goat. The Arabic muhayyar, from which the word came into English probably through the Ital. moccacaro or Fr. mocayart, meant literally, " choice " or " select," and was applied to cloth made of goats' hair. In the 17th century the word, which before appears in such forms as mocayare or mokaire, became corrupted by connexion with " hair," cf. " cray-fish " from ecrevisse. From the English " mohair " the French adapted moire, a watered silk fabric.
The typical mohair fibre is 7 to 8 in. long, very lustrous owing to its physical structure (which although akin to wool is different in that the wool scales are indicated only instead of being fully developed, while the fibre is always solid), ^ to -gfa of an inch in diameter, of a soft elastic handle, and usually of a clear white transparent colour. The staples of which the fleece is formed should be uniform in length and clearly defined, naturally lending themselves to a good " spin " a difficult attainment in the case of mohair (see WOOLLEN AND WORSTED MANUFACTURES) . There are many varieties of mohair, from the first qualities as here defined to lower qualities of a kempy, unsatisfactory character. Thus in Constantinople, the chief centre of the Turkey mohair trade, a large variety of fleeces is recognized. For example, from the Lake Van district a distinctly inferior kind known as " Van " mohair is obtained, while other districts produce varieties ranging from Van up to the typical quality described above.
The animal from which mohair was originally obtained was a finely-bred Angora goat. Owing to the demand for raw material exceeding the supply, from 1820 onwards there has been a great deal of crossing of the well-bred Angora with the common kind of goat: in fact it has been said that by 1863 the original Angora had practically disappeared. The growing demand for mohair further resulted in attempts on a commercial scale to introduce the goat into South Africa where it was crossed with the native goat the United States, Australia, and later still New Zealand. Perhaps the introduction of the Angora into Australia and New Zealand may in part be due to its value as a scrub and blackberry browser; these growths being the " pests " of the two respective countries.
The manufacture of fabrics from mohair as in the case of alpaca and cashmere was in the first instance due to the genius of the rearers of the goat. It would, indeed, be interesting to know if the present day mohair goods often styled " alpacas " really had their origin in the earlier products of Asia Minor. That fabrics of mohair were in use in England early in the 18th century is obvious from Pope's allusion:
" And, when she sees her friend in deep despair, Observes how much a chintz exceeds mohair."
Raw mohair was first exported from Turkey to England about 1820, and from that date onwards marked strides were made in its manufacture into useful yarns and fabrics. England has always had, and still maintains, supremacy in this manufacture. Practically the whole of both the Turkish and Cape clips is at least converted into yarn in Yorkshire mills. Quantities of these yarns are also woven into dress goods, dust cloakings, pile fabrics, imitation furs, etc., in Yorkshire, but even greater quantities of mohair yarn are exported to Russia, Germany, Austria, etc., to be converted into astrakans, ordinary braids, brush braids, etc. In the first decade of the 20th century the mohair braid trade received a blow from the introduction of artificial silk.
The history of the introduction of the Angora goat from Asia Minor into the other countries mentioned is as follows. In 1838 pure bred Angoras were introduced into Cape Colony cashmeres having been previously tried and found unsatisfac- tory. These pure-bred goats crossed with the common goat laid the basis of the Cape flocks. In 1856-1857 other importations of pure-bred goats were made. From 1868 to 1897 further importations were made, but these were not of the pure-bred goat and consequently were not so valuable. It should here be noted that the Cape flock-owner clips twice the summer clip yielding a staple which should be of not less than 7 in., and the winter clip a staple which should be of not less than 3 in. to 4 in. Bradford from time to time has objected to the winter clip as being too short, but this clip seems to have established itself and at least once during recent years has been as saleable as I he summer clip. The introduction of Angoras into the United States took place in 1849. Other importations of goats from Asia Minor were made between 1857 and 1880, and interchanges of blood also took place between the United States and Cape Colony. Between 1856 and 1875 some three hundred goats were introduced into Australia. Other importations from Cape Colony and the United States have also been made from time to time, and it seems at least possible, if not probable, that Australia may yet find the Angora goat an important asset.
From the following statistics relating to mohair it will be realized that the mohair supply practically comes from two sources, viz. Turkey in Asia and South Africa :
Country. No. of Goats. Yield of Hair.
Asia Minor 3$ to 4 millions. II to 12,000,000 ft.
South Africa 4 millions. 12 to 14,000,000 ft>.
United States .... 800,000 1,600,000 Ib.
Australia 30,000 The price per ft of mohair has varied from 43. id. in 1870 to I3d. or I4d. in 1903, and it is interesting to note that the shipments from Turkey to England follow these price fluctuations in a most curious manner.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)