Origins of Angora Goats
Angora goats originated in Asia Minor with early references in Sumerian cuneiform tablets and the Bible dating the origin of the breed between the 12th and 15th centuries B.C. The name “Angora” came from Ankara, Turkey, where the Angora goat became well established. Angora rabbits and Angora cats also were developed in the same province in Turkey. Angora goats produce “mohair” which is derived from the Arabic word “mukhaya” which means to choose or prefer. The hair of the Angora goat is not to be confused with “Angora” fiber which comes from Angora rabbits.
Pure white silky mohair was a coveted fiber even in biblical references where Moses mentions the breed in roughly 1500 BC. Early Angora goat owners carefully protected their Angora goats who often lived inside the family homes just as any other precious pet.
Angora goats were brought to Europe about 1554 but exports from Turkey in those early references were unsuccessful. The Sultan of Turkey placed a strict embargo on further exports of Angora goats or mohair in the 15th century. Some finished products made of mohair were still exported and interest in obtaining Angora goats grew. Some exportations to Spain and France took place in the late 16th century again with limited success.
The embargo was eventually lifted and Angora goats were exported to South Africa in 1838. Those Angora goats were crossed with hardy local breeds and the Angora goat breeding industry thrived.
Angora Goats in the United States
Angora goats were not introduced to the United States until 1849 with the importation of 7 does and 2 bucks. By the 1960’s, the US had over 5 million commercial white Angora goats with more than 90% of mohair produced in Texas. The number of Angora goats in Texas has steadily decreased (to 1.8 million in 1992 and to less than 200,000 as of May, 2009) at least in part due to the elimination of the mohair subsidy and expanded use of synthetic fibers.
South Africa has now passed the US in mohair production.
Growing interest in natural products has returned interest to Angora goats and their beautiful and strong mohair fiber. While large commercial herds of Angora goats are diminishing, their desirability for small family farms continues to grow. Colored Angora goats and mohair in a variety of natural colors further increase the appeal of Angora goats.