Cashmere is one of the most expensive types of wool available. It is also one of the most beloved thanks to its luxurious softness, warmth, and beauty. More than just about any other type of garment, Cashmere is cherished and lovingly cared for by its owners, and often passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms.
Because so many people adore this incredible fabric, we often get asked about its origins, including – what animal does Cashmere come from? This post will help you learn more about Cashmere and where it comes from.
Cashmere Comes from Goats
Cashmere comes from goats, but not just any type of goat. Cashmere is only collected from Cashmere goats, hence its name. It is important to know that Cashmere is not a breed of goat, but simply a type of goat.
But while there are many goats around the world that can be classified as “Cashmere goats,” many consider the very best to be those that are born and bred in Mongolia. More specifically, those from inner Mongolia near the Himalayas, where temperatures can often reach -40 degrees. Genuine Mongolian Cashmere goats are so revered for their quality hair that they are often purchased and shipped to other countries, like Australia.
But while Cashmere goats are easy to raise, it is interesting to note that attempts by Australia and other countries to breed Mongolian goats have failed to produce the same value of Cashmere as what comes out of Mongolia. The reason for this is that inner Mongolia’s environment plays an important role in the softness of the Cashmere goat hairs.
How Cashmere is Collected from Cashmere Goats
Cashmere goats have an outer layer of “guard” hair that is coarse and tough and an undercoat of soft hair. The hair that makes up the goat’s soft undercoat are hollow and very fine. This unique design allows them to trap air, which helps protect the goat and keep it warm from Mongolia’s brutally cold winters. With these goats, the colder the climate is, the longer their undercoat will grow.
Cashmere collecting starts in spring as the goats are herded down the mountains by the nomadic goat herdsman. With winter over and warmer temperatures arriving, the goats naturally start to shed. During this time, experienced handlers either comb or shear the goats to remove their fleece.
After collecting, the soft undercoat hairs need to be separated from the rough and course outer hairs. This is done entirely by hand, which is one of the reasons for why Cashmere is so expensive. Every part of the goat’s coat is used with the longest and finest hairs being used in knitted Cashmere garments and the shorter undercoat hairs being used to make woven Cashmere items. The rough outer hairs are used to make durable rugs.