In 1999 the matriarchs of Hatake’s angora ‘herbal herd,’ Fennel and Cicely, arrived from the Duncan area. They are no longer with us but have left behind a fine legacy of fibre. Angora goats produce, on average, 3.4 kg (7.5 pounds) of fleece twice a year. In the spring the shearer comes to the Mayne Island but in the fall our angoras make the trip to Sidney in the back of the pick-up truck.
The matriarch’s of the ‘Zee herd’ came to Hatake in July 2012. Zwingli and Ziggy were successfully bred with Louie, a cashmere type buck in the fall of 2013 with exceptional results. Zwingli gave birth to quadruplets in March 2014 and a few days later her daughter Ziggy, a first time mum, gave birth to a single doe, giving us an instant herd! These cashmere type goats do not need to be shorn but instead their soft undercoat is combed out as the days lengthen and begin warming but before their guard hairs start shedding out. Compared to the angora goats they do not produce a large amount of fibre but what they do produce is very fine, very warm and very expensive! Historically these goats have been crossed with feral Spanish meat goats making them fine dual-purpose animals. As well, their feral ancestry tends to make them very easy kidders and good mums . . . as you can see in the photo of Zwingli with her quadruplets, all of whom she successfully fed.
The history of angora goats is a very unique and interesting one.
It is thought that angora goats originated in the Himalayas. From there they were brought down to Persia (now Iran) where the vegetation was as sparse and the landscape as rocky and dry as their original habitat. When the Persians ruled over Byzantium (Istanbul) they brought the angora goat with them to Turkey. This goat was, in fact, so important to their economy that the ancient city of Ancyra (now Ankara, Turkey's capital) was renamed Angora for a period of time.
To secure their monopoly in the lucrative mohair trade the Turks refused to send any of their goats abroad and, until 1820, no raw mohair exports were permitted. Indeed the Turkish government of the time considered it a capital offense to export unspun mohair.
To improve the breed with the aim of producing more fibre and more kids the Turks bred their small angoras with the common Kurd goat, a large tough animal with coarse fleece of various colours. The offspring of this breeding were then bred only to pure angoras for several generations in order to regain the bloodline. The result was a larger more productive goat but one that was still much smaller than the regular dairy goat.
Angoras are small, sociable, gentle but hardy goats known for their silky, white, strong hair. They can live 17 or 18 years and usually have delightful personalities.
reference: The Angora Goat, Its History, Management and Diseases by Stephanie and Allison Mitcham, Crane Creek Publications, Sumner, Iowa, 1999.