Did you know?
The word ‘mohair’ is said to originate from ‘muyhar’, the Turkish word for top-class fleece.
Elton John sings of electric boots and mohair suits; top Italian men’s outfits are made of mohair; mohair sweaters are romantic gifts; Japanese mohair weavers are said to be the best; and there’s nothing like a little mohair knee blanket for huddling under when the harsh Karoo winters bite.
Mohair, it is said, is the new cashmere.
For centuries, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire bred fabulous angora goats that produced silky mohair.
The sultans were so enamoured with the fibre that they kept its production a secret. The goats were cloistered away and there was no exporting of mohair.
However, as far as mohair legends go, nothing beats the back story of South African mohair.
In 1838, 12 infertile rams and one ewe were sent to South Africa. At these odds, there was just no chance of a local angora industry.
But the ewe was already pregnant. She and her newborn son were thus the original stock that led to South Africa becoming a world-beater in mohair production.
When you travel in the Karoo from Graaff-Reinet, south to Steytlerville and across to Jansenville, you will spot these hardy goats with their shiny white ringlets nibbling about in the semi-desert.
The angora breed has taken very well to the climate and vegetation of the Eastern Cape Karoo region, producing what is dubbed the ‘diamond fibre’, which is durable and takes dyes well.
Global fashion houses have embraced mohair in many ways, and the South African tourism industry offers a wide range of sought-after products such as scarves, jerseys, knee blankets and the granddaddy of all mohair goods, the king-sized winter blanket: light as a feather, but warm as toast.
The beauty of embarking on a ‘mohair safari’ is that you get to tour and appreciate the starkly beautiful Karoo region at the same time.
Jansenville, a village in the Eastern Cape, now has South Africa's first mohair museum bearing the theme called 'from the veld to the fibre'. In the mohair museum you follow the progress of mohair production from the shearing shed to the final product.