Breed Profile: Angora Goats
Delicate Fiber Goats Producing Sumptuous Mohair
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Breed: Angora goats are named for the ancient Ottoman province around present-day Ankara, Turkey.
Origin: Small white goats bearing long white ringlets have been present in the Anatolian valleys and elevated plateaux around Ankara for at least 2000 years.
History: Their production of dazzling white, soft, silky, mohair fiber has long been utilized in the textile industry. From 1554, a number of exports to Europe failed to establish productive herds as the climate was unsuitable. For the Ottoman empire, mohair became a valuable commodity when trading with Europe in the nineteenth century. The goats were small and delicate, bearing only one kid yearly, and producing 2–4 lbs of fleece once a year. They were likely crossed with other local goats to increase their size and production for the export market.
Angora Goats Became Desirable for Their Mohair Fiber
In 1838, Sultan Mahmud II exported twelve wethers and a female to South Africa. The males were castrated to avoid rival herds embarking on mohair production. However, the doe bore a male kid who later covered local landrace goats (forerunners of Boer goats) to start a fiber herd. Several shipments brought over 3000 head between 1856 and 1896. The goats adapted well to the environment and production was established and thrived in South Africa and Lesotho.
In 1849, Sultan Abdülmecid I gifted seven does and two bucks to American adviser Dr. James P. Davis. This was the first import to the United States, followed by several from both Turkey and South Africa of some 600–700 head. The final large imports from South Africa were of 148 goats in 1904 and 117 bucks in 1925, which were widely dispersed among the States, leading to a considerable sharing of American and South African genetics.
In the early twentieth century, production became focused in the Southwest and West Coast, mainly in Edwards Plateau, Texas. Herds have now become more widespread as small farm concerns.
Nineteenth-century exports reached Australia and New Zealand, which later have made exchanges with South Africa and America. Small herds were established in Europe later in the twentieth century. Large-scale production has remained in Turkey, South Africa, Argentina, and Texas.
Angora Goats Are Susceptible to Cold and Damp
Adaptability: Evolved on the cool, dry Anatolian plateau, they have naturally developed a longer undercoat with little oil and a highly reduced protective outer coat. This makes them vulnerable to damp and cold conditions. Selection for fiber production has further reduced guard hairs and increased mohair yield. Fiber production imposes high nutritional requirements, and selection for higher productivity has effects on nutritional needs and reproduction rate. Already a delicate animal in origin, when caring for Angora goats, we need to provide extra nutrition, healthcare, and weather protection for them to grow, produce, and reproduce well.
Mohair Fiber Production Requires Good Nutrition
Angora goats at range need supplemental feeding, especially before breeding, before kidding, and during lactation. Optimum nutrition during development is essential, not only for growth and future reproductive success, but also for adequate follicle development for fiber production. Angora goat kids that are bred too early are likely to abort, which becomes likely to reoccur in future years. It is recommended to delay first breeding to 18 months old in females, although some Angora goat bucks can perform light duties in their first season. Poor nutrition leads to finer fiber, but at the cost of lower yield, poor health, and poor fertility, with a high risk of abortion and neonatal death. Angora goats do best on a variety of browse, forbs, and crop residues, with protein and grain supplements, and hay if pasture is unavailable. They excel as brush and weed eating goats.
A goat shelter is also required from cold and wet weather, especially after shearing mohair and kidding. Newborns can easily be lost to hypothermia. Angora goats are highly susceptible to goat worms and external parasites.
Conservation Status: Not at risk.
Fiber Goats with Bright White, Shiny, Luxuriant Coats
Description: Long, white, curly hair evenly covers a small frame from head to knees and hocks. Face is mainly fleece-free with a straight or slightly concave nose and pendulous ears. Horns bend back and away from neck. Fleece grows at ¾ inch per month and must be clipped twice a year.
Coloring: Angora white is a dominant gene that overrides all other colors. However, black, red, and brown colors have been bred in solid, striped, or belted patterns.
Weight: Does 70–110 lbs. Bucks 180–225 lbs.
Popular Use: Fiber and brush goats.
Productivity: Average 10 lbs. mohair per year—optimum yield after first two clips, as fiber thickens and volume drops with age.
Angora Goats Make Gentle Pets and Efficient Browsers
Temperament: Relaxed, docile, and friendly; their gentle nature makes them vulnerable to aggression from other breeds in mixed flocks.
Quote: “Angora goats are relatively small animals with a quieter nature than most other goat breeds. These traits make them a good choice for younger children to manage… those not kept for breeding can usually produce enough mohair to offset the cost of their upkeep. Angoras can further earn their keep by helping to manage unwanted brush and weeds around the homestead… Landowners interested in raising Angoras are advised to start small and learn the business before expanding.” Angora Goats: A “Shear” Delight! Eds. Linda Anderson and Steve Byrns.
Sources: American Angora Goat Breeders Association
Colored Angora Breeders Association
Oklahoma State University
Shelton, M. 1993. Angora Goat and Mohair Production. Texas A&M
Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center
University of California Small Farm Program
All photos by Kathy Büscher/Flickr CC BY 2.0.
Originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.