5 Senses CulinaryTours
A Hairy Story
In South Africa you would think this is about an Elephant charging or a big cat getting in the vehicle but it’s not…. It’s about the oldest Angora goat stud farm beginning in the 1870s. Prince Albert is a town at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains, in South Africa’s Western Cape. It's ringed by vineyards, fruit and olive farms. The nearby 19th-century Swartberg Pass runs through Swartberg Nature Reserve and has dramatic mountain views. The reserve is dotted with caves featuring San rock art. It used to be mostly know for Ostrich farms, but now more for arts and crafts and 60% of the worlds mohair! Yes, that is correct!!And top quality at that!
We are in central Karoo district, a semi-arid shrub land of stark beauty, with wide skies above and intricate weaves of flora & fauna on the ground. Few overseas visitors rarely pass through the sleepy frontier farming village filled with great Cape Dutch heritage buildings.
Angora goats are known for their hardiness amid drought conditions and are therefore perfect for the Karoo environment. Even though South Africa produces most of the world's mohair, the Angora goat did not originate from South Africa. Some say they arrived in 1839, when South Africa first imported the goats from Turkey. However, many did not survive the long journey and the few survivors turned out to be neutered - allegedly sabotaged by the Turks who didn't want foreign competition! Legend has it there was one surviving ewe who, unknown to the Turks, was pregnant, and that it is her progeny that fathered the industry. Last laugh.
It’s called the noble fiber, and sometimes the diamond fiber. Lustrous, resilient and offering exceptional color reflection, mohair has become a symbol of luxury and exclusivity.
Sean Hobson’s family has been breeding these Angora goats since 1871 on Martyrsford Farm, he is continuing the legacy of passion in adding to and refining the genetic pool diversity with meticulous genetic selection. The Angora goats are shorn twice a year. Besides grazing angora sheep raised for their mohair (never call it wool) and occasionally a lamb dinner, he also has a flock of Merino sheep that do produce fine wool.
I was surprised to learn that Mohair has amazing attributes, dye-responsive, durable, and non-flammable plus reduces the tendency for growth of micro-organisms which lead to odor and discomfort. It is the ultimate dry and chaff resistant sock great for the active lifestyle and extreme climates. South Africa's national cricket team, known as Proteas, has worn mohair socks for all their matches for 20 years.
And here I just thought it was for luxurious sweaters.