Angora Goat Facts

Scientific Name Capra hircus aegagrus

Angora goats
Angora goats.

cookedphotos / Getty Images

The angora goat (Capra hircus aegagrus) is a domestic goat which has been deliberately bred to produce a soft, luxurious coat suitable for human textile manufacture. Angoras were first developed in Asia Minor, between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, perhaps as much as 2,500 years ago—references to the use of goat hair as a textile appear in the Hebrew Bible. 

Fast Facts: Angora Goats

  • Scientific Name: Capra hircus aegagrus (the name for all domesticated goats)
  • Common Names: Angora goat, mohair goat
  • Basic Animal Group: Mammal
  • Size: Height at withers: 36–48 inches  
  • Weight: 70–225 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Habitat: Semi-arid pastures in Asia Minor, US (Texas), South Africa
  • Population: ca 350,000
  • Conservation Status: Not Evaluated 

Description

The scientific name for Angora goats is Capra hircus aegagrus, but that name is also used to refer to most other domestic goats. All belong to the order Artiodactyle, family Bovidae, subfamily Caprinae, and genus Capra. 

Angora goats are small in relation to dairy goats or sheep. Adult females stand 36 inches tall and weigh between 70–110 pounds; males stand 48 inches tall and weigh 180–225 pounds. Their main defining characteristic is long (8–10 inches at shearing) ringlets of hair which are fine, silky, lustrous, and dazzlingly white in color and contain little oil in the fleece. That hair, known as mohair, is a coveted and expensive resource when converted to textiles and sold in sweaters and other clothing. Raw mohair is graded on the basis of fiber thickness, and the best prices to be obtained are hairs that are between 24 and 25 microns thick.

Both males and females are horned unless the farmer removes them. Bucks have horns which can reach two or more feet long and have a pronounced spiral, while female horns are comparatively short, 9–10 inches long and straight or slightly spiraled. 

Male angora goat in profile.
Male angora goat in profile. Dmaroscar / Getty Images Plus

Habitat and Distribution

Angora goats thrive in mostly semi-arid regions with dry, hot summers and cold winters. They originated in Asia Minor and were first successfully exported to other countries beginning in the mid-19th century. Populations were established in South Africa in 1838, and the US on or near the Edwards Plateau of Texas in 1849. Other substantive populations today are managed in Argentina, Lesotho, Russia, and Australia.

These goats are almost all in managed (rather than wild) populations, and they are often artificially inseminated, dehorned, and otherwise controlled. Adult angoras are sheared on a biannual basis, producing weights of up to about 10 pounds per year of long, silky fibers between 8–10 inches long. The goats are quite susceptible to cold and wet weather after they have been sheared, for periods up to 4–6 weeks.

Close up of mohair on an angora goat.
Close up of mohair on an angora goat. CookedPhotos / Getty Images Plus

Diet and Behavior 

Goats are browsers and grazers, and they prefer brush, tree leaves, and rough plants, reaching the lower parts of trees by standing on their hind legs. They are often pastured with sheep and cattle since each species prefers different plants. Angoras can improve pastures and reforestation areas by controlling leafy spurge and destroying a range of nuisance plants such as multiflora roses, sand burs, and Canadian thistle.

Goats like to go under or through obstacles, so agricultural specialists suggest that five-wire electric fences, woven-wire, or small-mesh fencing is required to keep them penned in. While most goats are not aggressive towards humans, they can do serious or lethal damage to other goats with their horns, especially during the rutting season.

Reproduction and Offspring

Angora goats have two sexes, and the male is considerably larger than the female. Billies begin rutting in the fall, a behavior that initiates estrus in the females. Little is known about natural herds and group behaviors since studies have been primarily confined to managed populations. Breeding lasts between late September into December (in the northern hemisphere); gestation typically lasts between 148–150 days. Kids are born between late February through April or early May. 

Angoras typically have one, two, or on rare occasions three kids, once a year, depending on herd size and management strategy. Kids are extremely delicate at birth and need protection for the first few days if the weather is cold or damp. Kids feed on mother's milk until they are weaned at about 16 weeks. Kids become sexually mature at 6–8 months, but only about half have kids of their own in the first year. Angora goats have a lifespan of about 10 years.

An Angora goat (Capra hircus aegagrus) nursing a kid.
An Angora goat (Capra hircus aegagrus) nursing a kid. Pelooyen / Getty Images Plus

Conservation Status 

Angora goats have not been evaluated as to conservation status, and there are at least 350,000 in different managed populations. Few are wild; the majority live in commercial herds which are grown to produce mohair.

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