Animal Fibre Production in Europe: Biology, Species, Breeds and Contemporary Utilisation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Animal fibre “wool” of the pelage is a keratin protein-based product formed
in specialised hair follicles located in the skin of a range of animal species and breeds farmed in Europe. It is described as a natural, renewable and biodegradable product of long-standing historical value. Its use inrecent decades has been affected by issues such as political changes, poor economic returns and from competition with petro-carbon-based
artificial fibres. Such artificial fibres from clothes are typically poorly degraded and are now reported to wash into, and pollute, the world’s oceans and the food chain. Ecologically-sensitive methods for wool production and processing and its inherent degradability have recognised importance. Primary hair follicles typically, although with some exceptions,
produce outer fibres of greater diameter, than the underlying and more valuable finer fibres from secondary follicles. Aspects of biology important for production and properties of fibres are recognised. The coarse and fine fibre products require separation after harvesting. This report concerns the animal species, goats (cashmere: Angora) and South American camelids (alpaca: llama), which are present in limited numbers and supply relatively
small, and frequently niche, markets in Europe. Angora wool from rabbits supplies an established but reducing market. These species of animals generally produce fibres of fine quality. The multi-million populations of different breeds and cross breeds of sheep, with meat and milk as primary products, are also reviewed. These produce wool of a wide range of qualitites much of which is exported overseas particularly to China. The fibres from all
species have properties, such as colour, medullation, tensile strength, diameter (fineness) and staple length. These properties determine end-use from small-diameter superfine garments to the coarser fibres utilised in carpets and furniture upholstery. Poor quality wool may be used in geotextiles, or disposed of in landfill, or incinerated.
Numbers of these animals, systems of husbandry, economics, social contribution, sustainability and arrangements for collection and marketing of fibre are described in different countries in Europe.
Sources include statistical reports and case studies provided by members of the European Federation of Animal Sciences (EAAP), Animal Fibres Working
Group (AFWG). Reference is made to international and European initiatives for the promotion of wool such as The Campaign for Wool and The Wool Group. Note that all web-sites were accessed on 16 April 2018.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Fibre Production Science in South American Camelids and other Fibre Animals
EditorsMartina Gerken, Carlo Renieri, Daniel Allain, Hugh Galbraith, Juan Pablo Gutiérrez, Lisa McKenna, Roman Niznikowski, Maria Wurzinger
Place of PublicationGöttingen
PublisherUniversitätsverlag Göttingen
Pages23- 41
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-3-86395-408-6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Animal fibre, wool, biology, sustainable development, breeding, textiles,south american camelids lemids


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