Feral goats from Australia and Spanish meat goats from the American Southwest, selected for fiber traits, form the basis of the American cashmere goat industry. Any goat can grow cashmere, but those we call “cashmere goats” have been selectively bred to produce it in significant amounts. The goats’ down and the guard hair which surrounds it may be any color, but the combable or shearable parts of the body (excluding face, stockings and belly) should be of a single color. The guard hair may be long or short depending on individual situations and preferences, but the guard hair should be coarse enough that a mechanical dehairer can easily distinguish it from cashmere. Traditionally, cashmere goats are not de-horned. Both male and female goats have horns.
Cashmere is the goat’s soft, downy undercoat, grown to its maximum length by mid-winter and shed in early Spring. The quality of the cashmere fleece is determined by three factors: its length, its diameter, and the degree of crimping. Cashmere fiber is crimped (rather than wavy), soft, and lacking luster. By industry standards it must be at least 1-1/4′ long with an average diameter less than 19 microns. The crimpiness of the fiber gives it “loft” and enables garments made of cashmere to provide warmth without weight.
The American cashmere industry promotes high standards in regards to raising good healthy animals bearing exceptionally good cashmere fiber.