Animal Fibers are textile fibers obtained from animals. They are basically hair or fur or skin or secretions of animals.
These fibers are then woven or knitted or felted to form Animal fabric and ultimately made into soft and warm jackets, ponchos, blazers, wraps, shawls, coats and other clothing and accessories. Carpets, rugs and blankets are made with rougher fibers.
The animal fibers are of many kinds and are differentiated according to the animal it is taken from, their chemical structures, the way they are obtained and the fiber length. They are all made up of protein.
The animals are raised as fiber animals. The coarse, longer hairs, hairs of medium thickness and the undercoat are segregated, cleaned and they are sold as luxury fibers. Read more about the different types of fur here.
Sheep, camel, goat, and rabbit are the commonly used animals for providing animal fibers which are very soft in texture; Horse, cows and pigs give straight fibers which are less soft. Have you considered feather of birds as a fiber – it is one too
Related post : Different types of Fur.
Main types of Animal fibers
This is the fiber obtained from the wool of alpaca, a variety of camel native to South America (Peru). It’s wool is soft, and very warm. It can be blended with wool and silk to create beautifully soft textiles.The fabric made from these fibers is greatly valued for its softness and warmth.
Angora is the soft white hair of Angora Rabbit. It is used to make very high quality knitwear. China is the biggest producer of this fiber.
This refers to fur from young Karakul lambs from Astrakhan, Russia. The wool is very soft, lustrous and curly.
This is an animal found mostly in America and Europe. The fur of the animal is very soft and silky and has a good shine.
Camel hair is a very soft fiber and because of its rarity, a very expensive fiber. It is usually blended with wool to reduce the prize. You also can be duped into buying wool that dupes the look of camel hair. The two-humped Bactrian camels of Mongolia gives the softest of camel hairs. China, Afghanistan and Iran produce the most camel fibers in the world. The color of the fur varies from a light tan to a brownish-black colour and comes with a flat surface or with a nap. The quality also varies.
This fiber is made from the hair of the Indian Cashmere goat. It is found in India, Tibet, Iran, Iraq, China, Persia, Turkestan and Mongolia. The original color of this soft and silky fiber can be white, black, brown or gray but they are then dyed into different appealing colors and woven and knitted into the softest most exquisite fabric. It is also delicate on its own and very expensive so it is blended with wool. More on Cashmere fabric here
You get fox hair in colors ranging from black to red, silver, silver-gray and white.
It is taken from an animal in Argentina. The resultant fabric is very soft and has a natural honey beige color.
Hair has a wooly texture and it is used for felting
Llama wool is obtained from llama, a domesticated South American camel variety. It is very similar to alpaca wool. Llama fibers are lightweight strong, durable, lanolin-free and hypoallergenic but not as fine as alpaca fibers. The color ranges from white to brown and black.
This is made from the hair of the North African Angora goat. Mohair is very soft and lightweight. South Africa is the biggest producer of Mohair fibers. It smooth, glossy, and wiry and is a much in demand fabric for dressmaking, hatmaking and for upholstery purposes.
Muskrat is an animal found in North America with a very fine and thick blue-gray hair resembling that of the beaver’s.
This is very silky and soft fibers taken from an animal found in South America
Opossum is an animal found in the USA, Australia and Argentina. The fur is loose, grayish and white-tipped.
This is the underwool of the domesticated Musk Ox. It is taken when the fibers are shed naturally during spring and is one of the rarest of animal fibers. It is luxurious, stronger and warmer than most other wool.
Wild rabbits have brownish or gray colours. Tame ones range in colour from white to black.
Raccoon is found in America and it has a fur that is grayish-brown and black.
Silk is an animal fiber made from the secretion of silkworms and it is the strongest of all natural fibers. There are many different varieties of silkworms. The mulberry leaf eating silk worms gives the softest silk fibers. Wild silk worms fed with other leaves like oak tree leaves give out silk fibers which are rougher.
You can learn more about Silk and How it is made here. ; and different types of silk
Wikipedia says that Vicuna is the most expensive of all wool. It is obtained from a variety of camel found in Peru and makes the finest and softest fabric in the world.
Wool of lamb/sheep
This Wool refers to the hair of the domestic sheep/lamb. The hair of sheep is the most commonly used animal fiber. It is long, thin and curly. Merino wool make a particularly soft and warm fiber. Australia, China and New Zealand produce most of the wool fibers of the world.Learn more about wool here.
There are many varieties of Weasels. Some Weasels have a yellowish brown fur, some have white fur (Ermine). It is extensively used in the fur industry.
Yak is a very soft wool and is obtained from coat hair of yaks found mainly in Mongolia. It is hypoallergenic; The undercoat of the yak is especially soft, even considered as soft as Cashmere.
This is originally wool from a small mammal, sable. Today it is a very rare animal, almost extinct
You can easily make fabric from the animal fibers – read more about converting fibers to fabric with felting here.
If you like the patterns seen on the skin of animals but do not want anything related to the living being you can buy fabric with animal prints. Here are the top 10 animal prints that are popularly used in fabrics.
Related posts : Names of clothing materials ; List of Natural fabrics ; List of Synthetic fabrics.; Plant fibers
Updated on October 2, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
You mean the most popular ones ? – Mohair, Wool (sheep or lamb), camel hair, cashmere, Angora
This article is very helpful in learning types of fiber, thank you!! Do you know what the, say, top 5 most popular animal attained fibers are? I’m working on a presentation, and it would be helpful to know if you have any ideas.
I am afraid I havenot read that anywhere
Thank you for your article- do you happen to know if feathers or down can or has been used to make yarn?
The comment above don’t take into account how “faux” materials affect the environment and deep misunderstanding of their carbon footprint. Now factory farming is terrible and if you only consider that then it understandable BUT sustainable practices don’t involve that – they people raising these animals care about them as they are their livelihoods – “faux” materials are either petroleum based or uses harsh chemicals that damage environment. The fibers listed all biodegrade while “faux” materials go on to kill and pollute. Fast fashion has created a situation where fabric is treated as single use consumable which leads to factory farms and “faux” material pollution. It you actually care you would make sure your clothes and materials come from a renewable source that is produced ethically (Including human labor) that is biodegradable and has minimal impact on the environment in both production and what happens to it after use
Please educate yourself on the full picture before making broadly incorrect statements.
Many hobbyists who spin or weave or do other fiber crafts also either have their own fiber animals or are very careful to investigate the source snd often buy from small producers or other hobbyists..
The people I know who have angora rabbits take their bunnies and often treat them like pets. They definitely don’t restrain them and rip out their fur while animals cry out in agony. This sounds like PETA level nonsense. Instead, the bunnies will sit quietly on a lap or other flat surface while being groomed gently. I’ve seen this type of “Harvest” of angora fiber hundreds of times. It takes a long time to save up enough fur for a sweater this way, especially a 100% angora sweater. But it is completely humane.
To be clear, I am not talking about production in countries that don’t even treat humans with a shred of dignity or who force people into concentration camps over their religious beliefs or minor infractions. In countries where humans are treated horribly anyone would be naive to think animals of any type are going to be treated humanely.
I enjoyed the information covered in the posting. So as not to demonstrate the same negative behavior for negative comments I will say those get me very flummoxed. I was blessed to have the Greek form of Liberal Arts education much more broader than today’s version. In order for me to form an opinion I require knowledge utilizing all parts and processed in the big picture that is polarized into sides including subcategory fragmentation. I don’t wish to add fuel to the fire as the comments I would like to make would require me to back them and present the big picture because it’s my nature. Ignorance doesn’t know any better; but sociopath stupidity is unwarranted and already causing unthinkable damages environmentally , exploiting third world resources/people, future toxic waste and exploding the GMO agriculture in the USA. For the last decade west of Kansas is experiencing a massive drought to the extent of drying out the aquifers. I am pragmatic person. I refuse to participate in identity/ideology groups/politics. I enjoy immensely repurposing materials. I’m a newbie for machine sewing and I am blessed to have my great grandma’s sewing and also my beloved and missed maternal grandma’s first electric sewing machine to use. I knit and am passionate regarding textiles. The stupidity of the posters missing a gaping hole in their education to get it by intellectual ability to digest manufacturing, chemistry for the introduction of nylon, and know the entire processing from source materials to a requirement presently of disposal/recycling for textile and fiber. Due to cotton and linen I would add on the agricorps vegan meat complete production. Toxicity of Solar energy exceeding nuclear toxic waste just because of it being a power source. I am absolutely proenvironmet. You cannot fix anything when you don’t know the entire history of how it was broken. Thank you for this article. Your expansive coverage is appreciated. Food for thought.
Other than informing the readers about the existence of these fibers, I have no intention of encouraging the use of these. I am sorry if it seems so. Nothing justifies killing animals mindlessly for profit
Considering the methods by which most of these hairs and furs are obtained, it seems somewhat surprising that the author should be waxing lyrical about the “wonderful qualities” of such materials. Angora to take just one example is obtained by restraining the rabbits and then ripping their fur out. Oddly enough, the rabbits struggle and scream during the process….
This is not the only “natural fibre” produced in China under inhumane conditions – down is obtained similarly, leaving the birds bleeding and in pain.
Even wool production has a darker side, especially in Australia.
If you have compassion, then please remove this article and focus on the raft of new and exciting faux materials appearing on the market. They invariably (if surprisingly) have a smaller environmental footprint too.
Mel is a very long way from being correct. Her reply in itself demonstrates a stunning level of ignorance regarding the methods by which the majority of these types of hair or fur are obtained.
You believe that no harm comes to the animals in these industries because they aren’t killed in order to obtain their hair/fur/feathers. Clearly it is you who has no understanding of the realities of the “animal fibre” industries. Even the production of “good old fashioned” wool causes untold suffering due to shearers cutting into the sheep – such gouges may not be deliberate, but they are a direct result of over carelessness and callousness. There are issues with how Australian sheep farmers deal with fly strike in lambs.
As for Angora – China produces a lot of this material and it is done by restraining the rabbit and ripping it’s fur out. This happens many times over the animals short lifetime. Strangely, the rabbits struggle and scream during this process. Similarly with down, the birds are knelt upon and their feathers ripped out, causing pain and bleeding – feathers are not “dead” like nails or hooves, they have nerves and a blood supply. Imagine having your hair pulled out of it’s follicles again and again and again….
At the end of their “useful life” the animals from which the hair or fur is taken are invariably sent for slaughter.
Monika got real some time ago when she looked beneath the respectable veneer of the “animal fibre” trade!
Yes, MEL you are alright
because most of these animals aren’t harmed to get wool, e.g. sheep (where shearing is a necessity for their well-being).
it is also not the point of the article to push your faux-activism – it’s mostly to understand the qualities of different types of animal fibre, especially when you’re actually making something useful or when you’re buying fabrics
instead of doing this, you could be using this as a list to not buy animal fibres by knowing which ones they are
get real, Monika
Horrible article. Why won’t you show how these animals are tortured so you can get yourself some yarn to play with!
good job…appreciate the information…I would like to know more about which industries and businesses utilize these kinds of furs and whether they should be utilized in raw form or in procesed form..thanks once again.
SO MUCH INFORMATION SO GOOD