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 beautiful 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.