Sunday, October 23, 2011

Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair

No, we did not attend the antique tractor show, that would have been down the street.

The daughter and I just happened to make a day trip over to Asheville, North Carolina the same weekend as the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, an event I had heard of but never managed to coordinate my travels to accommodate. This would be the 18th annual such event held at the Western Carolina Ag Center.

While there was every shade and variety of yarn, thread and fiber at the fair, I most wanted to see the animals. Take me to a state or county fair, that's where you'll will find me, at the animal barns. All those years in 4-H made an impact.

First and foremost on my list were the angora rabbits. Having raised rabbits in 4-H, both French and English angora rabbits were known varieties. This fair featured German angoras, a breed I had never heard tell of, perhaps because it is not an ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) recognized variety. The German angoras have their own separate association, the IAGARB.

German angora rabbits are not only known for the quantity of wool they produce, but for quality as well. Through 8 decades of selective breeding, the quantity of wool produced by many German angoras has surpassed their ancestors by hundreds of grams per shearing. Shearings occur at approximately 90 day intervals Yearly totals have increased from mere ounces to over four pounds. The wool is silky, crimpy, yet strong and can be commercially processed without damage to the wool. The soft wool is pure luxury to wear next to the skin, yet will not mat or felt with wear.

On the other end of the spectrum, as far as human breeding intervention goes, are the unusual looking Jacob sheep.

Jacob sheep are a rare breed of small, spotted, multi-horned sheep. They may have from two to six horns, with four being the most common configuration. Most of the Jacob sheep are black and white. They are an heirloom or unimproved breed that harken back through history and have survived with little selective breeding input from us humans. Their bodies are much more goat-like than most breeds of sheep. They are a variety of sheep that harkens back to biblical times and lands.

Maybe this will become an annual event. With additional planning I could participate in the myriad workshops that were offered.


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