Introduction

As a proportion of global fiber production (including synthetics and cotton), animal fiber production accounts for less than 10% of manufactured goods and is declining. However, it remains vital to those communities living in pastoral areas, with few other options for generating income. It may be the sole output, or a by-product of animals providing food or transport. It is produced in a range of environments, from extensive pastoral systems to intensive, highly specialized systems focused on the production of very high quality fiber. This article briefly describes fiber growth, the main commercial fibers produced, their origins, and production systems.

Animal fibers vary in physical characteristics, permitting a wide range of end uses (from apparel and furnishings to insulation and brushes). However, apart from silk, all animal fiber is produced by structures called hair follicles in the skin of mammals.

medullation (hollow core), and smoothness of the cuticle, which are characteristic of different animal fibers and have a major influence on their mechanical properties.

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