Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mountain Goat

[Photo by Mark Kaarremaa]
Look what turned up on my step! A mountain goat head. Even Fergie is fascinated with the old goat. The goat had been hunted by a friends' grandfather many years ago and was destined for the dump until I mentioned I was looking for mtn. goat wool. So the old goat ended up coming for dinner and what was going to be a shaving party but before I could put razors in everyone's hands, one of the guests protested. Claiming she could find someone who would want the old goat, someone who might be able to find goat wool naturally shed from a goat or two up in the mountains. Okay, razors down for now. This old goat can remain fully bearded for awhile longer. In the meantime, if anyone has goat wool they would like to swap for this head, let me know.
[Photo Chilcat yarn - mtn goat wool around
cedar.  Photo by Mark Kaarremaa]

Mtn. goat Oreamnos americanus is actually in the antelope family, not in the goat family. First Nations such as the Chilkat Tlingit people  used the wool to make their famous Chilkat blankets. They spun mtn goat wool around thin strips of cedar.  

[Photo by Liz H-K, Chilcat Blanket
made from 
 mtn goat wool. CMC]
The Coast Salish used the goat wool in blankets and regalia. The goat wool is easily seen in the plain white blankets woven in a twill pattern although the wool was also used in twined or hybrid blankets.   

Wool was collected in the wild where the goats shed the fur in late spring. Alternatively, the goats were hunted and the pelts were moistened, then rolled up with the fur inside for a few days before unrolling and pulling the fur out of the hide. 

[Photo by Liz H-K, Coast Salish Blanket made from
 mtn goat wool CMC#VIG250]
Mtn goat has two types of hair/fur/wool, a kemp-like wiry hair and a very soft underdown wool.  Very fine blankets had much of the hair removed before spinning the soft down wool but a few hairs always remain and are useful for identifying the wool as coming from mtn goat.  

[Photo -Mtn goat near Banff. You can see his
wool starting to moult. Photo by Mark Kaarremaa]
Interestingly mtn goats are only found on the mainland not on Vancouver island, yet the Cowichan have an origin story that includes mtn goats on the island. In the last decade or so, mtn goat bones were found in a cave on northern Vancouver Island and carbon dated to 12,000 years old. So although now extinct on the island, they once lived here just as the origin story says.


  1. Love your post. It looks like it would be hard to spin?? Is it?

  2. It shouldn't be but you would need to use the right technique and tools. The Salish and other First Nations spun it on their thighs and judging by the Mtn goat blankets they did a beautiful job.
    l will let you know when I get some to try out.