Cashmere, is a luxury fiber obtained from cashmere goats and other types of goat. The word cashmere is an old spelling of Kashmir, the geographical region in north of India.
Common usage defines the fiber as wool but it is finer and softer than sheep's wool. Some say it is hair, but as seen below, cashmere requires the removal of hair from the wool. Cashmere is finer, stronger, lighter, softer, and approximately three times more insulating than sheep wool.
China has become the largest producer of raw cashmere and their clip is estimated at 10,000 metric tons per year (in hair). Mongolia follows with 7,400 tons (in hair) as of 2014, while Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian Republics produce lesser amounts. The annual world clip is estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 tons (13,605 and 18,140 tonnes) (in hair). "Pure cashmere", resulting from removing animal grease, dirt and coarse hairs from the fleece, is estimated at about 6,500 tons (5,895 tonnes). Ultra-fine Cashmere or Pashmina is still produced by communities in Indian Kashmir but its rarity and high price, along with political instability in the region, make it very hard to source and to regulate quality. It is estimated that on average yearly production per goat is 150 grams (0.33 lb).
The Inner Mongolia Cashmere goat is a local dual-purpose breed with a long history. It adapts well to desert and semidesert pastures. The goats can be divided into five strains, Alasan (Alashanzuoqi), Arbus, Erlangshan, Hanshan and Wuzhumuqin. The first three strains produce quality cashmere; the last two have been developed for high production. The average down yield is about 240 grams, with an average down diameter between 14.3 and 15.8 µm. The cashmere length is between 41 and 47 mm.