Pashmina goats, Ladakh, Kashmir.
If you ever wondered where your cashmere clothing originated from, it is right here.
The Changthangi ( aka Kashmir or Pashmina) goat is found in Ladakh and Baltistan in the Kashmir region. They are raised for cashmere production and used as pack animals. This very rare bloodline produces the finest Cashmere, and constitutes less than 0.1% of global production. Variants of the cashmere goat are found in Australia and China (now the largest commercial producer of cashmere wool) but produce a significantly inferior quality wool. It is the goat's fine, soft, downy, winter undercoat, which grows as the days shorten, that is commercially in demand. The local herders here were very understandably very reluctant to give up one for our group to adopt.
Cashmere has been manufactured in Mongolia, Nepal and Kashmir for thousands of years. The fibre is also known as 'pashm' (Persian for wool) or 'pashmina' (Persian/Urdu word derived from Pashm) for its use in the handmade shawls of Kashmir. References to woollen shawls appear in texts surviving from between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Kashmir (then called Cashmere by the British) had a thriving industry producing shawls from goat down imported from Tibet and Tartary through Ladakh. The Shawls were introduced into western Europe when the General in Chief of the French campaign in Egypt (later 18th century) sent one to Paris. The shawl's arrival is said to have created an immediate sensation and plans were put in place to start manufacturing the product in France. Imitations were also produced, using merino wool, but could not match the quality and softness of the cashmere. The great majority of today's fashion houses manufacture cashmere clothing using wool obtained predominantly from Chinese goat farms but will have you believe the source being the Ladakh Kashmir region, where the herd population and volume produced would be simply unable to keep up with demand.