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Cashmere is the fiber combed from the hair growing on the tummies of cashmere (sometimes spelled kashmir) goats native to the Himalayas. Originally, cashmere was obtained from the hair left behind when goats in the wild rubbed against shrubs to relieve their itching during molting season. The fibers still gleaned this way create "ring shawls", shawls so fine that they can be drawn through finger rings. While cashmere goats have since become domesticated, they are never shorn, only combed.

Only the fine underhair of these small, short-legged goats is useful as a textile, and a male goat produces only a quarter of a pound per year of fiber, a female goat half that. A single cashmere sweater requires the fleecings taken from four to six animals.

Cashmere shawls were worn by Roman Caesars. Over the centuries, the Vale of Kashmir in India became such a global hotspot for the weaving of beautiful and luxurious cashmere shawls that by the 19th century, Napolean's officers in Egypt sent them home to French ladies who wanted to be totally a la mode. Cashmere is exceptionally warm for its weight, extraordinarily soft given how well it insulates body heat, and takes extraordinarily well to be being dyed brilliant colors.