The Billy Goat Curse (and Goat Fiber!)

Are you a Chicago Cubs fan?  Are you following their playoff race?  Here in Galena we're just a short three hour drive from Chicago's Wrigley Field, and we have lots of Cub fans visiting our store as they explore Galena's delights. 

And if you are a Cub fan, you certainly know the story of the Curse of the Billy Goat . . . . .  The Chicago Cubs won the World Series Championship in 1907 and 1908, so it was a big deal when in 1945 (37 years later) they made it to the World Series playoffs.  ​William "Billy Goat" Sianis was the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern ... an avid Cub fan and publicity hound.  He often took his pet billy goat, Murphy, out and about while the goat wore a banner (similar to a dog coat) that promoted the Billy Goat Tavern.

Angora Goat.  Photo by Trisha M. Shears.

An Angora Goat, much better looking
than Murphy (and better fiber!).
Photo by Trisha M. Shears.

On October 6, 1945 Sianis attended the Cubs playoff game with his goat.  Some say that Sianis and the goat watched part of the game and then were asked to leave mid-game.  Some say he and the goat were stopped at the gate before they ever entered the ballpark ... in any case they were asked to leave because the goat smelled.  According to legend, an outraged Sianis declared "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more!" and, true to the curse, the Cubs haven't won a World Series since.

Cashmere Goat.  Photo by Charles Esson

A Cashmere Goat.  Photo by Charles Esson.

Sianis was asked to leave because the goat smelled.  A "billy" is a male goat.  Female goats don't smell any better or worse than any other livestock, but let's be honest here ... male goats truly do stink.  In addition to the usual "barn-ish" smell of any livestock, male goats have scent glands at the base of their horns that produce a pungent, musky smell.  The stench is important in breeding, so important that some female goats won't mate with a male goat that has had his scent glands surgically removed.  Goats breed in the fall, when they are at their peak of smelliness, so at that fateful October ball game poor Murphy was at his most odorous.

But more important than Murphy's odor, as a fiber aficionado, I can't help but wonder about his fiber quality.  An iconic photo of Murphy shows him as a short-haired goat, so he likely didn't have decent fiber, but some breeds of goat produce wonderful to-die-for fiber!

​Most breeds of goats have two coats, long and coarse guard hairs (the hair you see when you look at a goat) and a soft downy undercoat hidden underneath.  On all goats the undercoat is softer than the guard hairs, but on Cashmere goats the undercoat is especially thick and soft.  Kashmir is a region in Asia, and the Cashmere breed of goats came from this region.  Yup, Cashmere and Kashmir are spelled differently.  Cashmere is the old spelling for the region.  For no particular reason, the location's name spelling was updated but the goats kept the old spelling. 

Unfortunately, you just don't get much of that great undercoat off a cashmere goat.  The wool is sheared together - guard hairs and fine undercoat, and then the coarse guard hairs have to be combed out by hand.  It's a slow, labor-intensive process​, and after all that work you end up with only about 9 ounces of gorgeous cashmere per goat (compare that to a sheep which produces an average of two to 10 pounds of wool after finishing).  Because of the cost, many yarns contain a bit of cashmere, such as Zen Yarn Garden's Serenity Silk Plus' 15% cashmere, but Jade Saphire's Cashmere 6 Ply and Jojoland's Cashmere Sport both are a luxurious 100% cashmere!

Note:  An angora goat's fiber is called mohair, and their yarn is called mohair yarn.  Angora fiber is produced by angora rabbits, not angora goats!

Angora goats are well known for their fiber, producing a beautifully soft yarn called mohair.  Their fiber is long, lustrous, and curly ​- often used for making Santa beards!  Angora goats do not have a double coat, so there are no long guard hairs to pick out - their hair is all good! Our Debbie Bliss' Angel yarn has a whopping 76% mohair for soft and light yarn with a gorgeous halo, and Mountain Color's Bearfoot has a pleasant 25% mohair to tickle your toes. 

Cub fans aren't used to wearing winter gear at ball games! Usually the Cubs are numerically eliminated from the playoffs long before the cold weather sets in.  But this year is different! Snuggle up at the playoffs with Double Coverage Mittens and the Double Coverage Hat and Scarf patterns in HiKoo's SimpliWorsted in Cubbie Blue (#051) and Cubbie Red (#121).  Yes, we originally knit these mittens in Chicago Bears colors!

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

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