Monthly Archives: March 2013

Woolly Mammoth Wool?


The woolly mammoth display, in the Royal BC Museum, uses musk ox fiber for the fur.

After purchasing a Grizzly Mountain Arts Tahkli spindle made with Mammoth ivory, I got to thinking that it would be pretty cool if I could spin some Woolly Mammoth fiber on it.  I talked to a paleontologist about Woolly Mammoth hair/fur. He said that unless you are present when they dig it up from the tundra in Siberia that you will most likely be buying yak fur. In his opinion, all of the woolly mammoth fiber on sale is fake. Any specimen recovered with hair would be a big deal and they would never stop to give it a hair cut to sell.  This makes a lot of sense to me.

Woolly Mammoth wool, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien

Woolly Mammoth wool, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien

So what was their fur like?  Woolly mammoths had a dual coat. The outer hair grew 12 – 34 inches long on different areas of the body. This coarser coat has a micron count of approximately 500. The inner coat had a staple length of about 3 inches or a bit longer. It had an approximate micron count of 50.

Yak down is often compared to or used in displays like the one above.  It has a micron count of about 15 – 18 and is generally about 1 1/2 – 2 3/4 inches long. The guard hair can be anywhere from 18-52 microns in diameter and is 2 1/2 + inches in length. The outer hair is 5 inches long and has a micron count of 52 +.  As a spinner can see, these two different wools may feel and look pretty different.  I am assuming that this is the closest to the “look” of woolly mammoth fur.

Cute but not quite a woolly mammoth.

Cute but not quite a woolly mammoth.

So, there you have it! Save your money for vicuna.



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