What Is Merino Wool?

The Merino sheep is a descendant of the mouflon (aka Ovis Orientalis, pictured below).  Mouflon exist today in Sardinia and Corsica, where they run wild.

mouflon sheep

More than half of all the world’s sheep, comes from a billion Merino sheep.  Back in 1307, in Spain, Merino sheep were traded.  If you’ve never seen a modern Merino sheep, they are very distinctive animals.  Take a look at this one…

Merino sheep

Merino sheep were exported to Australia i.e. Tasmania, around 200 years ago, because of the quality of the sheep’s meat.  The Australian people worked hard over the years improving upon the Merino sheep’s wool fibres.   

Today, Australia is the world’s leading supplier of this high quality wool.   New Zealand and China are producing great wool as well, but it is not as fine as the Merino wool from Tasmania.  

Tasmania

herds of Merino Tasmania sheep

Where in the world is the air the purest, the food the richest, and the climate perfect?  You might not know this place called Tasmania.  It is an island off the south east shore of Australia, and it is home to 3 million Merino sheep.  These sheep live in herds of 10,000, in seclusion, on the side of Ossa mountain.  The grassy pastures  here are surrounded by eucalyptus trees which keep these sheep in very good shape. 

Tradition 

Since 1988, the Ortovox company has been producing a natural Merino wool fibre from these sheep in Tasmania.  These experts use a pure natural fibre along with other innovative fabrics, resulting in a comfort your feet will love.  The Merino wool fibres are very fine, measuring 18-19 microns.  A human hair measures around 50-100 microns.  Alpine sport enthusiasts, and even the average person, who wants their feet cloaked in comfort, will appreciate Merino wool socks.

Mulesing

“Wikepedia definition … Mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep to prevent flystrike (myiasis).  The wool around the buttocks can retain feces and urine, which attracts flies.”

The sheep have been bred in Tasmania for over 180 years.  The modern breeds of today provide us with this tear-resistant wool.  Because of the body shape of the Merino sheep, there is no painful Mulesing happening.  The sheep have free roaming rights through delicious grassy pastures, where the climate is perfect for the high fibre protein grass that is their favourite food.

The shepherds manage their flocks in a responsible and sustainable manner, reducing the stress in the sheeps’ lives.

Sheep Shearing to Fabric

Ashby Farm is located in the eastern highlands of Tasmania.  It is one of 4 farms where Merino sheep are raised to produce wool that is used in the Ashby mountain wear collection.  Merino wool has been grown here for generations.

There is a team of professional shepherds that shear the sheep once a year.  The shearers wear a harness to protect their backs while doing the shearing.  The Merino sheep are held between the shepherd’s legs.  The animals receive no pain.  The wool is examined by a certified wool expert from the State.  The wool fibre’s diameter , length, purity, and strength are measured.  The wool is categorized.  Each sheep will produce about 10 kilograms of wool, and a good shearer can shear about 180 animals a day.  The shearers get paid well for their work. 

Quality Fabric

  1. The wool is scoured or cleaned to remove the dirt and grease.
  2. The wool is carded or scraped to remove the last of the residue.
  3. The fibres are aligned together and bundled up.
  4. Fibres that are matted and too short are combed out.
  5. The wool is aligned and organized two more times.  
  6. The Woolmark Company is a family of wool brands who certify the wool with a logo, a license, and advanced world marketing strategies.  Their networking is global, and is the primary force behind getting the Merino quality products to the consumer.  The next time you are thinking about the warm and comfortable wool Merino socks on your feet, think about all the work that went into making them.

Benefits for All

The protein molecules in the Merino wool fibers destroy bacteria that cause odor on your body.  After wearing your wool socks, just hang them out to air and they will be ready for you the next day. 

The Merino Wool company cares about you on many levels.  They collaborate with many world suppliers who value the worker as well as the product.  They are constantly trying to minimize their carbon footprint as they work to supply you with high quality footwear.  They have been trying very hard to eliminate C8 PFCs, which are man make chemicals, that could negatively affect your liver.   The Merino Wool Company tries to only use the natural raw materials at their disposal such as Merino wool and cellulose fibres.

unisex Merino Wool Hiker Sock

About the Author Robert Fox