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It is the fur that protects sheep and insulates them against cold and heat, keeping their bodies at an even temperature. The wool fibre is composed of keratin, the same protein contained in human hair. It is one of the best insulators, because of the little pockets of air that are trapped in its characteristic crimps. The more fine and crimped the wool is the better it works as an insulator. Wool is a hygroscopic fibre which can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture, without looking wet; it absorbs water vapour stopping the body of the wearer to come in contact with wet clothing; it is also dirt and stain resistant because its surface is water repellent. The wool fibre is elastic, crease-resistant, and therefore highly wear resistant. There are several sheep species that produce wool fibres with different length, fineness, brightness and strength.

The breed 'merino' is the one that produces the most precious wool; it is originally from Spain. Its greatest breeding areas are now in Australia, Argentina and New Zealand. Merino wool has a shorter fibre but a very small diameter, making it more precious. It is very soft and smooth, tightly crimped and it is used to produce very fine textiles.

There are also other native or crossbred sheep breeds that produce less fine and crimped fibres, which are used for other products such as carpets and blankets.



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