The earliest sheep seem to have arrived in South Africa in an infiltration event along the Atlantic seaboard during the last few centuries BCE. This predates by two or three centuries the appearance of the earliest farming villages in the Zambezi basin and eastern southern Africa.
This infiltration does not seem to have interrupted the continuation of the southern African Later Stone Age hunter-gatherer way of life as this remained the main subsistence activity in the area. For now at least, indications are that the Khoe-speakers and their livestock may only have arrived, at about the same time as the first Bantu-speaking farmers of the so-called Iron Age.
Five sheep-breeds are considered indigenous to South Africa and predate the Colonial period, however, only one of these produces wool used commercially. There are apparently more indigenous goat-breeds than sheep-breeds but they aren’t wool producers.
Production of fine, apparel type wools in South Africa commenced with the arrival of the first Merino sheep at the Cape in 1789, and the subsequent establishment of the wooled sheep industry on a commercial basis under British colonial rule (1806 – 1910) .
South Africa is currently the 11th largest producer in the world with wool exports amounting to 45 million kg per annum. This is 2-3% of the total world production but 12% of the world’s apparel wool. Important initiatives are also underway to increase the market share of communal farmers in the production of quality wool.
Most of South Africa has a limited agricultural potential and the greater part is classified as arid and semi-arid, which means that it is either only, or predominantly, suited for pastoral usage of which sheep farming is the most successful.
South Africa might march under the banner of gold but we are, to a large extent, carried on the backs of wooled sheep. Wool is interwoven with almost every segment of our economy. Unlike certain minerals, deposits of which are being exhausted or becoming uneconomical to exploit, the wool industry is a lasting asset, which will hold its own.
Wool is a sustainable resource and as a fibre for clothing boasts more advantages than most other natural fibres and definitely more than any synthetic fibre.
Place names associated with sheep and wool:
Dra-wol is the name of the suburb of Laingsburg called Göldnerville which the residents prefer. They have laid out the name in whitewashed stones on the hillside behind their suburb. Laingsburg is in the Laingsburg Municipality of the Western Cape Province.
Goodhouse is a town in the Nama Khoi Local Municipality of the Northern Cape Province and the name is derived from the Nama word ‘Gudaosʼ, ‘sheep-fordʼ.
Uchab is a railway station 35 km west-south-west of Grootfontein in Namibia. It was formerly called ‘Guchabʼ which is of KhoiKhoi origin and means ‘sheep ravineʼ.
The rare Wool Moon, a second Full Moon in November, does not occur during the years 2020 to 2200!
The first Full Moon in November is the Milk Moon.
- Cloete, S.W.P. & Olivier, J.J. (2016) South African sheep and wool industry.
- Kruger, L. (2015) Indigenous sheep and goat breeds list. Farmers Weekly, 2015 November 23.
- Louw, M. (2016) Indigenous Sheep Breeds in South Africa: Sheep Farming in South Africa.
- Sadr, K. (2016) The story of how livestock made its way to southern Africa. The Conversation, October 24.
- Van Huysteen, J.F. (2010) The Sheep and Wool Industry in South Africa, Agricultural Economics Research, Policy and Practice in Southern Africa.
- Viljoen, O. (2016) Communal Solution. Twist, November 2016.
Heritage Full Moons in South Africa
|Month||First Full Moon||Second Full Moon|
|January||Mantis Moon||Leopard Moon|
|March||Harvest Moon||Ochre Moon|
|April||Diamond Moon||Gold Moon|
|May||Frost Moon||Fire Moon|
|June||Sisters Moon||Honey Moon|
|July||Meerkat Moon||Protea Moon|
|August||Peace Moon||Dusty Moon|
|September||Spring Moon||Blue Crane Moon|
|October||Whale Moon||Elephant Moon|
|November||Milk Moon||Wool Moon|
|December||Springbok Moon||Eland Moon|