November: Wool Moon

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.


Further reading



Heritage Full Moons in South Africa

MonthFirst Full MoonSecond Full Moon
JanuaryMantis MoonLeopard Moon
FebruaryDassie Moon——
MarchHarvest MoonOchre Moon
AprilDiamond MoonGold Moon
MayFrost MoonFire Moon
JuneSisters MoonHoney Moon
JulyMeerkat MoonProtea Moon
AugustPeace MoonDusty Moon
SeptemberSpring MoonBlue Crane Moon
OctoberWhale MoonElephant Moon
NovemberMilk MoonWool Moon
DecemberSpringbok MoonEland Moon

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage

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