What has changed is the wool. In the course of those ten millennia the breeding of sheep has expanded from that corner of Asia towards a great part of the world. And the men and women who led them, devoted great efforts to the selection of animals that would produce the major amount and the best quality of wool. Time went by, and the sheep wool became an irreplaceable material for the making of warm clothes. In some places, the spinning of wool or hair of other animals was kept as part of a local tradition. And, because of its structure or thickness, some of these products have advantageously competed with wool. However, these are, generally small productions based on the exploitation of local herds and in many cases, wild animals such as alpacas, vicunas, Kashmir and Pashmina goats and the chiru antelopes, from which the legendary shahtoosh is obtained.
The primacy of the sheep wool was not questioned until the last decades of the XX century. Then, a new generation of synthetic fibres appeared. They looked like wool and their structure was slightly similar to it, but they were made of polyester and were woven in circular machines. These fibres are generically known as “fleece.” Fleece blankets, fleece warm clothes and fleece accessories started competing with those of wool. And that contributed to a significant fall in the price of the wool. All along the seventies, the size of the sheep herds decreased significantly in most of the traditional areas of production. In Patagonia, where more than two thirds of the total animals lived, this tendency seemed to lead to the termination of what had been the most important agricultural activity of the region during more than a century. But, fortunately, in the last years, wool responsibly produced has recovered part of the previously lost ground.