Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids.
Wool has several qualities that distinguish it from hair or fur: it is crimped, it is elastic, and it grows in staples (clusters).
Wool's scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which causes the fabric to retain heat. Insulation works both ways: Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes to keep heat out and protect the body.
Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibers hook together.
The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibers. A fine wool like Merino may have up to 100 crimps per inch, while the coarser wools like karakul may have as few as one or two. In contrast, hair has little if any scale and no crimp, and little ability to bind into yarn. On sheep, the hair part of the fleece is called kemp. The relative amounts of kemp to wool vary from breed to breed and make some fleeces more desirable for spinning, felting, or carding into batts for quilts or other insulating products, including the famous tweed cloth of Scotland.