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Australian Merino Celebrates 200 Years in 2007

2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the wool trade industry in Australia.

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June 2007

Australian Merino Celebrates 200 Years in 2007

This is an exciting year for the Australian wool industry. The Australian wool trade was established 200 years ago when the first bale of Australian wool was exported to the UK, intended for commercial sale. It’s a momentous achievement for both the industry and the young country.

In November 1807 the Reverend Samuel Marsden, owner of the third largest flock in Australia, arrived in England with a cask of his Australian wool. The same year, John Macarthur sent more than 400 lbs of his wool to England.

For two centuries Australia has thrived on the Merino industry with wool ranking as one of the top five largest exports for Australia and remaining, in 2007, the second-most common enterprise on Australian farms. Today, Australia is the world’s largest producer of apparel wool supplying 80% of the global demand for merino.

The Australian wool industry continues to progress, becoming even more economical, implementing safer and more efficient practices, creating new technologies, innovative textiles, and finer and softer fleeces.

Sustainable, renewable and biodegradable; Australian Merino wool is kind to the environment. The industry is working towards increasing the supply of natural, eco and organic wool – which is in demand by today’s environmentally conscious consumers.

The Australian Merino Sheep come from clean air, fresh grass and comfortable lifestyles. The sheep graze varying terrains across the Australian landscape and produce over one billion pounds of fleece worth around $2.3 billion a year.

The fleece offers warmth, comfort, softness, durability, fire-resistance, water repellence and UV protection, as well as color, drape and style – all while being produced in a sustainable manner.

“It is a proud moment that the Australian wool industry commemorates 200 years,” states Craig Welsh, CEO of Australian Wool Innovation. “It is a great pleasure to work within an industry towards a promising future for what I believe is the world’s most versatile natural fibre.”

This year, the wool industry recognizes the growth of a country that owes so much to what’s known as the “Golden Fleece.” The versatility of Australian Merino is celebrated for producing fine quality textiles that have kept people around the world in luxury for 200 years!

The industry is pleased to honor this achievement and give due recognition to the impact Australian Merino wool has had on the global apparel industry over the past two centuries.

Key Milestones:

• In 1815 the potential demand for Australian wool had increased as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. Between 1830 and 1850 the value of wool exports increased from $3.9 million to $81 million.

• Australian sheep breeders re-created the short-stapled Spanish Merino in 1860 to meet the demands of new industrialized combing, spinning and weaving machines. The industrial revolution effectively saved the wool industry, whose products were being threatened by cotton and the increasing use of cotton in wool and worsted blends. The result was cheaper, lighter and higher-quality. It is regarded as the greatest revolution in animal-linked industrial engineering in mankind’s history.

• Australia became the world’s number one producer / supplier of wool in Britain in 1870, and the Australian sheep flock reached 41.6 million.

• By the mid 1920s the United Kingdom, which had an established and expanding textile industry, purchased close to 50% of total Australian wool exports. Japan and the US were also among Australia’s best customers for its wool.

• Today Australia is the dominant apparel wool producing nation on earth – producing around half of the world’s wool and the majority of its fine apparel wool.

• Designers and retailers globally are working alongside the world’s best knitters and weavers to develop the softest, finest and most innovative Merino wool fabrics for use in everything from casual sports wear through to high-end fashion.

• Thanks to technological innovations in the wool industry and the introduction of different finishing treatments and blends, Merino now offers the following properties:

• Anti-wrinkle
Each fiber is effectively a coil spring that returns to its natural shape after being bent, giving Merino garments a natural resistance to wrinkles.

• Durable
Merino fibers can be bent 20,000 times without breaking which explains why merino garments are so long-lasting.

• Machine washable
Recent innovations mean Merino garments are no longer hand-wash only. Developments initiated by Australian Wool Innovation have delivered Merino garments that can be machine-washed and tumble dried. In fact, the world’s first machine-washable wool suit is now available.

• Odor-reducing
Merino wool absorbs moisture therefore reducing the amount of sweat left on the body as well as the odor produced from the body.

• Quick drying
It was formally thought that synthetics dry at a faster rate than Merino, however the latest technology enables Merino wool to be as quick-drying.

• Stain resistant
Merino fiber has a protective layer which prevents stains from being absorbed. And as it’s static-resistant, it picks up less dust and lint from the air.

• Breathability
The hydrophilic core of the Merino fiber has an amazing capacity to absorb liquid – up to 35% of its own weight – so it’s better than synthetics at removing sweat from the skin, moving it away, and releasing it as vapor.

• Multi-climate
While synthetics are passive, Merino is active, reacting to changes in ones body temperature to keep you warm when you’re cold but releasing heat and moisture when you’re hot.

• Elasticity
The natural elasticity of the Merino fiber means they stretch with the wearer, but then return to their natural shape so there is less chance of garments sagging or losing their shape.

• Softness
Prickly wool clothing is a thing of the past. Merino is much finer than other types of wool and feels luxuriously gentle against your skin.

• Wicking
Merino wool is weakly wicking in its natural state, making it ideal for socks, but this behavior can be increased or decreased by the application of different finishing treatments.

• Renewable, biodegradable
Unlike petrochemical-based synthetics or water-resource heavy cotton, merino is a renewable resource that can be produced with minimal environment impact.

• Anti-static
Merino is much less likely to cling to ones body due to its moisture absorption qualities.

• Controlled Felting
Controlled felting, “milling” or “fulling” is a finishing treatment used on Australian merino wool to achieve a number of effects including increased thickness, reduced air permeability and increased strength.