Did You Know?

Shahtoosh (which is Persian for “Pleasure of Kings”), is the name given to a shawl which was woven with the down hair of the Chiru or Tibetan Antelope by the weavers of Kashmir. These shawls were originally very scarce and it took very skilled artisans to weave the delicate hair which measured between 9 and 11 micrometers, all of which makes them very precious. Shahtoosh are so fine that an average size shawl can be passed through a wedding ring.

Chiru live in one of the harshest environments on earth at an altitude of over 5,000 meters. Their special type of down fur, which is both very light and warm, allows them to survive in the freezing conditions of the plateau where they gather at one point of the year. They are migratory animals – moving down from Mongolia to Tibet – and traditionally followed closely by the nomads, who also make that journey every year. The nomads would hunt the antelope for all that it provided them – hide, meat, bones, horns and fur pelts – in short, everything that the nomads needed to sustain them through their journey. It is a long-perpetuated false claim, however, that nomads would gather Chiru down off of rocks and bushes, after it was naturally shed by the animals. But in reality, to obtain the down fur, the animals must be hunted and killed. Multiple Chiru must be killed to gain the materials necessary for a single Shahtoosh shawl.

The selling or owning of Shahtoosh was made illegal in all countries that signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Many countries including the USA, China and India are cracking down on those involved in the Shahtoosh trade. Although Shahtoosh is banned under the agreement, illegal hunting and selling them is still a serious problem in Tibet.

Neither as soft as Shahtoosh, nor as rare, the better known and less expensive Pashmina shawl has become a widely popular fashion staple due to the fact that it comes from the fleece of the pashima goats of the Himalayas, which is naturally shed anually, therefore not having to harm any animals in the process.

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