Glossary of wool terms

Students and visitors may see or hear the following terms during a visit to the Museum.

Shearing sheep with unwashed wool. In the early days, wool was washed on the sheep’s back before they were shorn.

Rams and ewes heavily in lamb were not washed for fear of damaging them.

Since the introduction of machine shears all sheep are shorn in the grease.

Phrase or word Meaning
Artesian water Underground water which rises to the surface in a continuous flow.
Bale A bag of wool. Bales weigh approximately 172 kilograms each.
Bare-bellied yoe A sheep with a completely shaved belly.
Blades Hand shears used by shearers before the introduction of machine driven shears.
Blow A single sweeping cut of fleece.
Board The floor along the wall of the shearing shed where the sheep are shorn.
Carding Untangling of wool fibres.
Catching pen Small yards or pens inside the shearing shed. Used to pen sheep before shearing.
Chute The opening next to each shearer where the sheep exit out to the counting-out pens.
Classer The person who sorts the shorn wool into type and micron count.
Cocky A sheep or cattle farmer (on a small property).
Comb The cutting blades that attach to a shearing handpiece.
Combing Removing short wool fibres, blending long wool fibres.
Counting out pen Pens situated outside of the shearing shed which hold each shearers shorn sheep.

The shed boss counts the shorn sheep and adds them to the shearer's tally.
Dag Wool clotted with dung around a sheep’s hindquarters.
Dungas Shearers pants, double layer at the front to avoid prickles.
Dyeing Colouring wool by dipping.
Ewe An adult female sheep.
Floor walker Supervisor of a section of the factory.
Gilling Drawing out and evening up wool fibres.
Grazier Same as Cocky (large property).
Gun The top shearer, or the best shearer in a shed or gang.

Usually able to shear more than 200 sheep per day.

Can also be known as a ‘Ringer’.
Handpiece Tool that shearers use to shear sheep.
Harness A sprung device hung from the shearing shed roof which helps support the shearers back while shearing.
Hogget Also known as a two-tooth. A sheep that is one year old.
In the grease Shearing sheep with unwashed wool.

In the early days wool was washed on the sheep’s back before they were shorn.

Rams and ewes heavily in lamb were not washed for fear of damaging them.

Since the introduction of machine shears all sheep are shorn in the grease.
Jumbuck An early term for a sheep usually used by shepherds and shearers.
Knitting Forming a single yarn into fabric of interlocking loops.
Long blow The long sweeping cuts the shearer takes across the first side and back of the sheep while being shorn.
Moccasin The homemade footwear shearers made, usually made from felt or sheepskin.
Micron The diameter of wool fibres.

A micron is one millionth of a metre.
Mill Wool processing factory.
Mill community Population of workers’ families living near the factory.
Pastoral Adjective describing country life.
Pastoralist Sheep or cattle farmer, squatter, grazier.
Pioneer An explorer, or one who moves into a new area or field.
Press The machine used to press wool into bales.
Ram An entire adult male sheep.
Rouseabout Shed hand who does odd jobs.
Run A two hour shearing period. A typical shearing day involves four runs.
Settler A person who settles in a newly developed country.
Skirting table The table onto which fleece is thrown to begin sorting and classing.
Snagger An old shearer who is past retirement age but doesn’t want to retire.
Spinning Twisting wool into a yarn.
Squatter A person who lives on land they do not own or rent.
Staple The length of wool shorn from a sheep, usually a years growth equals approximately ten centimeters.
Tally The number of sheep shorn by each shearer.
Tar boy The young shed hand whose job it was to put Stockholm Tar onto the wounds of badly cut sheep.
Textile Woven or knitted fabric.
Weaving Interlacing of two yarns, each at right angles to each other.
Wether A castrated adult male sheep.
Whipping side The short, quick blows taken by a shearer while the sheep is in the sitting position.
Wigging The removal of wool from around the eyes of a sheep to prevent wool-blindness.
Wool The textile fibre obtained from the fine, soft curly or wavy hair forming the coats of sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and camelids such dromedary camels, llama and alpaca.

Structurally wool has qualities that distinguish it from other animal fibre such as hair and fur. Wool is crimped (has waves, folds or ridges), is elastic (can be stretched or twisted and returns back into place when released) and has microscopic barbs or scales on the surface of the fibre which allows it to hook together.

Chemically wool mainly consists of proteins (large molecule, long chain amino acids – the especial structural components of body tissues) together with a few percent lipids (fatty acids that are insoluble in water). In this regard it is chemically quite distinct from other textile fibre such as cotton and linen which are mainly cellulose.
Wool blind Sheep that are unable to see due to the amount of wool around their eyes.
Yoe An early term for a ewe, or an adult female sheep.

Page last updated: Monday, 21 March 2022