Merino wool is an extremely fine wool from the merino sheep. The wool has a very soft feel and is commonly blended with other fine fabrics such as cashmere and even silk. The first sheep were introduced to Spain the the 12th century. During the middle ages Spain built up a fine wool monopoly in part due to their fine spinning methods as well as the use of merino wool. Spain guarded their herds carefully and exporting a merino sheep into another country was punished by death.
By the 18th centory Merino sheep were exported into other European countries, and by the beginning of the 19th century were introduced to America and Australia. Today Australia and New Zealand are the largest producers of merino wool.