Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Sensory Descriptions

Hi all! I thought I’d put this here because I recently ran into an issue in a story I’m writing. Namely, a character smells wet wool for the first time - only I’ve never smelled it and don’t know how to describe it.

I’m sure all of us have, at one time or another, run into this. I don’t like self-referential uses: an orange smells like an orange or an orange tastes like an orange. I consider this a non-start.

A fresh, citrus smell might work - if someone knows what a citrus is. And in any case an orange and lemon are both citrus and do not tend to smell alike and certainly do not taste alike!

So saying something smells like wet wool is less than useful. I’ve never smelled it and the character hasn’t either (until now). Looking it up yields a lot of ways to remove smells from wool, but not a lot of useful smell words for it just being wet with water. (Sheep in rain is also less than helpful.)

I hope that if anyone might have useful suggestions or examples, they could place them here. It doesn’t have to be just smell or taste, of course, or even on wet wool (though I’d appreciate it).

I have smelled we wool and it’s a very unique odor. Funky. My best idea for how to describe it is, it’s very “animal” smelling. If you can find some lanolin in a department store ( I think they sell lit in the pharmacy or in the baby section as nursing moms use it) you might be able to get a sniff. I’m afraid it’s really “like” nothing else. Not pleasant but not foul either.

Thanks. I’ll see if I can find some. I hope I’ll be up to the descriptive task.

Bag Balm is a lanolin-based salve, so try that one. Also, interestingly, certain breeds of cow smell heavily of lanolin. My two Irish Dexters smelled like some very manly sheep and even the Corriente I’ve had smell like it under all the hay, dust, and sweet-feed.

My biggest question to Indagare is whether the wool is still on the animal? Also it clean or dirty? If it’s been sheared was it dyed?

Any animal still bears smells of how it lives, be it good or ill conditions. A well-kept sheep smells of lanolin, which I’d call almost a sweet-musk or sweet-oil smell that is quite deep and rich (and body does that stuff cling to skin!), and also the bedding type (pine shavings, straw, ect.) and even feed type. If the animal is not being kept in good conditions a variety of bad smells can sink into the fleece: mud, mold, bacterial smell (if hooves or fleece are rotting), feces, garbage, smoke… Once sheared the water-soluble smells will decrease (like feces and mud) but still be present until the fleece is properly washed; certain smells that leach into oils/fats can be particularly difficult to remove. Strong dyes can lend their own odor to prepared wool.

A further option, should you have the time to arrange it, may he to reach out to the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I can’t offer much in the way of my own experiences, lacking in that particular scent; but I do know that in many climes, SCAdians will have a woolen cloak that you might be able to experience.

I will add one thing though- wet wool is very, very heavy stuff. I got caught out in a rainstorm at an event with a woolen cloak, and while it was very nice and warm, it clung to everything and gained probably close to twenty pounds.