What are Angora Rabbits?
Angora rabbits are one of the oldest breeds of the domestic rabbits and are commonly known for their long fur which is harvested for high-end wool.
There are several varieties of Angora rabbits. Their docile personality makes them a good option for pets, however, they require frequent maintenance.
Angora rabbits originated in Angora, the historical name for Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Angora cats and Angora goats (also known as Mohair goats) originate from the same area.
The rabbits’ popularity blossomed throughout Europe during the mid-18th century as they became a prevalent choice of pet among French royalty. Toward the end of this century, the Angora could be found throughout Europe.
They were first recorded to have entered the United States in the early 20th century. Although the genetic mutation for long fur does occur naturally, Angora rabbits would not survive without human intervention in the present day.
The scientific name for Angora rabbits is Oryctolagus cuniculus. There are up to 10 different varieties of Angora rabbit recorded.
However, modern breeding organizations such as the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club (NARBC), only recognize four; English Angora, French Angora, Giant Angora, and Satin Angora.
A fifth variety, the German Angora, is recognized by the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB).
The French Angora does not have any wool furnishing on its front feet, face, ears or head.
The wool of this variety has an abundance of guard hairs (longer hairs that extend beyond the dense undercoat, also known as ground hair).
In French Angoras, the guard hairs make up the majority of the animal’s coat, making them a good option for novice Angora owners as well as an ideal choice for hand-spinners.
The abundance of guard hairs allows for more intensely colored wool as this fur is where the majority of the animal’s coloring comes from.
French Angoras molt naturally so their coat can be harvested by plucking.
Also known as the “teddy bear rabbit” they are the only variety that has facial furnishings.
The English Angora’s fur has more underwool to guard hair ratio. Although the English Angora has an adorable teddy-bear like appearance, its need for regular grooming makes it a poor choice as a pet, especially for children.
Satin Angoras have the silkiest wool of all the Angoras, giving them a unique shiny appearance, commonly referred to as ‘sheen’. These rabbits should be groomed daily to avoid matting, using a slicker brush.
This rabbit’s hair shafts are translucent (this is a result of a recessive gene) and have a smaller diameter than other Angoras. The Satin Angora can produce up to ½lbs of wool per year.
The wool is dense and is easy to harvest. The ARBA accepted Satin Angoras in 1987 which is a result of cross-breeding a French Angora and a Satin rabbit.
Giant Angoras are the largest of all Angoras and are the only 6-Class animal in the breed.
The fur of the Giant Angora contains three varieties of fiber: underwool; awn fluff and guard hair. The underwool is the most prominent.
The Giant Angora does not naturally shed. Its wool must be harvested by hand shearing. This rabbit was specifically bred by crossing German Angoras with Flemish Giants and French Lops, to create a larger rabbit.
German Angoras are often referred to as Continental Angoras to distinguish them from the French and English varieties. This is the breed for major fiber production.
This rabbit does not molt. Their fur is more resistant to matting and does not require daily grooming as with the other breeds, making them a more suitable pet option. These rabbits can produce between 2 ½ to 4 ½lbs of wool per year.
Other identified varieties such as the Korean Angora, St. Lucian Angora, Swiss Angora, Finnish Angora, and Chinese Angora, get little recognition and as a result, minimal information is available for these varieties.
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Angora rabbits are calm and docile. Due to regular grooming, they soon become accustomed to human contact.
Angoras are intelligent and can make good pets if the owner is willing to spend time maintaining them. Size, weight, and color depend largely on the variety of Angora.
- The second-largest in the recognized rabbits of ARBA.
- This variety can weigh between 6 to 10lbs, with the optimal weight of an adult buck and doe weighing approximately 8lbs.
- pointed white
- Smallest amongst the Angora varieties.
- Junior rabbit’s weight is about 2 ¾lbs.
- Senior rabbit’s weight ranges from 5lbs to 7 ½lbs.
- The ideal weight is 6 to 6 ½lbs.
- ruby-eyed White
- pointed White
- Shaded groups
- Small to medium size.
- Junior rabbit’s weight is about 3 ¾lbs to 6 ½lbs.
- Senior buck and doe may weigh between 6 ½ to 9 ½lbs
- The ideal weight is 8lbs.
- wideband color group
- A large type of Angora rabbit
- Junior rabbit’s average weight is about 4 ¾lbs.
- A senior buck is about 9 to 10lbs.
- Only Ruby-eye White (albino rabbit) is accepted by the ARBA. Other colors exist but are not accepted.
- A large type of Angora rabbit
- The average weight of German Angora is about 5 ½lbs to 11lbs.
- Albino color
- Chinchilla color groups
If you are considering owning multiple rabbits, they must be kept individual enclosures. Bedding should be avoided as it causes Angora fur to mat.
Dirt flooring is not as ideal as the rabbits burrow, causing their fur to become dirty and matted. Making them difficult to clean. An open enclosure creates a challenge when having to catch rabbits for grooming.
Unlimited hay and water should be readily available. Angora rabbits are at high risk of getting wool block; a potentially fatal blockage in the digestive tract. As rabbits groom themselves they tend to ingest some of their furs.
As they are unable to regurgitate, this fur gets lodged and blocks their digestive tract. This can lead to a fatality as the rabbit cannot defecate nor absorb nutrients.
Symptoms of wool block include; a loss in appetite, misshapen or dry droppings, the increased presence of fur and less frequent passing of droppings. Rabbits affected by wool block should be treated by a vet immediately.
Access to unlimited hay, water and a pelleted diet with a high fiber content aids in preventing wool block and keeping your rabbit healthy and well-nourished.
Rabbits can also have a mineral salt lick available to encourage adequate water intake.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, bananas and cut green grass should be offered once daily. Fresh cut Kikuyu is an exception and is very good for supplying necessary fiber.
Raw potato, avocado and apple, and pear seeds are toxic to rabbits and must be avoided.
Hygiene is an important factor when caring for any animal. For rabbits, ensure that there are sufficient urine and dung drainage system in place which is cleaned daily to prevent unpleasant smells and flies.
Although Angora rabbits can withstand a cold environment, it is important to ensure that their enclosure is protected from the wind. It should also have adequate ventilation so the rabbit does not overheat in warmer climates.
Other Health Concerns
Angora rabbits are particularly prone to skin and eye infections as their fur easily absorb moisture and does not dry quickly. Due to this, enclosures need a sufficient urine drainage system, and water should not be kept in a bowl that they can bump over.
Hay should be suspended in a rack to avoid the rabbit soiling its food and to prevent excessive matting. Rabbits should be vaccinated against fur mites, myxomatosis, and viral hemorrhagic disease as these are contagious.
If keeping rabbits in a cage, a suspended floor is recommended as it allows waste to fall through. Wire mesh is said to be painless for Angoras as their fur protects their feet.
If keeping a rabbit indoors, ensure space is rabbit-proof and has no exposed wires or plug sockets, etc.
With the exception of the German Angora, all Angora varieties require daily grooming to prevent matting. Wool harvesting, either through shearing or plucking, should be done every 90 days to ensure healthy skin and wool quality.
Angora rabbits are bred mainly for their wool which has a silky and soft texture. With a low micron count, it can be softer than cashmere. A-grade quality Angora wool can range between 12 – 16 microns. Cashmere wool is 14 microns.
This “golden fleece” of the Angora provides luxury wool for a high-end, niche market worldwide and is 7 times warmer than sheep’s’ wool. It also comes in a variety of natural colors.
If harvested correctly, the harvesting process is painless and can be repeated several times a year.
Whether you clip or pluck depends on the variety of Angora. Wool can be plucked as soon as the rabbit starts molting, or clipped once it reaches between 6 and 10 cm.
If you try to pluck the rabbit and bald patches appear then you must shear, otherwise you will hurt it. Shearing should be done with a pair of scissors and you should leave about ½cm of wool on the rabbit.
Do not clip the face, legs or belly unless matted. Carefully check the matting around the anus and clip if necessary.
Harvesting Rabbit wool
As it is a luxury product, Angora wool is generally too delicate to be used for workwear and is more commonly used for high-end fashion. The wool is light and not very strong, therefore it is frequently blended with stronger, more elastic fibers.
Plucking Angora wool
Plucking is performed by gently pulling on the hair of a molter (a naturally shedding Angora). You can pluck either by hand or with a brush. Brushing is essentially over grooming to remove the molting fur.
Some owners suggest that you can pluck a non-molter, however other research states that it is best to only pluck molters and shear non-molting breeds.
After plucking, the rabbits may show a lot of pink skin, this normal and only lasts a couple of days. If you are concerned about the rabbit getting cold, you may want to put a small sweater on it.
Shearing Angora wool
Shearing is similar to a human getting a haircut. It is recommended to use a sharp pair of scissors. Some owners prefer to use an electric clipper.
If you choose to do so, ensure you get your rabbit accustomed to the noise and feel of the clipper prior to shearing.
Rabbits are clipped along the back, sides and down to the base of the tail. There is no need to cut the facial and ear trimmings.
Angoras are either bred for wool production or as pets. Angoras are territorial animals and if housing several rabbits it is advisable to keep them in individual enclosures.
Mating can start from 12 months and last until approximately 5 years. Angoras’ gestation period ranges from 28 to 32 days and litter sizes can vary from between 2 and 9 kits (baby rabbits).
Kits naturally wean at approximately six to eight weeks. Once weaned, they are given the same foods as adult rabbits and are fed according to their weight.
As kits are generally born during the winter months they need to be properly insulted until they have grown enough fur to keep themselves warm.
Breeding as Pets
Whether breeding rabbits for pets or for wool, new genes need to be introduced every 3 to 5 years by introducing new bucks into the rabbit colony. This ensures overall health and prevents genetic disorders caused by overbreeding.
For children wanting a pet Angora, it is recommended to get an Angora which is bred specifically as a pet as the maintenance of wool-producing Angoras can be intensive.
Breeding for Wool
For wool production, mating decisions are made based on wool quality and color. Bucks are chosen to correct a doe’s genetic weaknesses and highlight her positive genetic traits through their offspring.
By abiding by breeder’s standards, a breeder can ensure the best quality wool is produced. For example, breeders’ standards do not allow for white or pied patches on individual rabbits.
To prevent any injuries, introduce a doe into a buck’s cage. Does are territorial and can harm a buck if he is introduced into her environment.
Towards the end of gestation, around the 27th day, place a nest box in your pregnant doe’s cage. You may also want to trim the fur on her belly to assist the kits in finding her teats.
Angora rabbit wool production is an industry that many individuals and animal welfare organizations have had issues with. This is a result of Angora farming taking place in countries with little or no regulations or animal welfare standards.
It is important to carefully follow breeders’ regulations, such as the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club for specific breeding regulations.
Angora Rabbits FAQ
Do Angora rabbits make good pets?
Although Angora rabbits are generally bred and kept for wool production, it is possible to keep them as pets. They are naturally docile and intelligent.
The majority of Angora breeds, except the German Angora, need to be groomed daily. They also need to be kept away from water and dirt.
Due to their high care demands, some breeders do not recommend keeping them as pets, especially for children.
Where does an Angora rabbit live?
Historically, Angora rabbits originated from Angora, today Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. They became a popular choice of pet among French royalty during the mid-18th century.
The breed later spread throughout Europe and first appeared in the US in the early 20th century. In modern society, they only exist in domestic environments and are most commonly bred for their wool.
Do Angora rabbits get killed for fur?
With correct farming and harvesting practices, Angora rabbits are not killed for their fur. They are either plucked if they molt naturally, or they are sheared like sheep.
The wool is then spun to produce fine, high-quality wool.
Why do Angoras have so much fur?
Angora rabbits’ fur consists of long guard hairs that protrude above their thick underwool. This fur is easy to harvest and is spun into high quality, fine wool.
Angora fur is less absorbent than other rabbit breeds and does not dry easily. Therefore, Angoras need to be kept away from water as their coats absorb moisture and take longer to dry, causing their fur to the mat.
Is Angora wool expensive?
Good quality Angora wool is rare and difficult to produce. A-grade Angora wool is around 12- 16 microns in diameter, finer and softer than cashmere, and can range in price from 10-16USD per ounce.
Angora wool is delicate. The wool is often blended with stronger, more elastic fibers in the production of garments.
Is Angora wool soft?
A-grade Angora wool can range from 12-16 microns in diameter making it finer than cashmere, which is 14microns in diameter.
Angora rabbit wool is rare and sought after as it is used to produce soft, warm sweaters and other fashion products. The wool is 7 times warmer than sheep’s wool.