Angora rabbits stand out because instead of fur, they sport a thick, luxurious coat of the softest wool. This wool can be spun into yarn or made into felt. Angora wool is very warm and snug.
You may notice that they seem to be pastel versions of normal rabbits. This is because in each hair shaft, there is only so much pigment. Since they grow longer hair shafts, the pigment is spread over a larger area, diluting the color. Black Angoras appear gray, for example.
Most Angoras are very easy going. They tend to have gentle personalities. Handling them frequently as babies helps them to accept grooming more readily.
There are several breeds of Angora rabbits. The English Angoras are smaller than the other breeds. They have less guard hair than the others, so they need more grooming to prevent tangles. English Angoras also have a wooly face, so when the rabbit is in full coat, it can be hard to tell one end from the other.
French Angoras have more guard hair than English Angoras, so their wool isn't quite as cottony. They also have fur on their feet and head instead of wool. The guard hairs are stiffer than the wool fibers, so they stick out of the yarn made from it. This creates a halo effect that their wool is famous for. Remember those Angora sweaters that were so popular once upon a time? That fuzzy quality is called the halo.
Satin Angora rabbits are very similar to French Angoras, except that their wool is satinized. Like Satin rabbits, each hair shaft has a transparent sheath that glimmers in the light, intensifying the color. Satin wool appears thinner than other breeds because each fiber is naturally thinner due to the satin effect.
Giant Angora rabbits are white only. They are the largest Angora breed and were developed to grow a large amount of wool for commercial uses. Giant Angoras are often confused with German Angoras.
German Angoras are registered with the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB). They are registered through merit only; each rabbit must meet the standard and produce a certain amount of wool per year. Germans can often be shown as Giants in ARBA shows because the breeds look very similar.
Some Angora fanciers prefer to pluck the wool off the rabbit when it loosens for shedding. Some spinners prefer to use plucked wool because both ends of the fiber are tapered. Others prefer to use shorn wool.
German Angoras do not shed, so they must be shorn several times per year. Breeds that shed can also be shorn as long as it is timed before shedding begins. Once shedding begins, the small ends left on the rabbit must be combed out as they loosen so mats do not form.
German Angoras are shorn every 90 days for optimum wool production. Sharp scissors or special clippers can be used to get a closer cut. The wool is slippery, so not every type of hair clipper can be used. The rabbit is held in the lap and turned this way and that to get to all areas of the body.
All Angora rabbits benefit from shearing during hot weather. The wool is seven times warmer than sheep's wool, so you can imagine how warm it gets when the temperature climbs. Wool fibers are divided into guard hair and underwool.
German Angoras also have awn fibers. Guard hair is stiff and straight. It helps keep the wool untangled with less grooming. Awn fibers are softer than guard hair, and slightly wavy. Underwool is soft and cottony. It should have lots of crimp, making it appear very wavy. English Angoras have mostly underwool, which is why their wool is so cottony and soft.
Angora rabbits need to be groomed more often than rabbits with normal fur. Combing is necessary to keep mats under control. Trimming may be needed around the rabbit's genitals to keep urine and feces from getting caught in the wool.
This is especially a problem with German and English Angoras because their wool is so thick. If feces create a mess in the wool, the rabbit can attract flies which can lay eggs in the mat. Once the maggots hatch, they can literally burrow into the rabbit, causing infection and disease. This is why it is imperative to know that taking in an Angora is a big commitment.
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