Chinchilla rabbits were developed by M. J. Dybowski, a French engineer. The breed was first exhibited at Saint-Maur, France in 1913. The breed was hailed as the perfect fur rabbit because the pelt closely resembled that of the chinchilla from South America.
Mrs. Haidee Lacy-Hulbert imported the breed to England in 1917. From there, they were imported to New York in 1919. The new imports were purchased by Jack Harris and Edward Stahl.
The breed started out rather small at only 5 to 7.5 pounds. Today, the breed ranges from 9 to 12 pounds. Selective breeding for fine bones with a larger size created a breed that dressed out well with a good meat to bone ratio. By 1924, both the Standard and the American Chinchilla were accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
American Chinchillas were very popular throughout the 1920s. Over the years, they have been used to develop more breeds and varieties than any other breed of rabbit. Silver Martens and American Sables resulted from sports that appeared in Chinchilla litters.
Today, the American Chinchilla is the rarest of the chinchilla breeds. In the 1940s, the fur rabbit industry disappeared. This contributed greatly to the breed's fall in popularity, despite its wonderful meat producing qualities.
The breed is still large, very hardy and gentle. They produce large litters and the does make excellent mothers. Fryers quickly reach market weight. According to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, the American Chinchilla is currently considered critical.
The American Chinchilla is known for its silvery, salt and pepper fur. When the fur is closely examined, however, one can observe that each hair shaft has four distinct bands of color that create the salt and pepper effect.
Chinchilla rabbits are a wonderful dual purpose animal. They make excellent pets, show prospects and meat animals.
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