The Angora rabbit is famous for its fine, soft wool.
Angora rabbits are usually bred for their long, soft wool, but they make great pets as well. Their origins are uncertain, but the generally accepted theory is that French sailors brought the rabbits back to Europe from Ankara (then known as Angora), Turkey, because they wanted to create the same beautiful shawls that the native women wore.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes four different Angora rabbit breeds: French, English, Satin, and Giant. The English breed is distinguished by fur on its face and ears. The Satin version has finer and softer hair than the other breeds, and the Giant Angora is the biggest breed, weighing at least nine and a half pounds.
The Angora wool industry has been a target of criticism by animal rights activists, who claim that the rabbits are scared and injured in the process of harvesting the wool. According to PETA, 90 percent of Angora wool comes from China, where there are no regulations about how the rabbits must be treated.
If you own an Angora rabbit as a pet, their wool must be sheared two to three times a year to keep them healthy, but as long as they are sheared properly, the rabbits shouldn't experience any pain.
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All Angora rabbits have long, fluffy coats, making them look like balls of fur. Some grow long fur on the face and ears, but most grow the long fur only on their bodies. Angora rabbits can be white, black, or light brown.
Except for the Giant Angora breed, the ideal weight of an Angora rabbit is 7 or 8 pounds. The Giant Angoras can weigh 10 pounds or more. Angora rabbit bodies are short and compact; oftentimes their limbs are not discernible under their fur.
Most Angora rabbit breeds have two layers in their coat: the guard hair and the underwool. The Giant Angora breed has three layers: guard hair, underwood, and awn fluff, a hybrid between the guard hair and underwool. Angora rabbit fur stands up all around its body, but it is extremely soft to the touch. These rabbits must be brushed regularly to prevent matting.
The English Angora is the only breed to grow long fur on its head and face; the other three breeds have mostly short fur on their heads.
All Angora rabbits have ears that stand up. The Giant and the English Angora's ears flop over at the top. The Giant and English Angoras also have "tasseled" ears, with longer hair, while the other two breeds only have short hair on the ears. The English Angora has the most hair on its ears.
The biggest health concern with an Angora rabbit is wool block, when excess hair builds up in the rabbit's intestines. They need to be fed a diet with at least 13 percent fiber to prevent this problem.
Angora rabbits are generally mellow and docile. The more they are handled, they more likely they will become friendly and even-tempered.
In-Story image: Flickr/vjmarisphotos