What is an Angora Rabbit?

When we started this blog page, we intended to use it to answer the questions that we are frequently asked when we take our rabbits out into public.

One of the most common questions is “Where do Angora rabbits come from?” I do attempt to answer that question here but before I can properly answer that question, I need to define exactly “What is an Angora rabbit?”.

A statement we have heard several times is “I had an angora rabbit, but it didn’t look anything like yours!” this always makes me want to say, “you probably didn’t have an Angora Rabbit”.

Angora Defined

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/)

Angora rabbit – noun

1. any of several breeds of long-haired rabbits raised for their abundant fine wool especially: any of a breed having usually white wool and red eyes

Merriam-Webster cites “any of several breeds of long-haired rabbits…” although not which breeds. There is also no specifics on “…rabbits raised for their abundant fine wool.” There are no parameters on the quality, quantity or length of wool.

This definition could be taken in several ways;

  1. any long-haired rabbit is an Angora.
  2. any long-haired rabbit that could be raised for its wool is an Angora.
  3. any long-haired rabbit that is raised for its wool is an Angora.
  4. any “of several breeds (breeds not defined) of long-haired rabbits” is an Angora.
  5. any “of several breeds (breeds defined by someone?) of long-haired rabbits” is an Angora.

I could go on but you get the point. The definition is vague! To clarify the point, I looked up “Angora Wool”. Merriam-Webster does not have “Angora Wool” but they do have “Angora”

Angora – noun

1. the hair of the Angora rabbit or Angora goat – called also angora wool

2. a yarn of Angora rabbit hair used especially for knitting

This proved to me that Merriam-Webster knows NOTHING about wool. Fiber from an Angora goat is actually called Mohair! Goats can also produce cashmere but that’s another post!

Me with Our Pygora goats Patrick and Gavin (Pygora is a Angora goat and Pygmy goat cross)

Practical Definition

So, what I have learned, is that I am looking at this from the point of view of a fiber-focused individual. I focus on the part of the definition that states “abundant” and “fine” wool. So, I define Angora Rabbit by the fiber that it produces. When my wife and I go to fiber festivals and find Angora Wool for sale, we expect it to be at least 3 inches (usually 6 inches) staple length and finer than 16 microns (often finer, 10 ~ 14). I use this standard in defining an Angora rabbit. For reference, a human hair is approximately 70 ± 20 microns

This picture shows the hollow core of an Angora rabbit hair follicle.
https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/6895/angora-rabbit-hair-fibres-production-properties-and-product-development

Not only should an “Angora Rabbit” have fiber at least 3” and finer than 16 microns, the rabbit should be able to produce the fiber in quantities (back to “Abundant”) that make it worth collecting.

We have an American Fuzzy Lop named Bjorn, He is a beautiful and friendly rabbit who loves to cuddle and is perfect for therapy. He does have long fiber (2 to 3 inches) that is very fine but he only weighs 4 pounds and does not shed much at all. I suppose we could shave him and spin his fiber but anyone that was serious about raising rabbits for fiber would never consider his breed; there just isn’t enough fiber produced to even bother collecting or saving. As a matter of fact, the American Fuzzy Lop Rabbit Club at aflrc.weebly.com states on their home page “Our breed is not bred for its wool, nor its meat. It is bred to be a show rabbit.”

When I searched “Angora Rabbits” on the Internet I came across the Wikipedia page that states “There are at least 11 distinct breeds of Angora rabbit, four of which are currently recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA): English Angora, French Angora, Giant Angora and Satin Angora. Others include German Angora, Chinese Angora, Finnish Angora, Japanese Angora, Korean Angora, Russian Angora, St Lucian Angora and Swiss Angora.[citation needed]”

I left the [citation needed] in the quote to point out that there is no reference listed.

I came across (and joined) a Facebook page entitled “Angora Rabbits 2020 – All 11 Breeds, Resources, Adoptions & Rescue Forum” In a post someone asked “Are jersey woollies rabbits also Angoras” I joined in the conversation and asked what the 11 breeds of angora are and what standards they use to tell the difference. My comments on the post were removed.

I continue my search! It’s actually very interesting (and educational) that almost every page that shows up when I search “Korean Angora Rabbit” has almost the same text as Wikipedia! Each one will have a short description of the English, French, Satin, and Giant Angoras (the four recognized by the ARBA) and then some version of the text from Wikipedia “Others include German Angora, Chinese Angora, Finnish Angora, Japanese Angora, Korean Angora, Russian Angora, St Lucian Angora and Swiss Angora.”

It’s almost as though many with a web page about Angoras researched Angora rabbits by going to Wikipedia then went no further with the research.

When I search “Chinese Angora rabbit” I found page after page of articles about how cruel the Chinese Angora industry is to the rabbits but very little about the breed itself!

I finally came across a paper titled “Latest Achievements of Angora Rabbit Wool Production in China” by Shen Youzhang Zbai Pin. http://world-rabbit-science.com/WRSA-Proceedings/Congress-1996-Toulouse/Papers-pdf/02-Wool-&-Fur/01-SHEN.pdf

This paper describes how Angoras have been bred from French, English and German Angoras since the 1920s and how the industry has recently bred New Zealand rabbits into the lines. This paper is not a description or a breed standard, it is simply a history of how the “Chinese Angoras” have been improved for fiber production. The Chinese do not consider rabbits as “Show” animals, they are cattle just like cows are to us. Any Chinese farmer or the Chinese government itself will gladly modify their stock if they find it will improve production.

When I searched Finnish Angora, I found this site https://www.angoragarnet.com/en. On the home page is a picture of a woman with, what look to me to be, three beautiful German Angoras. On the “about us” page, they simply mention their Angora rabbits.

Many Countries don’t have standards for different breeds of Angora, just Angora Rabbits.

Breed Standard and Pedigrees

Why would anyone need breed standards and Pedigrees?

A “Breed Standard” is a written description of a perfect specimen of a breed. This can include how that breed sits, holds its head, and ears. It will state the shape of its head, and the slope of its back. When animals compete in shows, they are not actually being judged against each other but against the breed standard. The winner is simply the animal that most closely meets the breed standard.

Standards can be very helpful to potential owners who want to know which breed to get and what they should look for in a specific rabbit breed.

A pedigree is simply a document that tracks lineage (and some traits) of an animal. To ensure that the animal is from pure stock and to let the owner know what traits the animal carries in its genes.

Mixed Breeds

I do not believe that an Angora rabbit HAS to have a pedigree to be an Angora but I do believe that it needs to at least meet the standards for that breed or combination of breeds. One of my all-time favorite rabbits was Lois. She was a cross between a Satin Angora and an English Angora. She was absolutely beautiful but I could not have shown her in an ARBA sanctioned show because she was a cross breed.

Our Lois

I have heard people refer to a Jersey Woolly as an Angora. A Jersey Wooly is a cross between the Netherland Dwarf rabbit and the French Angora rabbit, so that breed does have some Angora. I have heard many people say that they are prolific fiber producers (especially as they age) but once again, they are not bred for fiber! Additionally, they are a recognized breed, so why would you want to call it another recognized breed? Sure, call it a fiber rabbit if you must, however calling it an Angora just creates confusion.

Conclusion

“The way I see it” or “In My Opinion”; there are three primary colors on the color wheel, but infinite combinations of colors. I think there are three primary Angora Rabbits (English, French, and German) but an infinite number of long-haired rabbits once you start interbreeding them. Not all long-haired rabbits are Angoras.

Disclaimer

I am not a rabbit expert. I am not the final word. I want to learn as much as I can. If you disagree with anything I have said, PLEASE SPEAK OUT! I want feedback! I will admit when I am wrong! I will make changes to this posting if convinced I am wrong! My goal is to post correct and clear information and help others to benefit from my research.

Pete

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts