Q: What are Angora Rabbits used for?
A: Angora rabbits were developed as a dual purpose breed for meat and wool. They are raised primarily by spinners to serve as a quiet and low space alternative to sheep. Their fine, soft wool is considered a luxury fiber.
Q: What are the different types of Angoras?
A: There are five main breeds of Angora rabbits: English, French, Giant, Satin and German. The first four breeds are recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). The English is the smallest of the Angoras and has wool all over its body including its face and ears. The French Angora averages 9 pounds and has regular fur on its head, ears and legs. It is considered the most low maintenance of the Angoras due to its higher percentage of guardhair which keeps its wool untangled. The Giant is the largest of the Angoras with minimum weight requirements. It has wool on its face and ears and legs. The only ARBA accepted color is REW. The Giant is also the youngest of the angora breeds having been accepted by ARBA only in the latter half of the 21st century. The Satin Angora is not much older than the Giant. It is similar in appearance to the French Angora but its wool is translucent giving it a unique sheen and texture. The German Angora is recognized by the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB). Its standard is focused primarily on the production ability of the rabbit with a minimum production of 11.46 oz per 90 day shearing.
Q: Which is better German or French Angoras?
A: Both breeds are low maintenance and should not matt. For pure production a German Angora cannot be beat. These rabbits have been bred for maximum output for years and it shows – my best German Rabbit produces almost double the fiber of my best French Rabbit at a given 90 day shearing. If you only have room for a couple rabbits, choosing Germans will give you the most wool for your space. The German Angora also has the benefit of a synchronous coat which means that you do not need to worry about a warm spell triggering a moult or little short cuts from a second incoming coat making it into your fiber. The German Rabbit should not need brushing between shearing cycles. Just do a little trimming of the hair around the vent and on the cheeks where the wool will get damp about half-way through the cycle. The French Angora is also a lower maintenance Angora but you may need to do a little brushing when its coat gets longer. It is quicker and easier to shear since it is less dense. Its higher percentage of guard hair gives the wool a strong halo and creates vibrant colors. The lack of wool on its head means that you do not have to worry about wool-blindness. As far as texture, everyone has a preference – German and French wool texture is definitely different and you will just have to try some of each and pick your favorite. German hybrids have enough French or English in them to give them vibrant colors but since they are mostly German they have a much higher wool production.
Q: Are Angora rabbits good pets for my kids?
A: Angora rabbits are gentle and cute, but please ensure that an adult can commit to the level of care required. Angoras MUST be sheared regularly-preferably every ninety days but at least every 4 months. Otherwise they collect too much wool in their gut leading to a condition called wool block which prevents them from digesting food causing them to die a slow painful death. Most children cannot handle these requirements and are better off picking another breed of rabbit if they are its only caregiver. However, the Angora can make a wonderful family pet if its requirements can be met since it is bred to be constantly handled and breeders enjoy working with a rabbit that is calm and friendly.
Q: I think rabbits should be free and wild – it’s cruel to keep them locked away.
A: The long wool produced by Angora rabbits is a genetic mutation specifically encouraged by humans. There are no wild Angoras and any Angora rabbits that are released will quickly die. Not only does their long wool restrict movement and allow predators to easily catch them, it also builds up in their gut during regular grooming and if not sheared will prevent them from being able to digest food. Unlike cats who can regurgitate their furballs, Angora rabbits have no ability to remove the hair and will die.
Q: Your Angoras are cute but I have seen ads for Angoras for a lot cheaper than yours – you need to lower your prices.
A: I breed quality French and German Angoras. If all that you want in an Angora is “cheap” and “cute” there are other sellers that can accommodate you. When I started out I went with a “cheap” Angora and after six months of feeding it I realized that it was not worth it and purchased a better quality animal and sold the original at a loss. Remember that the initial cost of your rabbit is one of the least of the expenses of raising your rabbit and it costs the same to feed and house a poor quality rabbit as a good quality rabbit.
Q: My friend plucks her Angora Rabbits – why do you shear yours?
A: Certain Angora breeds and lines within breeds are bred to naturally shed their wool. Plucking is done during the rabbits natural moulting period. English Angoras are almost exclusively plucked. While a lot of spinners prefer plucked wool to sheared, plucking can damage hair follicles leading to rougher textured wool on the animal. It can also lead to lower wool production and limits the owner’s flexibility on operating the rabbitry due to the need to accommodate each animals shed cycle. I breed my French Angoras to prevent premature shedding – this allows me more flexibility as well as reducing the chances of wool block due to the rabbit ingesting the shedding wool. German Angoras are bred to not shed their wool – plucking a German Angora would be as painful as someone pulling out your hair. I am not willing to make the tradeoffs that plucking requires and I breed accordingly so I do not recommend plucking for any rabbit produced in my rabbitry.
Q: Which rabbit is the best in the litter?
A: The best rabbit for you will depend upon what you want to do with it. I am happy to help guide your selection but I need to know what purpose you have in mind. If you tell me that you haven’t owned an angora before and want a wooler I might stear you towards the calmest rabbit in the litter with a pretty sheen to her wool. That same rabbit would not be ideal if you wanted to show her because she has a mismatched toenail. If you told me you would like to show now but are considering breeding in a couple of years I would suggest you pick a buck instead since he would still be able to be used as a sire after a few years while the nice looking doe that was your first choice would not be breedable in a few years. Let me know what you are planning on doing with your rabbit and I can help point out the strengths and faults of each bunny.
Q: Do you cull?
A: Every breeder culls – culling just means choosing the rabbit(s) that the breeder wants to keep for his or her breeding program. No breeder can keep every rabbit they produce and part of being responsible breeder is having a plan for the extras. While using rabbits for meat can be an option, the majority of culls are simply sold – either as show stock, breeders or woolers. I down-select at multiple times during a rabbits life – the first time is at weaning where I pick a few to evaluate for my breeding stock – the rest are put for sale. The next time is at about six months after their first ninety day shearing test, again the culls are placed for sale. The juniors who make it past the wool test are usually bred. Each year I choose a few rabbits out of my breeding stock to place for sale to make room for the upcoming juniors. By only picking the best rabbits for breeding, the herd improves in quality. If your breeder says that they do not cull, be careful – a good breeder should breed to improve the breed, not just reproduce more animals.
Q: Why do you sell crosses?
A: Originally all German Angoras that were imported were white – specifically Red-Eyed White or REW. If you breed two REW rabbits together you will always get REW. I, along with a lot other fiber enthusiasts, like the look of the wool from the wide variety of colors available in the other Angora rabbit breeds. In order to get a colored rabbit that has the characteristic wool of a German Angora people started breeding the Germans with French, English and Satin Angoras. While a few pure black Germans were imported recently, almost all colored German Angoras are crosses. The IAGARB will permit a German cross that meets its production and physical requirements to be registered. The higher percentage of German in a rabbit’s bloodline the closer it comes to the characteristics of a purebred German and the more likely it is to pass the registration exam. In order to create a new color line a breeder has to start at the bottom and work their way up to a higher percentage. Since German crosses are priced according to their percentage, these low percentage bunnies provide a unique opportunity for fiber enthusiasts to obtain a low cost rabbit with the high production and unique wool characteristics of a German Angora.
Q: Help! My rabbit keeps scratching.
A: Your rabbit has probably picked up some kind of parasite. This is a common problem – sooner or later almost every owner will have to deal with them. The most common are fleas and wool mites. Fleas look like little black specks that move when you part the wool. Wool mites are almost impossible to see but can be recognized by the dandruff they cause. Both wool mites and fleas lay eggs that can hatch up to months later. Ivermectin is the most common drug used to treat these. You can inject it, give it orally or apply it topically. I inject .018 CC of 1% bovine ivermectin per pound subcutaneously. I prefer injections because studies have shown that method to be the most efficient. Make sure you use the rabbits sheared weight – in Angoras the extra wool can add up to an extra pound. Consult your veterinarian for the correct dose with any of the other methods. The best treatment is to develop a preventive routine. I treat my rabbits after I shear them. Do not give ivermectin to pregnant or lactating does.