It’s not really clear just how the Angora rabbit got its start. The National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club has a short and interesting account of how this breed came to be. Going back to the early 18th century, there were some sailors in a Turkish port, then known as Angora. The sailors loved the shawls worn by the native women, these shawls being made from the wool of their rabbits. Before they left they arranged to take some of the Angora rabbits back to France. The first Angora rabbits were recorded in France in the Encyclopedia of 1765.
Through more research you can find another account of the start of the Angora rabbit. Raising-rabbits.com states that the Angora rabbit can be traced back to Eastern Europe around 500-600 AD where tribes living in the Carpathian mountains kept herds of Angoras and goats to breed for their warm wool. It is even thought that the Romans kept and utilized the Angora wool even as far back as 100 BC. Raising-rabbits.com goes on to say that they arrived in France in 1723 when English mariners brought them in from Angora (Turkey). The Roman influence was so widespread that all of these accounts can be likely, with each area not even realizing the over-lapping and in some places being known by different names like English Silk Hares.
While several claim credit for starting the Angora rabbit breed, one thing that can’t be denied is that everyone saw, right away, the benefit of breeding this rabbit for its wool and making light-weight, but warm fabrics. France is given sole credit for seeing the commercial possibilities of the wool and for being the first to manufacture this type of wool into yard, according to the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club. France was the leader in raw wool production until 1965; China produces 95% of the globes wool supply today.
The first Angoras came to the United States in the late 1920’s; a small commercial industry developed but it never reached what France produced because it was such a labor intensive business and the farmers could not support themselves. Over the years they decreased in productive value in the US because show breeders bred for animals with longer hair that shed the wool less often therefore having less wool for production. Although they still produced very good wool, the Americans, as a whole, were more interested in producing show rabbits than for wool production.
In the United States there are officially four recognized Angora rabbit breeds by the ARBA, The American Rabbit Breeders Association. The English Angora and the French Angora were the first official names listed in the 1944-1947 ARBA Standard. Prior to that standard publication they were simply lists as the “Angora Woolers”. The Satin Angora was accepted by the ARBA in 1987 and the Giant Angora was accepted in 1988. Each breed has its own standard to follow but all share the same national club, National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club, Inc. and share their breed slogan, “The Bunny with a Bonus”.
Below is a summary of the differences between each of the 4 recognized Angora breeds in the United States
- Oldest known breed of the four recognized breeds; Wool is more coarse then the others.
- According to the ARBA standard they are shown in groups: Agouti, Broken, Pointed White, Self, Shaded, Ticked & Wide Band with a maximum weight of 10 1/2 pounds for bucks and does.
- Has silkier and softer wool. Wool covers most of its body giving it the appearance of a round fluffy ball.
- According to the ARBA standard they are shown in groups: Agouti, Pointed White, self, Shaded, Ticked & Wide Band with a maximum weight of 7 pounds for bucks and 7 1/2 pounds for does.
- Developed by breeding a Satin and a French Angora; Wool has a brilliant sheen and has a finer more silky texture
- According to the ARBA standard they are shown in groups: Agouti, Pointed White, Self, Shaded, Ticked & Wide Band with a maximum weight of 9 1/2 pounds for both Sr bucks and does.
- Bred for maximum wool production; their coat has 3 distinct types of hair. They do not regularly molt like the others so they must be sheared. Sadly the Giant Angora’s are an endangered breed and have been on the Rare Breeds List since 2006.
- According to the ARBA standard they are only shown in one color; color should be white and as even as possible. There is no maximum weight but Sr bucks should weigh over 9 1/2 pounds and Sr does should weigh over 10 pounds.
Since all Angoras have to be handled a lot, for grooming and wool harvest, their personalities, for the most part, tend to be sweet and gentle. They do require some special care but are usually not hard to handle if handled and groomed regularly and make good pets.
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