Apart from the obvious beauty of the Angora Rabbit as a pet and exhibition animal the Angora Rabbit is of course prized for its luxurious Fibre. Angora Wool is in fact produced by the Angora Rabbit. Angora Goats produce Mohair. A lot of people have never heard of Wool producing rabbits so assume that Angora is produced by a goat or some kind of sheep.
THE REMOVAL OF THE COAT and THAT Video !
Firstly I should say with all the press recently due to the PETA video the majority of us and indeed Angora Fibre Farmers clip the coat off the rabbit with no harm whatsoever to the rabbit. Fibre plucking, as in the video below, is done when the coat is in moult.. a bit like when your dog leaves hair all over the house, the coat loosens from the skin and can be easily removed by drawing the coat. The hand plucking if done correctly (not like the PETA video of India/China, it looks more like India to me) does not hurt the animal in the slightest.. mine usually carry on eating when I pull from them. Not all Angoras moult heavily in one go however so clipping is the usual process. I can only really hand pluck my chocolate line and a couple of my white Angoras, the rest are clipped with a pair of small scissors.
Here a Chocolate Angora is hand plucked whilst in moult. The hair comes away from the animal without any pressure, a bit like when your dog moults and drops hair all over the house. If done properly the rabbits dont even seem to notice. The majority of Angoras are clipped however as they dont all moult so readily.
Interestingly the Chinese replied to the now infamous PETA video with this video. The handling might appear a little rough to Western eyes, but I guess its on a par to the way sheep are sheared. The rabbits are in lovely condition and are clean. No doubt many Angoras do suffer in farming conditions as do many other types of animal but here you can see that not all Chinese Angoras are horrifically tortured .
A clipped Angora is like a Spring Lamb often leaping about in glee, they certainly appreciate being free of their coats when it is warm enough.
Here my own Holly has been clipped with scissors and is enjoying her Spring Lamb moment 🙂
Angora fibre is fairly unique in the fact that is such a fine fibre but is actually hollow. This makes it one of the warmest fibres to wear. Many times warmer than lamb’s wool a jumper made from 100% Angora wool would only be wearable in the coldest weather.
There are three types of fibre on the rabbit. The guard hair is the longer coarser hair that would normally be part of the top coat of the fur rabbit. It gives the coat its structure and helps prevent the coat from matting. It is just one chamber thick.
On a show Angora these are highly prized as the “Tips”, a veil like halo that surrounds the rabbit. these tips are fairly fragile and are easily lost with heavy grooming, it is quite an art to present an adult with it’s tips intact.
The second and third fibres are thicker Pic 2. The first being two or three chambers thick would also be part of the rabbits top coat in a fur rabbit and the 3rd being the thicker woolier fibre that would normally be the undercoat of a fur rabbit used to keep the rabbit warm. This third coat is several chambers thick and therefore is very absorbent. A normal rabbit’s top coat prevents rain soaking this wooly layer and so even a wet rabbit can stay warm and dry next to the skin. An Angora however is a sponge !! and should NEVER be allowed to get wet.
The ratios between these types of fibre gives us the different textures and densities that we see on our Angoras. If the coat has more of the third type of fibre the rabbit has a woolier thicker feeling coat. If the rabbit has more guard hair and 2nd fibre the coat is more silky. The French Angora has a predominance of the Guard and 2nd. Fibres, the coat being silkier and less dense.The English should have more of the 3rd.Fibre giving it a denser warmer coat that stands away from the rabbit.
There has been much debate in the past as to which coat is best for maximum fibre production, it is a debate that continues to this day.
I have some old yearbooks dating back to 1934 when this debate was even more important as people were trying to produce a commercially viable product from their Angoras. The Germans seem to have taken quantity and quality of fibre production solely as their priority and still do today. Their rabbits are judged predominantly on how much useable fibre their animals produce. Their coats are a good mix of all three fibres which produces a coat that doesn’t matt so easily (matted wool is wasted wool) but has a silky yet wool like texture, good to spin, good to wear.
Below is the very first jumper I had made from my own Angora Wool.