Saturday, February 19, 2011

The History of the Angora Rabbit

There is much controversy regarding the story of the Angora rabbit, however according to generally accepted theory, angoras date back to the early 18th century, around 1723. As the story goes, there were some sightseeing sailors who pulled into a Turkish port called Angora, now known as Ankara . It was in this town where they saw native women wearing very beautiful shawls that were like no other that they had seen. The fineness and silkiness quite surpassed the shawls in their country of France . They inquired about the fine wool in the shawls and much to their surprise found it to be from the Angora rabbit. Thus the sailors secured some of the rabbits to take back to France .

Some French authorities dispute the claim of Turkish origin of the Angora rabbit, claiming they were the first to record Angora rabbits. The French point to the Encyclopedia of 1765 for substantiating data to this effect. The French believe the Angora rabbit had been concurrently produced in various rabbit breeding countries, France among them. The French insisted the long, silky coats due to the proper conditions for growth. This theory seems to be born out by M├ęgnin’s report on asses kept in the coal mines of France without ever seeing daylight. It was in the coal mines where these animals grew very long, silky coats in the sultry darkness. With this in mind, it is interesting why animals working in a hot atmosphere should develop a long coat. Does nature provide them as insulation against heat as it does against cold? At any rate, the French without a doubt are given credit for seeing the commercial possibilities of the Angora wool into yarn. France was not the only country to visualize the possibilities of this excellent fiber. England very shortly followed suit. England probably did the most transporting of the Angoras to other countries including Germany, Spain, Japan , and various European countries.

It was probably not until around 1900 that there were any Angora rabbits in the United States and those were by fanciers or people interested in showing the animals. Records regarding commercialization in the United States dates around 1925 or 1930. While there are very few commercial wool industries in the United States, many individuals maintain small herds of Angoras for wool production and exhibition. However, as yet there is no substitute for Angora —the fiber known as the Aristocrat of wools.

Housing Your Angora Rabbit

When starting with Angoras, the first thing for the beginner to decide is approximately how many angoras one wishes to raise. Are you going to have one or two angoras for pets? Do you plan on doing any breeding? How many does do you plan to breed in a year? What is the maximum number of angoras the space you have will permit you to raise?

Every breeder will have their own idea as to the style and design of the perfect rabbit hutch or cage system. All of this will depend upon the amount of space you have for the cages and if the rabbits are going to be housed inside or outside. Regardless of what you decide, it is important to keep in mind the hutches or cages must be dry, well lit, have good ventilation but free from drafts, as well as the temperature where the rabbits will be housed. Several people have asked if a barn, chicken coup, garage or other unused building could be adapted for housing Angoras. All of these buildings can be suitable so long as you consider the factors listed above.

There are many different types of hutches and cages that can be used. Some are made of wood and wire while others are all wire. If you are going to have several Angoras in a small area, I would suggest purchasing or making the wire cages so you can stack them on top of each other. Of course, when you stack the cages you will also have dropping pans that will need to be cleaned frequently to keep your rabbitry sanitary. When deciding what type of hutch or cage you want to use you need to consider the following: comfort of the rabbit, ease of cleaning and handling of stock, ease of dismantling for thorough disinfecting, resistance to vermin and the escape of the rabbits, and economy.

The comfort of the Angora in the cage is very important. I prefer to use cages that are at least 24" x 30" that are 18" high The cages are made of 1" x 2" wire on the sides and top with 1" x 1/2" wire on the floor. I have larger cages I use for does when the babies come out of the nestbox to give the doe more room. Some people use cages that have baby saver wire, however, I have found the urine guards and putting window screening around the cage when a doe kindles works well. The window screening is cut so it is approximately a foot tall and goes completely around the cage. I simply use twist ties to fasten the window screening to the cage, plus this gives me easy access to open the door of the cage.

Whether you are purchasing a cage or the wire to make the cage yourself, I would suggest you check the prices with various dealers to obtain the best price as cages purchased in pet stores are usually very expensive!

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