Angora Rabbit

History of Angora rabbit breeds, from earliest history to today around the globe, with pictures and descriptions of Angora wooled breeds. 

The known history of angoras starts during the time of the Romans, according to www.angoras.co.uk. It is thought that the Romans kept, bred, and utilized Angora wool since at least 100 BC.

Angoras were established in Eastern Europe around 500 - 600 AD as best as can be determined, possibly brought there by the Romans. The tribes living in the chilly Carpathian mountains of Transylvania (between Romania and Hungary) maintained herds of captive Angoras, and bred them for their warm wool.


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The tribes also had goats for their mohair fibers, but the angora rabbit wool was infinitely more soft, warm and lightweight than the mohair.

(BTW, the Romans had a large presence in the region for hundreds of years. Even today you'll find extensive evidence of Roman occupation throughout Europe, and an entire people-group called the Romansch living in Switzerland's mountainous Canton Graubunden.  Their language, also called Romansch, is still spoken, and is one of 4 equally recognized languages in Switzerland.)

Angora rabbits were called Angolas for over a millennium, until as recently as the 1800's in some locales. 'Angola' was the word the Romanian tribes used to describe the rabbit wool. It meant "un-scratchy."




Satin Angora with minimal face furnishingsFaces without furnishings was common throughout angora history. This is a Satin Angora.

The Angora Rabbit has been highly prized from antiquity for its warm and lightweight wool


Recent history picks up the Angora Rabbit trail in England, in the 1500’s.

  • In the 1500’s, English law criminalized the export of prized "English Silk Hares," as Angora rabbits were called in England at the time. The restrictions lasted up to 200 years.

    However, England was the dominant world power at the time, with supremacy on the seas. English merchant ships sailed throughout the known world. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think that English Silk Hares could have been regularly smuggled out of England and sold in distant ports where the Crown presumably would not discover them. After all, these were <i>merchant</i> ships, out to make money.

  • The first angoras arrived in the south of France (Bordeaux) in 1723. English mariners brought them, charging exorbitantly for each rabbit. Their story was that the rabbits had been transported all the way from Angora, a province in Asia Minor (Turkey).

    Okay, perhaps Turkey was also home to angoras, since Roman influence had been so widespread. But what we think is just as likely, given the fact that the English had had Angoras already for over 200 years, is that new generations of English mariners had no idea they were actually bringing to France the offspring of English Silk Hares that had been exported to Turkey up to 200 years prior. At France's ports of call, the mariners simply called the rabbits after Turkey's capital, Angora.

    And from France, some of these newfangled Angoras, bred for many generations in far-away Angora (Ankara), were subsequently re-imported back into England.

  • The French Encyclopedia of Sciences maintains that Angoras got their start in Europe (France) in 1765. We're not sure how they forgot so quickly about the rabbits arriving in 1723. Perhaps an official wool industry got its start in 1765 in France.

  • Nevertheless, the Angoras that began to populate Germany came not from France but from England around 1777 when Herr von Meyersbach imported them. A priest, Father Charles Mayer, was instrumental in spreading the angoras throughout Germany and teaching farmers how best to care for both the rabbit and the wool.

  • The Prussian government sponsored prizes for exceptional angora wool production in 1780-1781.

  • Angoras were a pet of royalty in France. The Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, kept pet angoras in the palace. On October 5, 1789, both the rabbits and the queen met the same end. Marie’s pet angora rabbits were brutally destroyed, and she too was executed.

  • The French fascination with angoras didn't stop there. Napoleon, Emperor of France, supposedly commissioned the creation of secret machines that could spin large volumes of wool. These were discovered after WWI.

  • There is evidence of Angoras in the United States as early as 1840. They were still called Angolas in America at the time.

Giant Angora RabbitGiant Angora

Any who saw angoras for the first time could immediately recognize the advantages of spinning the angora wool and making your own light-weight but exceedingly warm garments. And with angora rabbits coming in small packages (as compared, for example, to a mohair goat) that could be fed and cared for easily, two things were bound to happen.

  1. Many folks wanted angoras, and the breed was dispersed throughout England, France, Germany, Europe and later into the United States.

  2. A new industry was instantly born. Enterprising souls now had the ability to create an income for themselves, and others with the means to do so created work for the entire neighborhood.

Until as late as 1965, France was the leader of raw wool production globally. China now produces 95% of the global wool supply.

Angora wool is warm. 100% Angora wool is almost too warm, and may not have enough body for some uses, since it is woven loosely. Since the 1700’s, the Angora fiber yarn has been offered as both 100% angora, but also as a blend with sheep wool and/or cotton fibers. 

Also since the mid to late 1700’s, thanks to educational resources provided by Father Mayer, breeders have been improving their wool growth and output by castrating their wooler bucks.

All the pictures of angoras prior to 1880 show an angora with short smooth fur on the head and feet. Today’s French Angora most closely resembles the angora as it appeared through the ages, although perhaps with more extravagant fur due to years of selective breeding.

Origins of Various Angora Breeds

English Angora REWEnglish Angora rabbit on a show table in the United States. If you look carefully, you can see one red eye and a nose on the right of the fluff.

The catalyst for differentiation through selective breeding might have been the Angora Rabbit Book of France, published in 1932.

The book showed French breeders how to selectively breed for desired traits. 

As a result of selective and inter-breeding, we now have 8 distinct breeds of Angora rabbits, each breed having been developed carefully to a slightly different standard.

(If you want to count all wooled breeds, the number rises to 12 by including Jersey Woolies, Fuzzy Lops, Cashmere Lops and Miniature Cashere Lops.)

Here is the list of Angora Rabbit breeds in alphabetical order:


1.
Chinese Angora

China is currently the number one supplier of raw angora fiber to the world. They developed the Chinese Angora, also known as the Coarse-Wool Angora in the late 1980’s by cross-breeding French and German Angoras with the White New Zealand rabbit.

Chinese Angora is about 15% bristle fiber. Compare this to other Angora breeds that give at most 1.8% bristle fiber.  The breed comes in REW
only, and weighs about 9 to 9 3/4 lb (4.1 - 4.4 kg)

2. Dwarf Angora

By selecting smaller English Angoras and miniaturing with both Netherland Dwarfs and Polish, Mr. Joseph Born of Belgium produced "beautiful little fluff balls," according to Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories. Dwarf Angoras now come in several varieties and weigh between 1.10 - 1.75 kg (2 1/2 - 3 3/4 lb).

The breed is recognized in both Belgium and France, although in France, the Dwarf Angora is a tad larger and comes sans cheek furnishings - more a dwarfed French angora.

3. English Angoras

4. French Angoras

5. German Angoras

6. Giant Angoras

7. Mini English Angora

Norma Spencer of New Zealand is the crafter of the Mini English Angora, which is recognized by the Rabbit Council of New Zealand.  Once again, this is a tiny version of the English Angora using Netherland Dwarfs to shrink the rabbit's frame.

Mini English Angoras can be found in every color the standard English Angora comes in, and size can reach a maximum of 2 kg, or a little under 4 1/2 lb. The breed is rare even in New Zealand.

8. Satin Angoras


A non-molting angora gene has been recently identified

It is possible to selectively breed for health. It is possible to selectively breed for body type.

And now, through selective breeding, a non-molting gene in angora rabbits has been teased into the light. It is unclear the exact origin of this gene, or whether multiple genes are responsible for non-molting coat characteristics.

Betty Chu, the renowned breeder of English Angoras in California, pioneered the selection process for a non-molting gene in English angoras.

As a result, says Donna L. Deter of D'Lynn Wooly Bunnies, Chu-bred rabbits can go 7-8 months with no special care, other than monthly 'bottom checks.' (Ms. Deter, in the past a German angora breeder, now breeds English angoras exclusively. Visit her website for fiber and other angora info.)

Get more non-molt details at:

English Angoras

German Angoras


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