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.
The tribes also had goats for their mohair fibers, but the
angora rabbit wool was infinitely more soft, warm and lightweight than the
(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."
Recent history picks up the Angora Rabbit trail in England, in the 1500’s.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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: