The Angora rabbit is thought to have originated in Ankara, Turkey, although the facts remain unclear. What we know for sure is that Europe has raised angora rabbits for their fiber for centuries and the French are credited for making their wool popular around 1790
There are five Angora rabbit breeds that dominate in fiber production: English Angora, French Angora, Satin Angora, Giant Angora, and German Angora. Other breeds such as the Jersey Wooly and the American Fuzzy Lop also produce wool.
The wooled breeds are calm-natured and are known for their docile disposition. They make wonderful pets and are gentle with children. That said, daily care for this rabbit typically falls onto the adult as the grooming can be overwhelming.
Great pets aside, Angoras are most sought after for their plush coats as the softest fiber in the world used for garments. As an animal primarily used for wool production (or on the show table), Angora rabbits are a no-kill livestock, which can be very appealing to a lot of would-be rabbit farmers. There are commercial breeders that raise Angoras for meat, fiber, and showing, tripling their investment.
Angora rabbit wool is in high demand and considered top drawer in the fiber production market. Angora fiber can be sold raw (right off the rabbit), spun, dyed, or left with its natural color. It’s a fiber so fine that it’s usually blended with other fibers such as sheep’s wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere. The texture of Angora wool alone is considered too fine to hold the dense stitches of knitting.
Angora is said to be seven times warmer than sheep’s wool and considered too warm for a garment. Blending angora fiber with others will add softness, warmth, and a “halo” effect to a yarn and the resulting garment.
Harvesting Angora Wool
Wool is harvested from the rabbit by either plucking or shearing. Some breeds such as the English Angora, naturally molt (sometimes referred to as “blowing their coat”) three to four times a year. But natural molting not only depends on the breed but also the line within that breed.
The first harvest usually happens between 5 and 8 months of age, though Giants will be a bit older and Satins younger. You’ll start noticing wool trailing behind the rabbits, strewn in the cage, and coming off in larger amounts when you’re grooming. You’ll continue to harvest every four months, which is the rabbit’s natural molt cycle.
Breeders that have naturally molting rabbits can take advantage of this by steadily plucking the loosened fiber while they’re in a molt. Otherwise, breeders can harvest the wool with scissors or clippers. Typically, plucked wool commands a better price than cut. If you do cut, make sure your shears are sharp and to cut short swatches at a time to ensure you don’t harm the rabbit.
Whether you pluck or cut depends on the breed. Rabbits are such clean animals that you won’t need to wash the wool after harvesting.
Rabbits are naturally nervous, so it’s important that you have a good relationship with your rabbit, where it knows and trusts you, before trying to pluck or shear it. This reduces risk of accidental cuts, and if plucking, helps the animal to release a hormone that opens its pores and allows the fiber to come out more easily.
Benefits of Raising Angora Rabbits
They’re a no-kill livestock (as wool-producers), which is a plus to many would-be rabbit farmers.
Acreage isn’t necessary, making these perfect small livestock for urban and suburban homesteaders.
Rabbits are inexpensive to feed, eating about 4-8 ounces of pellets daily.
Breeding is simple and reproduction is fast.
Harvesting the wool is relaxing and pleasurable—and necessary for the rabbit’s well-being.
Rabbits can also be entered in shows, become 4H projects, and make great pets—making them a family venture.
Fiber can be sold for profit or kept on hand for hand-spinning by the breeder.