An Introduction to Angora Rabbits
Giant Angora Rabbits and Other Angora Rabbit Breeds
Reading Time: 5 minutes
By Jacqueline Harp – Angora rabbits can be an adorable and productive addition to a homestead because of their wonderful capacity to produce a fiber that is highly sought-after by hand spinners and mills. Before jumping into raising Angora rabbits, however, it is important to realize that it is a wool-yielding animal, therefore, consistent grooming and care is needed to produce healthy rabbits and usable fiber. The fiber produced by an Angora rabbit is called Angora wool. Angora wool makes luxurious yarn, prized for its softness and warmth.
Meet the Rabbits
The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes four breeds of Angora rabbits — French, Satin, English, and Giant Angoras. Because most people raise Angoras for their wool, it is important to select the breed that meets your fiber needs.
A French Angora weighs between seven-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half pounds. It has an oval-shaped body, and its face, ears, and legs are wool-free. The coat comes in a variety of colors, including the “broken” pattern — a white coat with spots of color. The wool is soft, with a fair amount of guard hair throughout the fleece. Guard hair makes grooming easier, and it gives a radiant “halo” appearance to yarn spun from the fiber. This rabbit produces about four to 16 ounces of wool. Wool can be harvested by shearing, but because the French Angora sheds naturally (molting), their wool can also be harvested by plucking.
A Satin Angora weighs between six-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half pounds. It has an oval-shaped body, and its face, ears, and legs are wool-free. The coat comes in many colors. The wool has a natural shine, often described as “holographic.” Thus, yarn spun from Satin Angora fiber displays a beautiful sheen that is almost three-dimensional. This rabbit produces only about eight ounces of wool, making the fiber rare, and it commands top dollar from fiber enthusiasts. A Satin Angora can be sheared, or plucked when molting.
An English Angora weighs between five to seven-and-a-half pounds, making it the smallest of the four Angora rabbit breeds. It has a round body with wool furnishings covering the entire body. Furnishings are the tufts of wool found on the face, ears, and legs. The furnishings give this rabbit a delightful, living pom-pom look when in full coat. The coat comes in many colors. The wool has minimal guard hair, making the yarn spun from it the softest of the four Angora rabbit breeds. The furnishings and lack of guard hairs make English Angoras a bit of challenge to groom, as the wool tends to felt on-body. This rabbit produces four to 16 ounces of fiber. An English Angora can molt, so its wool can be harvested by plucking or shearing.
A Giant Angora weighs over nine-and-a-half pounds, with some reaching 12 pounds, making it the largest of the four Angora rabbit breeds. It has a large, round body, with lightly furnished face, ears, and legs. White is the primary coat color. Each Giant Angora provides three types of wool: fine under-wool (also called down), awn fluff, and awn hair. If the awn hair is especially coarse, it can be removed by a mill in a process called “dehairing” before being turned into yarn. The three fiber types in a Giant Angora’s wool are often blended together to create a strong, but very soft yarn. This rabbit produces one to two pounds of fiber per year. Giant Angoras cannot molt, thus, their wool can only be harvested by shearing.
Angoras require much less space than larger fiber-producing animals such as sheep or alpacas. Each rabbit needs appropriate cage space, called a rabbit hutch, typically 30”x30”x18” for an English Angora, the smallest of the four breeds; add space for larger rabbits. Housing should be well ventilated, but not drafty, with adequate lighting and protection from the elements. Having a safe play area or covered run where your Angoras can get supervised exercise is also a nice feature.
Cleanliness is a critical factor in the care of any rabbit. Cages should have a collection pan for droppings that should be emptied daily. To prevent sore hocks, each cage should have a plastic sitting board, and that board should be cleaned every other day. Rabbit feed and hay should be kept free from pests such as mice and raccoons, which can ruin feedstuffs and spread disease.
Another useful aspect of Angora rabbits is that all their organic waste — urine, poo (called pellets), and hay — makes outstanding compost material for the garden. Dried Angora pellets can be sprinkled directly into the garden, or bagged and sold to gardeners. Angora rabbit urine needs to be composted before use.
Feed and Water
To water your Angoras, suspended water bottles are the best, as they keep chin and throat fibers from becoming wet and matted. A four-inch-wide small animal feeder for pellets is easy to clean and prevents food waste. In order to produce quality wool, Angoras need a high fiber diet with at least 18% protein. Pre-made pellets are available, or you can formulate your own mix. High-quality hay should be available at all times for your Angora to nibble on, and using small animal hay racks minimizes waste. You may wish to provide a small bit of unsweetened, dried papaya once a week as a digestive aid and preventative for wool block. Angora rabbits love treats, but use them sparingly. A slice of fresh apple is a welcome sight for an Angora after a grooming session.
Angora Wool Care
Grooming is the most significant element in caring for Angora rabbits. A well-groomed rabbit provides usable fiber and stays healthy. As a general rule, Angora rabbits should be lightly brushed at least once a week, and plucked or shorn once every three months. Wool can be harvested by shearing mechanically with electric shears or sharp scissors, by hand with combs, or by plucking the fibers by hand during shedding season. With careful handling, all methods of wool harvesting can be a safe and positive experience for the Angora rabbit.
Checking for Allergies
It should be noted that some people are allergic to Angoras, similar to sensitivity to cat or dog hair. Angoras are self-grooming, and their saliva collects on the wool; some people may be sensitive to it. On the other hand, Angora rabbit wool is lanolin-free, making it a friendly fiber for those who are allergic to sheep wool. Before bringing Angoras to your homestead, it would be wise to confirm that you are not allergic. Furthermore, it is a good practice to label fiber products made from Angora wool so those with Angora wool allergies can choose to stay clear of those items.
When considering Angoras for your homestead, you only need a small space and a few Angoras to bring beauty and productivity. You may want to start with one rabbit, to learn the care and grooming while benefitting from the fiber harvest and added fertility for your garden. While Angora rabbits do require a mindful approach to their management, the rewards are well worth it.
Originally published in Countryside January/February 2022 and regularly vetted for accuracy.