Angora Wool – the facts

 

Angora the facts

Much of the reporting about angora on the internet and the print media is full of errors. We have a unique perspective, having been involved in the angora industry as producers, spinners, dyers and retailers (not all at the same time) since 1987. We stopped producing ourselves in 2007.

What is Angora wool?
Angora is the wool produced by angora rabbits. No other animal produces angora. Confusingly, angora goats don’t produce angora, their fibre is called mohair. There is no such thing as ‘goat angora’.

Is angora a wool or fur?
It is a wool. Angora is normally referred to as either just ‘angora’ or ‘angora wool’, ‘angora hair’ or ‘angora fibre’. Internationally it is traded as wool. It is not normally referred to as ‘fur’ as it is harvested at regular intervals from a living rabbit.

Are there different types of angora rabbit?
Yes, the main types are English (nowadays mainly an exhibition rabbit), French (renowned for a high percentage of guard hairs compared to other types) and German (these are the main commercial breed and don’t moult).
All types produce angora wool.

Do angora rabbits exist in the wild?
No. They have been created by selective breeding over hundreds of years, like all domesticated farm animals. No angora rabbit has ever existed in the wild – they couldn’t survive in the wild as they need shearing and care otherwise their coats would become a matted ‘straight jacket’.

Where is it produced?
Angora rabbits exist in many countries but the main commercial production is in China (90%) and Chile.

How much is produced?
Angora is a scarce commodity with less than 5000 tons a year being produced.
It is estimated that there are 50 million angora rabbits in China.

How is it produced?
There are a range of methods used to produce angora.
1. Home production: very small scale cottage rabbit keeping. Often the keeper will hand spin their own angora or sell to other hand spinners.
2. Commercial production: This is how the bulk of angora is produced now. Angora rabbits are farmed in the same way that we farm a whole range of animals. In the UK we have Codes of Welfare for farm animals and there is one for rabbits which stipulates welfare and hygiene standards.

How is the wool harvested?
Either by shearing, like sheep, or gentle plucking when the rabbit moults (the wool naturally loosens). Rabbits are not killed for their wool. English and French type angoras moult so they can be plucked gently as the wool loosens. German type angoras don’t moult so must be sheared regularly. Shearing can be done using scissors or electric clippers similar to those used in dog grooming parlours. Shearing done properly is humane, in fact it would be inhumane NOT to shear the rabbit as it would become encased in a matted ‘straight jacket’ of wool.
We found that it takes about 30 minutes to shear an adult rabbit. No restraint is necessary and we used to do it in public for the tourists. Our rabbits gave approximately 1kg (2.2lbs) of wool a year over 4 clips.
Photo (2005 when we were still producing from our own rabbits) shows William shearing an unrestrained angora rabbit humanely, in public, with electric clippers. No stress for rabbit, William or public.

shearing