Whoa! Is there an animal lurking inside all that fur? Oh yes. This week's furry friend is an angora rabbit. There are five different breeds of angora: English are the smallest; French are less fluffy and actually resemble rabbits (rather than large dusters); Germans are quite large and can be confused with Giants; Giants are the largest breed and the most efficient producers of fur; and Satins produce the softest fur by far. Got that?
So, what are the benefits of ownership? People keep angora rabbits for breeding, showing and for their wool. Either way, they are quite docile creatures, very intelligent and make good pets as long as you are prepared to spend some time grooming them. As a result of all this grooming, angoras are used to human contact and react well to being around us.
How should they be kept? As they tend to pick up a lot of dirt with their fluffy feet, they should be kept in cages which have suspended floors – a wire mesh will do, as it allows their waste to fall through and be collected in a tray. The fur protects their feet from the wire, which is actually very comfy for them to sleep on, like a little rabbit hammock. They need plenty of space to run around either outdoors or inside, as long as your living room is "rabbit-proof", ie. has no exposed wires, plug sockets, etc, that they could chew through. Foodwise, there are plenty of rabbit mixes on the market, so choose one that smells most palatable to you.
And what about all that grooming? They will need daily brushing, so you will need to dedicate at least half an hour a day to keeping your rabbit in tip-top condition. Angoras should never come into contact with water (unless they are drinking it, of course). Their fur soaks up moisture like a sponge and takes forever to dry out.
Is it worth the hassle? Well, anyone who wants to own an angora must be aware of the amount of work involved, but the rewards are a loving pet, and beautiful soft fibre that can be spun into a nice cardie. No rabbits are harmed in the process – they need a proper clipping about four times a year, and the fur is a by-product of the grooming process, so you are in no way exploiting the animal.
So how much do they cost? A pedigree bun will set you back £50, plus the start-up costs of getting a hutch, or indoor cage and some points of interest in the cage, which can be as little as £40, or less if make one yourself!
How do I get hold of one? Richard Grindey, who is club secretary of the National Angora Club, is himself a breeder based in south Derbyshire and can put you in touch with reputable breeders around the country. Contact him at freewebs.com/whincupandgrindey or call 01283 211180.