Angora rabbits are one of the oldest domesticated breeds of rabbit. It’s commonly believed that the breed originated in Turkey in the 1700s, but there is some evidence of Angora rabbits during the time of the Romans (since at least 100 B.C.E.). Angora bunnies gained popularity when they were brought to France in 1723 and became the favored pet of the queen, Marie Antoinette. The breed arrived in the United States around 1840, and their population grew quickly during WWII as their wool was in high demand all over the world.
Angora rabbits have a certain recessive gene that causes their soft and silky fur to grow rapidly, at about 1 inch every month. Highly valued, Angora wool has less allergy-causing qualities than other animal wool and feels luxurious, like cashmere. The largest Angora rabbits can produce up to 4 pounds of wool every year.
There are at least 11 different varieties of Angora rabbits, four of which are officially recognized by the American Rabbit Breeder's Association (ARBA):
Adult Angora rabbits weigh between 4–12 pounds, depending on the breed. Their average lifespan is between five and 12 years, with the larger rabbits typically living longer than the smaller breeds.
Caring for an Angora Rabbit
Angora rabbits are intelligent and social animals. They typically don't need as much attention as some other rabbits, but they will flourish when interacted with and played with frequently. Like all rabbits, they have specific dietary and housing requirements to keep them happy and healthy.
Angoras can live inside or outside—as long as an outdoor hutch is secured from predators. They tolerate temperatures from 50–75 degrees F but must be kept in the shade, as they can overheat quickly in the sun. Insects and other parasites may nest in Angora’s thick fur, and if the fur gets wet outside, Angora rabbits may easily develop skin infections. In general, rabbits housed inside are healthier, since they are protected from exposure to infection from other animals and the environment.
Angora rabbits can be great pets for individuals or families that have the time and experience to attend to their grooming needs. If the household is very busy, or if you’ve never cared for a rabbit before, an Angora may not be the best rabbit to start out with.
Angora Rabbit Health Issues
While their beautiful fur is the Angora rabbit's most outstanding feature, it’s also their biggest health concern. Pet insurance to cover veterinary care is highly recommended for Angora rabbits, as Angoras’ long fur may make skin infections and gastrointestinal tract issues due to hair ingestion more common for them than they are for shorter haired rabbits.
Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits cannot vomit. This means that everything they eat has to be digested and passed in their stool. A healthy rabbit's digestive system is in constant motion, but rabbits are prone to a condition called gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. GI stasis occurs when the passage of food through the rabbit’s GI tract slows or stops. Signs include lack of appetite, lack of stool passage, decreased stool production, and lethargy.
GI stasis is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary care. Many rabbits experiencing GI stasis are hospitalized and given fluids, prescription medications, and nutritional support until they feel well enough to eat on their own again.
Hairball Obstruction or “Wool Block”
Rabbits like to be clean and groom themselves frequently, ingesting hair as they do so. Because of their thick, long fur, Angora rabbits may be more susceptible to forming a hairball in their GI tract, sometimes called a as “wool block,” That can obstruct their GI tract. Large amounts of their long hair can ball up in the digestive tract and can block the passage of food and interfere with normal digestion, leading to GI stasis. Severe GI stasis confirmed to be due to a true hairball obstruction requires veterinary surgical intervention to treat.
If your Angora rabbit lives outside, it’s vital to check their fur daily. Flies tend to nest and lay eggs in their long hair, particularly if it is matted or dirty. The fly eggs hatch into maggots, which can cause wounds and severe infections. An Angora rabbit experiencing flystrike will need to be shaved and treated for infection by a veterinarian.
While Angora bunnies are social and friendly, they typically do not like being picked up. If a rabbit struggles, kicks, or jumps out of a person's arms, they can potentially break their back, causing nerve damage to the spinal cord and permanent paralysis..
Signs of a spinal injury include lethargy, hind leg lameness, incontinence, and sometimes hind end paralysis. Treatment with strict cage rest and prescription anti-inflammatory medication may be attempted; however, many rabbits will not fully recover from a spinal injury and may require humane euthanasia.
A rabbit's teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime, so plenty of hay and chew toys are necessary to keep their teeth ground down. Overgrown teeth can become misaligned, leading to the development of sharp edges or points that can lacerate the gums and inside of the cheeks, causing painful sores or abscesses in the mouth that will prevent a rabbit from eating.
If you notice your rabbit is not eating well, is pawing at their face, drooling, or has a swelling or sore on the face, they will need to see a veterinarian for treatment. The veterinarian will likely sedate the rabbit for a thorough oral examination and to trim the overgrown teeth to allow normal chewing again. The veterinarian also may want to take x-rays of the rabbit’s head to further evaluate their teeth roots for signs of infection associated with an abscess. If an abscess is suspected, the rabbit will need surgical removal of the infected tooth and associated tissue, plus long term antibiotics, anti-inflammatory/pain medications, and possible syringe feeding if the rabbit is not eating.
Rabbits are meticulous groomers and keep their faces very clean; however, this can be challenging for Angora rabbits with their long fur. Dirt and debris can get caught in the fur around the eyes, leading to infections in the eyes and the surrounding skin. Most cases are treated by trimming the fur in that area and using prescription eye drops or oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.
Angora rabbits have lots of hair everywhere—even in their ears. The furry tufts that stick out are cute, but troublesome as debris and wax buildup can get caught in the hair and lead to ear infections. Routine grooming to remove the hair as well as regular ear cleaning with a rabbit-friendly ear cleaner, under the direction of a veterinarian, will help avoid ear infections.
Wool mites (Cheyletiella parasitovorax) are also called “walking dandruff mites” since they look like white dandruff flakes that move. They can live on an Angora rabbit's skin and make them extremely itchy. Angoras with wool mites may have flaky skin, hair loss, and sores or scabs from scratching. Skin mites on rabbits are typically treated with prescription anti-parasitic medication and antibiotics for the subsequent skin infection. These mites are transmittable to people, and treatment of the rabbit’s skin does not prevent their reinfection. So an infected rabbit’s environment must be disinfected and cleaned (spraying the rabbit’s cage with a dilute bleach solution, washing all soft bedding such as towels or blankets in hot/soapy water, disposing of all porous materials like wood that cannot be disinfected, and vacuuming all carpeted areas thoroughly).
Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi) is a parasite found in rabbit urine that can accumulate in soiled bedding and persist in the environment in the form of spores that resist disinfection. When rabbits inhale or ingest the infective spores, they can develop neurological problems, as well as kidney damage. If your rabbit has a head tilt, twitching eyes, appears unsteady, or has difficulty using their legs, seek veterinary care right away. Prompt treatment is key to a full recovery, as rabbits with advanced signs of the disease may not fully respond to treatment.
What To Feed an Angora Rabbit
Hay: All rabbits need a diet of mostly hay to ensure their digestive system works properly, but hay is particularly important for an Angora rabbit to promote normal digestion and help avoid wool block and GI stasis. Offer a pile of hay at least the same size as your rabbit’s body twice a day or more.
Greens and vegetables: Feed roughly 1 cup of dark leafy greens per 2 pounds of rabbit daily. Rabbits enjoy greens such as:
Leafy carrot tops
Vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, and bell peppers may be fed as well in smaller quantities. It’s best to limit vegetables and offer fruit only as a treat to avoid diarrhea.
Pellets: Pelleted foods are essential for providing the vitamins and minerals the rabbit needs. The general guideline is to feed 1/4 cup of fortified pellets/4–5 pounds of rabbit per day.
Treats: Treats should be given sparingly, and high-fat or high-sugar treats should be avoided. Instead, consider Oxbow's line of fiber rich rabbit treats as a healthier alternative, including Oxbow Simple Rewards Oven Baked with Bell Pepper Small Animal Treats.
Water: Fresh, clean water is necessary to keep your rabbit healthy. Water bottles are preferred over water bowls to avoid contamination from food and soiled bedding.
Angora Rabbit Temperament and Behavior
Angora rabbits are intelligent, friendly, and social. They generally enjoy spending time with their family members, playing or snuggling. They can be trained to use a litter box and to come when their name is called.
It is important to respect an Angora rabbit's boundaries, however, as they typically do not like to be picked up and held. A frightened Angora may kick, scratch, or bite to get out of being held. Proper handling and monitoring of your rabbit’s body language is important to avoid injury to people and the rabbit.
Angora Rabbit Grooming Guide
Because of their long, thick haircoat, Angora rabbits have higher requirement for grooming than other rabbits. Their long, silky hair can easily become tangled, so regular brushing several times a week is needed. Their hair grows rapidly throughout their entire life, at a rate of about 1 inch every month.
After roughly six months of growth, the hair may “die” and start to shed and becomematted, so it’s recommended to clip their hair with a shears (or use an electric razor to shave) an Angora rabbit’s fur every three or four months. Special care must be taken when shearing an Angora, as rabbit skin is very thin and tears easily. Because of this, it may be best to find a rabbit friendly veterinarian or groomer to safely trim your Angora rabbit’s coat.
In addition to regular brushing and shaving, Angora rabbits typically need their nails trimmed every four to six weeks. Routine ear cleaning, under the direction of a veterinarian, is also recommended, as is trimming the fur around the eyes to avoid mats and infection.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Angora rabbits are strikingly beautiful and can be wonderful pets in the right home. Extra time is needed to properly groom Angoras’ flowing haircoat so they stay happy and healthy. Proper handling is also necessary to avoid injuring them, so it’s best to make sure everyone in the house (especially young children) understand calm and careful handling and respect an Angora's need for independence.
Angora Rabbit FAQs
Is an Angora rabbit a good pet?
Angora rabbits make great pets for experienced rabbit owners that have the time to devote to their special grooming needs.
Are Angora rabbits hard to take care of?
Angora rabbits have high requirements for grooming and are therefore more challenging and time consuming to care for than other rabbits.
Are Angora rabbits cuddly?
Angora rabbits typically do not like to be picked up, but they still enjoy cuddle time with their family members.
Are Angora rabbits easy to train?
Angora rabbits are intelligent and fairly easy to train. They will often learn to use a litter box and even respond to basic commands such as coming when their name is called.
Featured Image: iStock.com/AGEphotography
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