The English Angora rabbit is a variety of domestic rabbit bred for its long, soft hair. It is one of the oldest types of domestic rabbit, originating in Ankara, Turkey, along with the Angora cat and goat. The rabbits were popular pets with French royalty in the mid-1700s and spread to other parts of Europe by the end of the century. They first appeared in the United States in the early 1900s. They are bred largely for their long wool, which may be removed by shearing, combing, or plucking. There are many individual breeds, four of which are ARBA recognized. They are English, French, Giant, and Satin. Other breeds include German, Chinese, Swiss and Finnish, to name a few. So, how to care for English Angora rabbits?
Care of the English Angora Rabbit
Due to its hollow fibred coat, the English Angora Rabbit has special requirements over other breeds. The coat is highly absorbent sucking up water like a sponge. On no circumstance should the rabbit be allowed to get wet, they are never bathed as doing so would lead to hours of work drying and de-matting.
Angora fibre is also prone to felting, something that is taken advantage of with the lovely felts that are made from its fibre. On the rabbit, however, this is disastrous causing major discomfort and skin problems.
As breeders we strive very hard to place the animal in the best hands possible, it is important that you understand the high maintenance requirements of this breed BEFORE you buy your lovely fluffy baby.
The Show English Angora is generally kept in a good sized hutch or cage with a wire floor. The floor allows droppings and urine to fall through and so keeps the bunny dry and clean. Floors need to be cleaned regularly in order to prevent dirt building up. Wire floors are in fact very comfortable for the Angora. They are easy to make.
Clipped Angoras, breeding stock or pets, that are kept with their coats trimmed short, say below 3 to 4 inches long, can be bedded on a thick layer of shavings and chopped straw. I have found that if this is kept clean and dry the rabbit can stay clean, mat and stain free. Angora babies are kept on the straw until they are ready to be split into their individual cages.
The Angora rabbit cage size is an individual’s choice but needless to say the bigger the better. Like all rabbits Angoras need enrichment either by adding toys etc. and allowing them an amount of freedom. The breeding stock gets exercise in the paddock, a great way to get a mating is to allow the pair freedom in the paddock for an afternoon! The angora rabbit cage have a large with wire floor that they can stretch their legs in and get a bit of fresh air. Of course, you can have them running around the house, great fun to watch them just be careful of electrical wires.
So many English Angora rabbit foods to choose from these days, where should you start? A great breeder friend told me once that one rabbit food isn’t generally any better than another but what is important to the animal is that there is consistency. This allows the gut to build the necessary environment with gut flora to utilize the food to its best advantage. I have to agree.
One thing I have always noticed is that an animal you have bred usually does better than one you have bought in no matter what age. I am convinced that this is because even as a foetus they have started to build their immune & nutrition systems to the environment that surrounds the doe. As long as you are providing a good balanced diet with the correct amounts of fibre necessary to the rabbit you should have no problems.
First, most importantly, find a reliable local supplier. There will be a time when you run low and have to make that dash to get a new sack of food so make sure they are close and have reliable stocks. Talk to your merchant who can tell you what is a good seller. You can use the Allen and Page Herb and Fibre mix. This mix is a lovely smelling and looking mix and the rabbits adore it. It also makes the rabbitry smell lovely, good for me! They are doing incredibly well on it and litters have done remarkably well on it so I am loathed to change. As well as your mix you should supply hay or a substitute. For years I have fed hay and put up with the problems it can cause.. it is not always in top condition and I have had the inevitable mite problems associated with it. Well, I am afraid enough is enough and with the incredible advances made with equestrian products in recent times, I no longer feed hay. Instead, I use a dried grass substitute. Usually Readigrass but during the period that this is not available I have been using Graze On. This is just a quality grass that has been dried and baled and has none of the problems that hay can bring. Angora rabbits look better than ever and don’t seem to miss the hay at all. I also feedstuff from the garden, primarily dandelion leaves but do not give a lot of greens or carrots etc as I found this can lead to scours which of course is the last thing you need with an Angora. The stock has lovely shiny coats, good muscle, and body mass and seems content so it’s obviously working! Obviously, water on tap is important.
The major English Angora rabbits issue is care of that coat. I think the Show English Angora is probably one of the most difficult coats to care for. To present one for the show is a mammoth undertaking requiring constant attention. The coat can felt overnight during the difficult shedding period. The coat is so fragile it is very difficult to keep the fibre on the rabbit and not all over the house.
Note this is the SHOW Angora, you will find that after the first clip the coat is more manageable and if you clip fairly regularly your English Angora rabbits will be quite easy to care for. In fact, clipped Angoras do not generally need brushing between clips if the coat is only allowed to grow to 3 to 4 inches long. Of course, neglect will bring with it problems, so you do need to keep on top of the clipping and brushing.
The show coat is maintained by blowing the coat with forced air, either from a powerful hairdryer with a cool setting or a reversed vacuum cleaner. The coat is parted with air and any knots gently teased apart with the fingers. Very little brushing or combing is actually done as this tends to break or pull the coat. The idea is to keep the coat on the rabbit as near perfect as possible, it is an art. The process is really best seen first hand, ask the breeder to demonstrate. If possible have several lessons or demonstrations.
Blowing the coat should be done every day on a full coat or every other day or so if it is a good textured coat. Generally, show animals are kept in show coat for say 7-9 months before the coat starts to really shed and begin to look tatty, some longer, some sooner. Be warned you are really up against it as rabbits have a tendency to “scratch that itch” or chew that coat to get at the little morsel caught within it.
At the end of their show live, the coat is clipped and the rabbit is kept for breeding or for producing spinning fibre. In the UK Angoras are generally only shown in their first coat as this has the finest silkiest texture. On occasions, a rabbit’s second coat can be denser with more depth of color and they can make it again on the show bench as a comeback rabbit if the texture is still good.
The pet English Angora rabbits can be clipped much sooner say 4 – 5 months. The second and successive coats tend to be more manageable. Slicker brushes and combs can be used to stop the coat matting and collect any loose shedding fibre. This fibre can be kept for spinning. Regular clips 3 – 4 times a year will keep the bunny in good condition. Remember the English Angora rabbits has been bred to produce fibre and that’s what it does best. Sooner or later you will have to clip to maintain a healthy animal. Once again, for the first time perhaps seek some help from the breeder. Different people have their own methods either clipping with electric clippers or using scissors. There are only a couple of clippers up to the job. The coat is so fine that many clippers just can’t cut it at all, Aesculap makes a specific Angora blade but I have found they blunt very easily and are forever clogging on the fine coat. Scissors are your best (and cheapest) bet, most commercial English Angora rabbits farms use scissors which I think proves they are still best for the job. It is very easy to nick the skin as it is so fine. Even hardened breeders manage the odd nick or two, best to cover with an antiseptic powder. It will normally heal very quickly. I will be adding photos from a clipping session soon.
Handling your rabbit thoroughly will teach you the anatomy of the English Angora rabbits and you will then know the layout of such things as teats and testicles! Once the bunny has been clipped you can spot on some ivomec, clean the ears and trim the nails and she is then ready to pop back in her hutch maybe with some straw for warmth. Of course, it is best to time your clips before the really cold weather sets in.