Where is angora wool extracted from?
The German Angora rabbit is bred mainly for its wool, making it an excellent option to buy. It also does not mat or require any grooming.
Not to confuse their names such as German, English or French Angoras, these bunnies originated from Angora, the present-day Ankara in Turkey.
While some people confuse this wool with mohair or cashmere wool, i.e., the one gotten from the Angora goat and cashmere goat respectively, it is not the same thing.
The fiber from the various Angora breeds tends to differ a little especially the one from Satin Angora.
Appearance and quality
These fibers are soft, thin (about 11 microns in diameter), fluffy (what many knitters call a halo) and about 2 to 5 inches long.
They have a silky feel or texture, and feels soft even if you don’t groom your animal often. However, not grooming your rabbit can cause matting.
When compared to ordinary wool, these fibers are much warmer owing their hollow core that also gives it a floaty feeling (warm and lighter).
The Angora wool also less allergic compared to other sources, making it ideal for warm clothes to be used by those with arthritis and wool allergies (who get skin irritation).
Also, it is durable, hand-washable, it can be easily dyed, blend with other colors well, and it is luxurious.
Regarding colors, the angora wool comes in an array of colors. You will get it available from the whites to the tans, browns, greys to black.
Grading and quality
- The most premium or best fur, i.e., cleanest and longest comes from the upper side and the back of your bunny. It should not have any food remains or debris including hay, i.e., clean and tangle free with its length at least 6cm long.
- The second quality comes from the lower sides and neck, and it is common to get some hay and vegetable matter.
- The third best quality is harvested from the buttock and leg areas. It usually is shorter and felt more often.
- The last quality is the stained with felted bits that are larger. You cannot salvage it.
The last two qualities can be used for lining nests for your birds. Note that the more you groom your bunny well, the more fur you will get since the matted one will be less.
Uses – angora wool sweaters, suits and yarn
Wikipedia notes that although the Angora rabbits “have the most halo and warmth, they felt very easily through abrasion and humidity and can be excessively warm in a finished garment.” This makes them ideal for accents.
Since they are not as elastic as wool, they are often used to blend with Merino or other fibers to ensure the resultant yarn is elastic. Besides increasing elasticity, blending reduces its halo and softness, as well as the price of the final garment.
To avoid felting and still benefits from the various characteristics that the Angora wool has, its commercially available yarns for knitting are about 30 to 50% angora wool.
The primary uses of the wool include making apparels such as suits, soft, warm sweaters, blankets, scarves, gloves, socks, dresses, yarn for knitting as well as felting.
Angora wool cost or price
The average price of angora wool is $10 to $16 per ounce which translates to 30 to 50 cents per one gram (source – Wikipedia). Some sources state that the price is $27 to $35 per two pounds (source – One Green Planet)
Angora rabbit wool production?
China is the leading producer of Angora fur with about 90% of the fur produced in China from an estimated 50 million Angora rabbits that produce a total of about 2,500 to 3,000 tons annually. Europe, the United States, and Chile also produce smaller amounts.
Harvesting – Angora wool shearing, plucking, and preparation
Harvesting is done by shearing or plucking (and brushing) the fur especially as it is about to molt, three to four times a year.
Plucking should be done when the fur is molting, something that happens after about four months. It should be done on the shear’s turntable, and the rabbit should be gently handled. Expect a yield of around 340 to 510 grams (12-18 ounces) at each harvest.
Plucking is preferred as it gets wool with lesser amounts of guard hairs and it will not be matted as in the case where you wait to collect it from their cages. It retains more natural texture than sheared one.
However, plucking is time-consuming. Note that some breeds do not molt such as the German Angora, meaning you cannot pluck their fur.
Also, “any wool that is still attached to the hair follicle is left behind. It may take two sessions to remove all the wool, as the back and shoulders tend to release before the hips and throat” notes Angorarabbits.co.za.
On the other hand, shearing is faster but produces fleece of lower quality with more guard hairs. However, you will get more fleece. Ensure you remove any short fur since it will fly off if used to make a garment.
Except for the German Angoras, most of the other breeds require you to groom them up to twice a week or as you deem necessary to reduce felting and matting their fur.
Besides, ensure your rabbits do not end up with a wool block, i.e., they ingest some of the fur as they are grooming to themselves and it accumulates in their digestive tracts blocking them.
Preparation and processing
Once the wool has been harvested, any mats, short fibers, second cuts and foliate is removed with any dirty hand washed before it is sent to processing mills. Since bunnies are clean animals, if well maintained, their wool does not require any washing.
Angora rabbits criticism and abuse concerns
Due to PETA animal cruelty video that emerged in 2013 in China, several cloth manufacturers and retailers stopped buying clothes and wool from China.
The footage showed rabbits being tied by their paws and their fur plucked forcefully from one of the farms in China. China is known for having weak animal welfare laws and enforcement.
In response to this cruelty concerns, some retailers including Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Gap Inc., H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, and Esprit placed a ban on any Angora wool products.
A similar video was in September 2016 released by the French animal rights charity One Voice depicting Angora rabbits (six) pinned down on their hind and forelegs while they were ripping and plucking fur from their bodies in France.
The disturbing video shows the rabbits crying and screaming in pain as the ruthless fur harvesting goes on.
Can you handle your rabbits well?
If done gently, the rabbit may enjoy the fur harvesting and avoid fear or distress. Rabbits can be very fearful, and you can note it in their body language.
Loveknitting.com, notes that any “animals have the right to be treated with respect and courtesy, spared from pain and suffering, and allowed to exercise their natural instincts.” Some of the ways to ensure your rabbits are handled well including:
- Ensure cages are clean since filthy ones will also make the wool dirty
- Avoid rope tying the rabbit during shaving
- Do not pluck the whole coat from its roots (especially forcefully) or clip it in a way that inflicts pain or injury to it as this makes the bunny vulnerable.
- Ensure your rabbit is not ill-health or stressed as this lowers the quality of the fur
Where can I get angora wool for sale?
If you are looking for Angora wool for sale, you can get it at various places. It is essential to check on the quality of the fibers as they have different qualities as we have already seen. Also, decide which exact breed of angora’s wool do you need.
You should also be sure whether you want raw wool (often mats fast) or spun one.
The first place to begin your search is at the small backyard rabbit keepers in your locality if there are any. This will ensure you also check on how their rabbits are cared for.
Secondly, find various vendors online. For instance, consider online, try the following sites which have so many listings:
Finally, while looking for Angora wool for sale, go to reputed rabbit farmers who provide excellent conditions for their rabbits as well as handle them well.