Chinchilla rabbits are a group of 3 breeds, with a coat color that is identical to that of chinchilla rodents. These rabbits are very popular as pets and are recognized show breeds by the ARBA. This PetPonder article will tell you about its habitat, diet, care instructions, and much more.
Although nowadays, chinchilla rabbits are favored as pets, originally they were bred for a much darker purpose. The breed was created in France, by M.J. Dybowski, for meat and to supplement and replace the rapidly dwindling fur supply of the critically endangered wild chinchilla rodent of South America.
The first chinchilla-colored rabbits were said to have been born to wild agouti rabbits that were caught by a French farmer. However, instead of having their regular red- or tan-colored fur, the babies had a glowing silvery gray coat. Due to their unusual yet pleasing appearance that closely resembled chinchillas, these rabbits were sold very quickly and soon became popular. A rabbit breeder named M.J. Dybowski tried to replicate this color by cross breeding a regular chestnut agouti-colored rabbit, a Blue Beveren, and a Himalayan rabbit. Although the color of the resulting babies were perfect, the fur quality was quiet poor.
After a lot of experimentation with several breeds, he finally managed to get the exact color and fur density he wanted. These rabbits won the highest awards at the national rabbit show in 1914. From here, they spread to the U.K. and the United States in 1917 and 1919, respectively. In 1924, the rabbits were officially recognized as chinchilla rabbits. Eventually, with the development of new larger chinchilla breeds, the originals were called ‘Standard Chinchillas’.
As mentioned before, chinchilla rabbits are divided into three types:
- Standard Chinchilla Rabbits: These are the original chinchilla rabbits, first bred in France. After their introduction in the U.S., they were used in the development of the American and Giant Chinchillas. These rabbits are small in size and may weigh around 4-7 pounds, like most other rabbits. Usually these rabbits are good breeders and produce litters with 4-8 kits on an average.
- American Chinchilla Rabbits: These rabbits were developed by interbreeding larger-sized rabbits from standard chinchilla rabbits. The adults would usually weigh around 9-12 pounds. This was done to get larger amounts of meat and fur from the animals. In fact, to promote this business, these rabbits were originally called the ‘Heavyweight Chinchilla’ of the rabbit world. However, nowadays, these rabbits are rare due to their small population. These rabbits also produce larger litters of 7-10 kits after mating.
- Giant Chinchilla Rabbit: These rabbits were created by cross breeding standard chinchilla rabbits with Flemish giant rabbits. They were developed to produce even more meat and fur than an American chinchilla rabbit. On an average, an adult would weigh around 10-16 pounds. These rabbits are also good breeders and on an average, produce 8-10 kits per litter.
Apart from these, you can also find Soviet chinchilla rabbits, which are a mix of standard French chinchillas rabbits and Soviet white giants, or you may find dwarf Chinchilla rabbits, which were developed by interbreeding standard chinchilla rabbits with the dwarf gene. However, both these breeds are not recognized by the ARBA. None of the above rabbits are bred for their fur and meat anymore. Most of them are grown by breeders as an hobby or as pets due to their good looks and temperament.
An average chinchilla rabbit has a medium built and compact body. The rabbits have short necks, broad heads, and short, erect, ears. Most chinchilla rabbits have a dense coat of silky soft, medium length fur, which is usually agouti in coloring. This means that each hair is separated into bands of different colors along its length. In chinchilla rabbits, the part of the hair near the skin is a dark slate blue, the middle part is pearl white, and the tips are gray. You will also find some black guard hair unevenly distributed around the body. The fur around the eyes, flanks, and stomach region may or may not be pearl-colored. You may also find that some chinchilla rabbits do not have agouti coloring. Instead, they may have a coat of just one chinchilla rabbit color, i.e., blue slate, gray, or pearl.
Chinchilla rabbits are very calm, gentle, and friendly in behavior. Most of them have an intelligent and inquisitive streak in them makes them enjoy human company and attention. These rabbits are very good pets for children above the age of 10, and are equally suited to an outdoor or home environment. Most of these rabbits have an average lifespan of 6-8 years, making them a long term pet. Be sure that you want this kind of commitment before bringing a chinchilla rabbit home.
How to Care for Chinchilla Rabbits
- Diet: Owners of chinchilla rabbits need to take special care of the diet, because the digestive system of these animals is sensitive. A balanced diet of specially formulated food pellets, along with hay, and an occasional treat of organic foods, like carrots or lettuce, will keep your rabbit healthy. The pellets you give the rabbit should be of a high quality without small junk pieces of fruit and nuts. Another important point to remember is that any commercially produced food that you give the rabbit should have a low protein content―between 12-18%. This will help in keeping kidney and liver diseases at bay. Also, the rabbit should always have access to ample drinking water.
- Grooming: Due to their short and straight fur, chinchilla rabbits require minimal grooming, they shed very little fur, and require baths only a few times each year. The most you have to do is regularly brush the coat with a soft brush, and trim its nails when they grow too long.
- Health Problems: Most chinchilla rabbits are resistant to pests and diseases. A good diet, clean water, and ample space to run, will keep your rabbit healthy, and give it a long life. If you keep the rabbit indoors, make sure that your home is rabbit proof so that it does not injure itself. The common signs of illness include loss of shine and softness in fur, dull eyes, drooping ears, running nose, and a lack of alertness in attitude. If you notice these signs, a visit to the vet is extremely necessary.
Always check the history, temperament, and special needs of a chinchilla rabbit before you bring it home. This is because, genes heavily influence the day-to-day needs of the rabbit, its health, and its lifespan. The chinchilla rabbit facts given above will help you in making a well-informed decision on bringing this adorable pet to your home.