In April of 1987 a small group of German Angora Rabbit breeders convened in Idaho and founded the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders.
In the 1930′s a commercial angora industry was just forming in the US when World War II and the popularity of synthetic fibers put an end to it. To date, there is no commercial spinnery in the U.S. willing to process tonnage volumes of domestic angora fiber, and thus no easy market to support large commercial angora herds. Prior to 2000, the only high percentage angora yarn available was imported or hand spun.
The beautiful rabbits that did survive the crash of the angora market, were kept and treasured primarily as exhibition breeds, predominately French and English. They developed not under the selective pressure to produce large quantities of wool, but in the hands of enthusiasts and show people.
In Europe, on the other hand, the commercial market for angora continued to define itself. Medina, a company producing angora blend underwear and therapeutic accessories such as wrist warmers, supported large production. The fashion industries in Italy and France also gained reputations for fine angora garments.
The European breeders developed a standards that reflected the kind of rabbit needed to supply commercial markets – a very densely wooled rabbit with high wool performance. It is interesting to note that in Europe, the breed is angora. To differentiate between selection styles, they would be referred to as angoras from the German population or the Danish population etc. Testing stations in Germany measured progress towards the goals of the German angora breed association.
When these animals were first imported to North America, it was logical to call them German angoras even though this term does not exist in Germany. Breeders here were astounded by the difference in wool production. The imported rabbits produced 3 to 4 times the amount of angora per rabbit for the same amount of feed and cage space. They were eager to have the A.R.B.A. accept this “new” angora breed. Serious angora producers needed a high production angora rabbit and the German Angora was the logical choice. The rabbit breed that was finally accepted by the A.R.B.A. was changed from the German name and adopted a different standard.
As the name ‘German Angora’ and its standard were of no further interest to the A.R.B.A., both were available. Interested breeders recognized an opportunity to establish a system in North America that was similar to the system that developed the German Angora in the first place. I.A.G.A.R.B. was born as an autonomous organization. It is now incorporated as a non-profit organization.
Today, I.A.G.A.R.B. serves a diverse membership in the U.S. and Canada. It welcomes angora breeders from around the world into its membership. This has included members from Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia and Australia. Through our internet forums, we invite an exchange ideas with like-minded people from all over the world.
I.A.G.A.R.B. members range from people with one German Angora rabbit, to breeders who maintain herds of 250 rabbits. They sell breeding stock, angora wool and yarns, roving and batting in various blends, and finished woven, felted and knitted goods. Some use their angora only for personal use, others have thriving businesses.
Our registration system is similar to that used in Europe. It is based on individual merit testing on 90-day coats. The data collected from registration testing is valuable not only for identifying outstanding breeding stock but also for comparing different feeds and climate effects.
The membership of IAGARB ratified a Standard of Care Guideline that is available to anyone for free online. It exceeds government guidelines.
Humane care for our rabbits is important to IAGARB members. Our rabbits are gently and safely shorn either on tables or while resting on the lap of the handler. No restraints are necessary. No wool is plucked – ever. The membership of IAGARB ratified a Standard of Care Guideline that is available to anyone for free from our site. It exceeds government guidelines.
I.A.G.A.R.B. publishes an electronic newsletter to inform the membership of coming events, reports on gatherings, as well as articles on breeding, health, etc.
IAGARB has established an angora fiber cooperative with a line of four yarns, finished socks and spinning / felting supplies. The co-op is non-profit and operates strictly for the benefit of participating members. By combining our talents, resources and buying power, we have been able to work together very effectively.
-Used with permission of Susan Wiley Updated and Edited by Leslie Samson
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