Our Beautifully Soft Angora Wool

©2010 Samson Angora

All Angora fiber from all Angora rabbits is comprised of 4 fiber types: Guard hair, Guard awn hair, Awn underwool and Underwool.  The notion that one kind of angora carries 3 fiber types and others carry only two fiber types can not be supported by evidence.

It is easy to confirm the presence of all of the fiber types.  All you will need is a magnifying glass and a sheet of dark paper.  Just look.

With the exception of the Rex rabbit, the coats of all short-haired rabbits are made up of these same fiber types.   As the angora coat is a mutation of short-haired rabbit fur, it follows that they would be comprised of the same architectural elements.  The 4 fiber types are the basic components of many mammalian furs.

People marvel at the exceptional wool yields of German angoras.  Their feed to wool ratio is extraordinary.  Why does their wool production out-perform other angoras?  The answer can again be found in the basic structure of fur.

Awn underwool and underwool fibers, which make up the bulk of any angora coat, arise from “clusters” with a common follicle root.  The more fibers in a cluster, the greater the coat density of the angora rabbit.  This is a natural adaptation that allows fur bearing animals to adjust the thickness of their coats in response to the seasons and changes in temperature.

©2010 Samson Angora

At the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Leslie Samson and Susan Wiley examined samples of all types of angora from across North America.  In addition to photographing all 4 fiber types in all angora wools, they observed wool clusters in the coats of both long and short-haired rabbits.

Under a microscope they noted that clusters of 2 to 6 underwool fibers were common in angoras that produced 500 grams or less of wool in a year.  Counts of greater than 20 fibers per cluster were present in plucked samples of high production German angoras.

Angora rabbits have a long history in Germany.  By 1920, the protocol for production testing was established at the Institute for Small Animal Breeding of the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg.

Since that time, the wool performance of Angora rabbits in Germany has been weighed and recorded.  Breeding selection has been based on quantified criteria and a specific goal setting program.
Under this system, Angora wool was regarded foremost as a textile material.  Attention focused on coat characteristics such as texture, suitability for machine processing and resistance to shedding, pilling and felting during wear.

By 1935, annual production of a single rabbit in Germany increased to an average of 422 grams or almost 1 pound a year.  Today, certified shearing totals in excess of 2000 grams per annum are not uncommon in Europe and North America.  By continually resetting production goals to greater and greater overall performance expectations, Angora breeders select animals with the highest number of fibers per cluster.

The IAGARB Standard for Angora allows for a total of 45 points for wool: density, length, uniformity and texture.  It calls for coats with substance and a soft, silky texture.  Crimped wool is desirable as it creates a lively yarn.  The remaining 55 points in the Standard are awarded for body type and condition.

©2010 Samson Angora

The ideal wool coat for a German Angora rabbit should require no grooming during its 90 day shearing interval.  The wool should remain free falling and without matting.  In order to select breeding stock with these characteristics, shorn wool is graded and those weights are subject to an adjustment that takes into consideration the percentage of useable wool produced.

The standard from Germany includes a valuable feature.  No rabbit is allowed to earn a score of 100 points.  Breeders are encouraged to constantly improve their rabbits.  Selection toward the ideal never stops moving forward.