(Example of an American Chinchilla senior buck pictured).
These rabbits are so named “chinchilla” due to the similarity of their striking fur to that of the South American Chinchilla. That particular animal is a rodent and it’s fur has been much sought after for the fur trade. The development of a rabbit with similar fur quickly made these rabbits highly sought after. Rabbits are a lagomorph and in a different order than that of the rodents and should not be confused with them.
Domesticated Chinchilla rabbits have a fur pattern that mimics that of their wild cousins. The 3 types discussed in this article have the same type of banding to the hair shaft or ticking that is called the Agouti pattern. However the main difference is that of the color. Wild rabbits and hares have a brown and yellow pigment to their fur where as the chinchilla breeds and varieties have a slate blue (gray) and pearl (white) coloration. The banding to the hair shaft is: blue, pearl, black, white, black. This gives the rabbit it’s distinctive look and the colors or bands can be seen by blowing into the fur. (1,2,5)
The first and smallest of the chinchilla breeds is the Standard Chinchilla. The Standard Chinchilla rabbit was first bred in France. It was created by M. J. Dybowski, a French engineer. He used Himalayans, Beverens, and wild Agouti colored rabbits to develop the breed. They were first debuted for exhibition in Saint-Maur France in 1913.
At the New York State Fair in 1919, all Standard Chinchilla stock exhibited was purchased by Edward H. Stahl and Jack Harris. It was known that these rabbits would be very popular and lucrative for the fur trade. These gentlemen and many others set about to create an even larger rabbit from the Standard Chinchilla. This larger rabbit was first known as the Heavyweight Chinchilla. It was created directly through selectively breeding the Standard Chinchillas for larger size. Both the Standard and Heavyweight Chinchillas were accepted as breeds in 1924. Shortly thereafter the Heavyweight name was changed to the American Chinchilla. During the year spanning 1928 thru 1929 exactly 17,328 American Chinchillas were registered with ARBA. This is a record yet to be broken by any other breed of rabbit. Today, the American Chinchilla is now the rarest of the three Chinchilla rabbits, largely due to the demise of the fur industry in the 1940’s. They are a fine meat producing rabbit in their own right, but the market has gone on to favor that of rabbits with white fur. (3)
A proposed working standard was presented for the American Chinchilla Giant in 1924, but was withdrawn in favor of the American Chinchilla (Heavyweight Chinchilla). At the demand of breeders of these giants, the standard was again proposed in February 1928, and this time the standard was accepted for the Giant Chinchilla. It should be noted that Edward H. Stahl, is the first and only individual to ever make a million dollars from the sale of rabbit breeding stock and is considered the “Father of the Domestic Rabbit Industry in America.” (4)
***The Standard Chinchilla is the smallest of the Chinchilla breeds. Mature bucks should weigh 5-7 pounds. Mature does should weigh 5 ½ to 7 ½ pounds. The Standard Chinchilla is considered a compact breed. (5)
***The American Chinchilla is a large breed of rabbit. Mature bucks should weigh 9-11 pounds and does 10-12 pounds respectively. The American Chinchilla is to be of the commercial body type. (5)
***The Giant Chinchilla is the largest of the Chinchilla breeds. Mature bucks should weigh 12-15 pounds and does 13-16 pounds respectively. The Giant Chinchilla is to have a semi-arched body type. (5)
- (1) Rabbit Coat Color Genetics http://www.raising-rabbits.com/rabbit-coat-color-genetics.html
- (2) Chinchilla Giganta Rabbit http://home.netspeed.com.au/reguli/chinchilla.htm
- (3) The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy- American Chinchilla Rabbit http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/americanchinchilla.html
- (4) The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy- Giant Chinchilla Rabbit http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/giantchinchilla.html
- (5) Standard Of Perfection, American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc., 2006