Angora rabbits are characterized by their long, fluffy fur, famous for its use in sweaters and other clothing. In addition to their contribution to the textile industry, Angora rabbits are bred to show and as pets. In the 18th century, Angora rabbits were popular among the French royalty as pets. They are thought to have originated in Turkey, and their name derives from Ankara, Turkey's capital city. Because Angora rabbits are an old breed, they are not as skittish as some other rabbits and take well to human company.
Angora wool is very warm and very light at the same time. However, the fur must be blended with other textiles, because Angora fibers are too fine to hold together on their own. Angora wool is harvested without harming the rabbit, either by combing or gentle shearing, depending upon the breed.
There are five types of Angora rabbit, but the American Rabbit Breeders' Association (ARBA) recognizes only four: the English, French, Satin, and Giant Angora rabbits. The fifth breed is the German Angora rabbit. Since German Angora rabbits are not currently recognized by ARBA, another club was created in the United States solely for this breed, the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB). Some consider German and Giant Angora rabbits to be a single breed.
English Angoras are the smallest Angora rabbits and the most popular as pets. They feature fluffy fur on the face and ears as well as the body, and they require a lot of combing, as their fur is prone to matting. French Angora rabbits are easier to take care of, because their fur includes a top coat of guard hairs that are not as likely to mat as the fluffy undercoat. French Angora rabbits also differ from the English variety in that their face and ears are free of fur. Some French Angoras have ear tassels, or tufts of fur on the ends of the ears, but this is not considered a desirable trait among breeders.