CHINCHILLA RABBIT - Nikki White (Reguli Cavy & Rabbit Stud)
The name of this breed of rabbit is derived from the South American chinchilla, a rodent much used in the fur trade as it has the most expensive fur available. The rabbit has also been used in the fur trade and has a distinctive, sparkling silver ticked coat, being basically an Agouti (wild rabbit pattern) with the yellow pigment replaced by pearl. In cavies, this is Silver Agouti, in cats Black Silver.
The Chinchilla comes in two sizes recognised by the BRC, the standard Chinchilla which is a fairly small rabbit, and the Chinchilla Giganta, which is a large economy size bunny. A third type exists, the American Chinchilla which is mid-way between these two.
The Standard Chinchilla is a Fur breed and the BRC standard calls for a rabbit whose coat colour is to resemble the real Chinchilla with a dark slate blue undercolour at the base, an intermediate portion pearl (the slate to be definitely wider than the pearl) with black narrow line edging, pearling to be clearly defined, top grey brightly ticked with black hairs, either very even or wavy ticking, the neck fur slightly lighter than the body fur; flanks and chest ticked with uniform shade of pearl, eye circles light pearl grey, ears laced with black. The coat should be exquisitely soft, fine and dense, not a fly-back coat and free from woolliness, the length of the fur should be between one and one and a half inches, texture and density ranks over length. The type should have a moderate length body, fine bone, free from coarseness, the head should be medium sized with a short neck, small erect ears. The weight varies according to age. Under 4 months should be 2.041 kg; under 5 months should be 2.494 kg; adult should be 3.170 kg.
Faults include drooping or lopped ears, barred feet, odd coloured eyes, brownish band between black narrow line edging and pearl, pearling not extending down rump, woolliness and white toe nails. Disqualifications include white patches on body, feet or head, putty nose and being too fat.
The standard Chinchilla was originally bred by a French engineer, M.J. Dybowski, using Himalayans, Beverens and agouti rabbits. They were first exhibited at Saint-Maur in France in 1913, then at a major international show in Paris in 1914 where they attracted the attention of breeders from other countries. They were first seen in Britain at a show in Yorkshire in Nov. 1919 and caused quite a stir. At the time there were only two fur breeds, the Havana and the Beveren, both self, so these were something quite unusual. They also reached America in 1919.
The original strains were very impure and led to the production of many non-Chinchillas and the start of other breeds as attempts were made to improve the Chinchilla. These breeds include the Marten Sable, the Siamese Sable, the Silver Fox (through use of the Black and Tan), the Squirrel and the Smoke Pearl, all fur breeds. Even now, because of the use of other breeds to improve the breed, there are throwbacks to the Angora which produces woolliness; or else 'ghosts' where the pearl band is too wide.
The breed was developed for the fur trade, particularly during the 1920s. Unlike other fur breeds, they produce a commercially useful coat at 5 months which is much earlier than usual, leading to a rush of get-rich-quick characters when demand outstripped supply.
In Germany breeders Grueny, Offenbach and Geyer "chinchillated" wild rabbits with the use of albinos (i.,e. stripped out the yellow pigment replacing it with pearl grey). This breed is double the weight of the original Chinchilla. The American Chinchilla Giganta was made by crossing with Flemish Giants in the same post World War 1 period. it is considered primarily a meat rabbit.
SO, A CHINCHILLA, THEN?
They make good pets. They are friendly with a lively nature and are somewhat undervalued as pets due to lack of knowledge about them. They are soft and cuddly and of striking appearance. The Standard Chinchilla is not a large rabbit, being bigger than a Dutch but smaller than an English or a Harlequin. They would make a good child's pet being fairly solid and not flighty.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Standard Chin is a short, cobby, plump and finely boned rabbit with a sparkling ticked coat.
Ted Williams notes a curious thing, that if you have a winning Chin, it will be from pedigree lines from established studs, unlike some other breeds where you can get a flyer from random matings in the someone's backyard. So, at least if you are in England or have English imports in your lines, you should be able, with care, to make a success. The throwbacks like woolliness can easily and readily identified and sold to pet shops.
The coat should not fly back, and the best way to feel for density is to stroke the rabbit from rump to head. Good health, good coat and neat type ("an enlarged Dutch") are the three essentials. The baby coat reaches its best at 5 weeks so you can see if your matings are producing the desired results. You are looking for a wealth of coat, the correct slate undercoat and ear lacing. The coat should feel soft ands dense, the colour bands should be clear and well defined. They need little show preparation being naturally clean. However it is not recommended showing them in their nest coat but to wait until they are at least 14 weeks. They are, however, very rare.
CARE AND HANDLING
A Standard Chinchilla is a medium rabbit so requires a hutch either 110-120 x 50 x 50 or 80 x 80 x 60. Feed is as for other breeds - pellets, mix, fresh fruit and veg, as treats. Don't over feed. Their coats can be brought to a fine sheen by brushing with your hands and/or a piece of silk or satin cloth or mitt. Like all rabbits, they should be brushed with a slicker brush or comb in moult and given plenty of roughage (meadow hay or lucerne) during these times. They are basically an easy care rabbit provided you observe commonsense as outlined above.
National Chinchilla Rabbit Club, (UK)
National Chinchilla Giganta Rabbit Club, see British Rabbit Council website as they don't appear to have a website (August 2012)
American Chinchilla Breeders Association,
British Rabbit Council, Standards of Rabbit Breeds 3rd ed. 2011-2016.
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Williams, A.E. Ted, Rabbit Breeding for Perfection. Melbourne, AE Williams, 1992
"Breed profile: The Chinchilla Rabbit" Fur & Feather, Feb. 2003, p. 4-6; Fur & Feather Sept. 2004