Buy the latest copy of Country Smallholding magazine to read an article by Lee Connor featuring Lesley Hordon and Richard Grindey-Banks, who are our National Angora Club Members. The three page article covers the role of Angora rabbits in wool production and exhibition. Care, housing, clipping and grooming are featured, along with advice on choosing quality rabbits. The article appears in the magazine’s special 45th birthday November 2020 issue, and is well worth a read.
The National Angora Club is a non-profit making society which promotes the Angora rabbit and its welfare. Our members are spinners, exhibitors and companion animal owners. We sell the surplus wool of our rabbits to go towards the costs of keeping them. We keep our Angoras ethically, making it an expensive hobby. Vaccination alone can cost £70 per rabbit per year!
We produce Angora wool ethically by shearing the rabbit every three months. This does not harm the rabbit in any way. Rabbits sit quietly on the owner’s knee to be sheared. Wool is sorted into best quality spinning wool (above 2.5 inch staple) and second quality felting wool (coarser wool from chest and tummy, and shorter lengths.) Spinning and felting wool in White and a variety of colours is available by mail order. We also sell wooden bottom whorl drop spindles at prices suitable for just having a go.
The National Angora Club are often contacted by people who have bought or rescued a fluffy rabbit, and have been told that it is an Angora. Even the Rabbit Welfare Association may be mistaken, as their Winter 2017 magazine shows. Their article on Angora rabbits pictured 1 Angora, 2 Lionheads and a possible Cashmere Lop. The Club are willing to offer help to people struggling with their rabbit’s coats, but please be warned! Crossbreed fluffy rabbits often have coats that are very hard to care for, matting easily. If you wish for a long haired rabbit, think very carefully of the work involved. Obtain your rabbit from a reputable breeder, who will give life long support, and clipping and grooming lessons before you take your rabbit home. YouTube is not enough!
The National Angora Club had stands at two craft festivals in July and August this year. Fibre-East took place at Redbourne School, Ampthill, Bedford on 27th July, after a very hot week. Thankfully the temperature dropped so it was safe to bring Cheyenne, the Smoke Angora.
Anne demonstrated spinning pure Angora on the wheel, whilst Lesley taught spindle spinning.
This book tells the stories of rabbit keepers and their rabbits during the Great War. It was published on Armistice Day 2018, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.
The Fancy Goes to War
At the onset of the War, younger rabbit fanciers enlisted. Older fanciers struggled to keep rabbit shows going, and started breeding rabbits for meat. As German U-boats sank merchant ships, home food production had to increase. The Government promoted rabbit breeding, and the Food Production Department joined with fanciers in the National Rabbit Scheme. A Rabbit Club was set up at Buckingham Palace. The King was the President, and Princess Mary a member.
Feeding Rabbits in Wartime
The rabbit journal, Fur and Feather, continued to report the rabbit shows, and keep fanciers up to date with regulations on feeding their rabbits. It was an offence under the Defence of the Realm Act to feed human food to animals, punished by imprisonment. There were grave shortages of hay and oats, which were sent to feed Army Horses in France. Fanciers had difficulty finding substitutes.
Rabbits for Food
Many new rabbit keepers, outside the Fancy, took up breeding rabbits for food. However, standards of hygiene were poor. Wood for hutches was scarce. Among the unfortunate crossbred rabbits raised for the table, coccidiosis reached epidemic proportions. Hundreds of rabbits died.
Helping “the Boys” Start Up Again
When fanciers returned from the Armed Forces after the War, those left at home set up a scheme to provide them with free rabbits. Prices of rabbits had soared, due to the demand for breeding stock for food. However, no returning troops wanted Angoras!
Rabbits At the Front
We know that rabbits served as mascots on the Western Front. They also served in the Air Force, Navy, and in the Submarine service. Australian rabbits also served – as dinner for the troops! These made a welcome change from bully beef and hard Army biscuit.
The National Angora Club products competitions are open to all members, whether they keep rabbits themselves or not. Whilst it is great to see members on the day handing in their entries, those who cannot travel to shows can send in their entries by post.
The National Angora Club are now applying for stands at next year’s craft festivals. We have been accepted for Wool@j13 and the British Wool Show and are applying for Woolfest and Fibre East. There is a new Fibre Festival in Scotland, Ewefest in Slessor Gardens, Dundee, and we have been offered a concessionary stand. Sarah Garrehy has kindly volunteered to help. Are any other members in Scotland or the North of England interested in coming along to help? The dates are Friday August 16th and Saturday August 17th 2019. Advance planning! Website ewe.scot for more information. Here are the helpers at the British Wool Show in York this year, Sandra, Rebekah and Judith.
Cream breed standard for the English Angora rabbit
Head and feet cream, wool lighter cream with tips to match head
Creamy white belly, eyes blue-grey preferred but brown acceptable
The Cream is an Agouti colour. The Cream can be thought of as a dilute Golden (picture on the right) , and a Cream bred to Cream (picture on left, a really good cream colour) for many generations will have the genotype AABBCCddeell. At present this colour is relatively uncommon, although several breeders are now trying to increase the numbers of Cream rabbits available.