The Chinchilla rabbit is a gentle and docile breed of rabbit that originated in France in the late 1800s. It was initially bred for its meat and pelt for the fur industry and is a domestic rabbit. It has very soft and silky fur and gets its name from the Chinchilla (a South American Rodent), because of the similarity of their fur.
Sometimes this breed of rabbit is confused with other similar chinchilla rabbit breeds, and the different names used for those breeds, such as:
- The Large American Chinchilla Rabbit,
- The Standard Chinchilla Rabbit,
- American Chinchilla Rabbit,
- Heavy Weight Chinchilla Rabbit,
- Giant Chinchilla Rabbit
- and the Giganta Chinchilla Rabbit (the Gigantic one)
There are four separate breeds of Chinchilla rabbits, primarily distinguished by size:
- The Standard Chinchilla rabbit*
- The American Chinchilla rabbit *
- The Giant Chinchilla rabbit *
- The Gigantas Chinchilla rabbit
* Only three are recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). The American Chinchilla rabbit is listed as critical on the endangered breeds list by the American Livestock breeds conservancy.
Any breed of Chinchilla rabbit is simply gorgeous and its bunnies are very cute. This popular rabbit breed is tame enough to be kept as a pet rabbit.
A brief history of the Chinchilla rabbit breed
The Chinchilla rabbit breed originated in France, and its development is credited to Monsieur M. J. Dybowski, a French Engineer, farmer, and rabbit breeder, in the late 1800s.
He produced many litters of rabbits that he sold along the quays of the Marche aux Oiseaux, (the popular river market areas), of Paris, France; where he was nicknamed ‘Le Bonhomme Chinchilla’ (the Chinchilla Rabbit guy). To his surprise, one day he discovered a different color of rabbit in one of his litters.
This rabbit was unlike other wild ‘agouti’ colored rabbits in the litter, which normally had Lush (dark slate blue undertones), Tan, Black, and White-tipped fur.
This rabbit appeared to be missing half of its color and instead of the typical wild dark agouti color it had a silvery-pearl glint within its fur. The color was almost identical to the color of the South American chinchilla (a type of rodent); so it was called the Chinchilla Rabbit.
FACT: The usual wild rabbit ‘Chestnut Agouti’ coloring occurs from a Rufus Red or Tan sheen underneath the dark tipping.
Although M.J. Dybowski was credited with creating the first Chinchilla breed of rabbit, he didn’t invent the Chinchilla color; but he certainly developed the Standard Chinchilla breed through selective breeding, and raised awareness of the breed and made it a popular rabbit choice in France.
So how did Dybowski develop the Chinchilla Rabbit breed?
It is believed he mixed a Blue Beveren doe (female) with a Chestnut Agouti buck (male) to try to re-create the original chinchilla colored rabbit.
However, the result was not as he had hoped for as the fur was of poor quality.
He continued his selective breeding program and introduced various other breeds of rabbit into the mix to attempt to improve the density and feel of the fur. He wanted to re-create the unusual Pearl-White color (instead of the usual Rufus red or tan base) under the jet black tipping, as he continued to create the perfect Standard Chinchilla Rabbit
In 1913, Standard Chinchilla Rabbits were first shown in a competition in Saint-Maur, France, and in 1914 a Standard Chinchilla rabbit won the top prize at the French National show.
Chinchilla rabbits quickly became popular in France, for meat and pelt.
The fur of the Chinchilla rabbit breed matured more quickly than most other rabbit breeds which made them valuable commercially.
Where did they go to next, and how did the breed develop?
1917 United Kingdom – This Chinchilla rabbit breed, (the Standard Chinchilla Rabbit), was imported into the UK by an English lady, Mrs. Haider Lucy-Hulbert.
1919 USA – the original Standard Chinchilla rabbit breed was presented at the New York State Fair, by two British exhibitors and afterward these British exhibitors sold their whole shipment of Standard Chinchilla rabbits to two American breeders; Edward H. Stahl and Jack Harris.
Edward H. Stahl was impressed by the quality of the fur and decided that he wanted to breed a large size version of these, 5-7 lb, Standard Chinchilla rabbits.
He knew that a larger size version of this Standard Chinchilla rabbit breed would mature quickly, giving larger pelts and more meat, which would enable them to achieve a better price for their meat, and for their pelt; as the fur industry was highly popular then.
Stahl began his selective breeding program to create a larger size of the Standard Chinchilla rabbit in America.
He crossed a Standard Chinchilla rabbit with a White Flemish Giant rabbit, American blues, and added a New Zealand White rabbit and a Champagne d’Argent rabbit into the mix to create the perfect Heavyweight Chinchilla Rabbit.
The result was the American Heavyweight Chinchilla rabbit that was a larger-bodied rabbit than the Standard Chinchilla rabbit but retained the gorgeous looking, good quality fur coat.
It soon gained popularity and recognition and in 1924 was recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), with its own breed standard, as a separate large breed of rabbit. The original Standard Chinchilla Rabbit breed continued to be breed in the US and was adopted into the Standards book at the same time.
Its name was changed from the American Heavyweight Chinchilla Rabbit to the American Chinchilla Rabbit; as this popular rabbit had been developed and its standard recognized in the United States of America, it was given a name to reflect this.
FACT: Generally the American version of each Chinchilla rabbit breed is larger than the European versions.
The American Chinchilla Rabbit appearance: What does it look like?
The American Chinchilla Rabbit is cute and fluffy with an adorable silky soft coat.
What are the main characteristics?
This big bunny has silky soft thick fur that is irresistible to touch if you have the opportunity; rabbits generally do not mind being stroked and handled gently.
The American Chinchilla Rabbit is gentle, large-sized, and weighs at least 4 to 5lbs more than the Standard Chinchilla Rabbit breed. That’s a lot of rabbit for your money.
The American Chinchilla rabbit became popular very quickly once the breed was developed and recognized in the mid-1920s, in the United States. However, they were primarily bred to be a larger size of a rabbit to make them more commercially valuable; from the sales of their meat and pelt.
However, in the late 1940s the fur industry declined in popularity and different materials and fabrics were used as an alternative to rabbit fur for clothing and soft furnishings.
The fur industry did not die; it just declined in popularity in the US and also in parts of Europe; and as a result of this change in taste the numbers of this breed of rabbit reduced, to the point of it now being regarded as an endangered breed.
The American Chinchilla rabbit is moderately easy to house train and will become a creature of habit with patience and perseverance.
They are also quite agile and fast runners and can be trained to compete in rabbit show jumping (obviously with rabbit-sized jumps). Rabbit sports jumping and agility course racing is very popular in Sweden.
Power and intelligence:
Rabbits are prey animals and will act on instinct when faced with danger. They are not the most intelligent animal, but they have strong instincts and good eyesight and hearing. Once you build trust with them you can teach them to come for food and come to you when called.
Chinchilla rabbits are a group of three rabbit breeds. They were specifically bred to have a coat that resembles the coat coloring of a chinchilla. Despite their name, Chinchilla rabbits are not related to and cannot interbreed with chinchillas (which are a species of rodent). Rabbits are lagomorphs.
They are good around children and generally have a relaxed nature. This large rabbit breed is ideal for any experience and type of owner from novice to seniors, as they are docile and generally non-aggressive when handled. The females display excellent mothering skills.
Physical Characteristics of the American Chinchilla Rabbit
Size: Large size rabbit
Height: 25”-33” (63-84cm) for Male and 23”-30” (61-71cm) for Female
Weight: 71-111lb (32-50kg) for Male and 55-90lb (25-41kg) for Female
Life expectancy: 5-8 years
Litter size: 6-9 Kittens (Kits)/litter
Coat Color: Usually a mix of color from Black, Gray, White, Tan, and Buff. The typical American Chinchilla rabbit coat looks like a ‘salt and pepper’ color but when the hairs are parted four distinct bands of color can be seen:
The hair color is separated as follows:
- Under color (next to the skin) – Dark Slate blue
- Middle color band – pearl-White
- Tips – Gray
- and uneven Black ticking all over the body
Coat type: The American Chinchilla rabbit has ‘normal’ rabbit fur, as opposed to Rex (king fur), Satin, or Wool coats.
An American Chinchilla rabbit has a low maintenance, soft roll-back coat. It is not hypoallergenic; there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic rabbit.
Tail: It has a typical round fluffy bunny tail that is white on the underside.
Eye Color: Can be Brown, Blue-grey or marbled, but Dark Brown is preferred.
An American Chinchilla Rabbit is gentle and good-natured. It will get on well with children as it is not known to be aggressive.
It has a fairly constant docile temperament and this would make it a suitable house pet for a wide range of people: first time or novice rabbit owners, those living alone, for elderly people or families with young children
They suit indoor or outdoor living conditions but do not like to get bored. This is a big rabbit and is not ideally suited to apartment space living.
Types of training required:
1) Crate – Buy a hutch or cage and get your rabbit used to going into it. This will become its nest and it will sleep there and just hang out in there to relax. You will have to lock the hutch in the early days so it knows it is supposed to live and sleep there and it will be a useful experience when transporting your pet. If you are brave you can let it out to run around your house, but keep all cables, wires, books, and papers out of reach as rabbits love to nibble things.
2) Potty training – This rabbit is moderately easy to house train. You will need to start early and take the rabbit and its droppings back to the cage or hutch each time and put the droppings on the litter base each time so it will recognize the place to go by odor and habit.
Eventually, it will know where to go but be prepared for the odd accident if your rabbit is allowed to run loose in the house and cannot make it back to its hutch in time. Practice makes perfect!
The cage should be cleaned out at least once a week, with litter and hay replaced regularly and fresh food provided daily.
3) Walking on a leash – believe it or not, you can actually buy rabbit leashes and teach your rabbit to go for a walk with you. Not too far though and be careful of its paws when very young, or on any hot ground.
Health problems and health issues
Some domestic rabbit breeds have health issues related to their fur, but the American Chinchilla Rabbit does not have this problem or any other hereditary disease. This breed of rabbit is generally quite healthy with a life expectancy of 5-8 years.
Teeth – A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing so it is very important that it has enough hay to gnaw on. 70% of the rabbit’s food intake should come from hay and chewing hay will help keep the teeth from over-growing.
A rabbit’s teeth must not be allowed to grow too long as they can grow into their jaws and face which can be both painful and prevent them from eating properly. Overgrown teeth must be filed down by a Vet.
Caring for an American Chinchilla Rabbit- what’s needed?
Feed as a large-sized rabbit, 70% of the rabbit’s food intake should be from hay, the rest should be a mix of formulated rabbit food, the amount you should feed your rabbit will depend on its weight, add some raw vegetables into the diet, as recommended by your Vet.
Believe it or not, not all rabbits like carrots!
The American Chinchilla rabbit has beautiful thick rollback fur which does not need much maintenance. It will shed more during spring and fall seasons and will, therefore, need to be brushed more regularly until the shedding slows again.
It will lick its own paws and clean its face and ears thoroughly and then display some interesting stretches to clean the rest of its body. Rabbits are by nature very clean animals.
There are a variety of soft and wire hair-brushes which will help keep your bunny’s shed under control. (Best check out what’s recommended on Google or Amazon.)
You do not need to bathe a rabbit. They will self-clean their fur.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Look after their teeth to prevent over-growth, by making sure they have enough rough food and toys to chew on.
Nails grow quickly and need to be trimmed regularly. If your rabbit is very active and allowed to run around, especially outside they will wear their nails down slightly. If not, they need to be checked, say once a month for length and infection. A Rabbit’s nails should not be trimmed past where the white end of the nail meets the pink part!
Despite the rabbit regularly cleaning its own ears, their ears still need to be checked for dirt build-up, mites or infection regularly, especially if they are kept outdoors.
What’s life like for an American Chinchilla rabbit?
An American Chinchilla rabbit is a great big, beautiful ball of thick soft fur. It will adapt to any home and it will be very difficult for any owner to resist stroking this big rabbit on a regular basis.
They are generally friendly and gentle and house-trainable. They will feel at home in their cage or hutch but will appreciate the opportunity to venture out of their living space when possible and just run around like rabbits are supposed to do.
Although an American Chinchilla rabbit is quite docile it will still need enough stimulation and could start biting and banging on the cage door to try to escape if it is not stimulated. It may also run about the cage frantically if it lacks something interesting to do, so the cage should be provided with suitable objects for it to play with; objects that parts cannot be easily bitten off or it may choke.
Golf balls or a big lump of hardwood are ideal, or a piece of large PVC tubing would make an ideal burrow tunnel for it to practice its burrowing instincts and play in. Be careful if the rabbit is housed outside, that the hutch or cage is lifted off the ground and sealed with fine mesh or wire to protect it from predators.
Whether you keep your American Chinchilla rabbit as an indoor pet or outdoor pet you must ensure it has enough space in its cage to stretch out completely to rest or sleep and enough room to keep its food away from where it sleeps or its litter tray.
The recommended minimum caged space for an American Chinchilla rabbit is 14 inches tall and a 4 foot squared base area; the bigger the space the better for this big rabbit.
Care must be taken to ensure there are no sharp edges left within the cage, especially if you are building it yourself. An American Chinchilla rabbit has extremely soft fur and likes to run about from time to time so it must not be able to snag itself on anything rough or protruding in its cage walls, floor, or door.
They love attention as they are sociable and gentle around all ages of people
Positives and Negatives of ownership
- Very cute, big fluffy pet rabbit
- Beautiful thick and soft fur, adorable to touch
- Makes a great family pet
- Good with children, if they are gentle
- Doesn’t mind being handled and cuddled
- House trainable, suitable for first-time rabbit owners or seniors
- Suits indoors or outdoor living
- Now the rarest of all the domestic rabbit breeds
- Only rabbit listed as ‘critical’ by the Livestock Conservancy
- Not easy to find
- Does not tolerate very hot temperatures well, or extreme cold
- Will need sufficient stimulation or will bite at cage contents
- Generally too big for apartment living
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does an American Chinchilla Rabbit cost?
A. Around $40, from a reputable breeder. This is now considered to be a rare breed on the endangered breeds list, by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, so it may be difficult to find the one you are looking for.
Do your research before you buy and check the breeder or seller, its health history, and any characteristics that might give cause for concern.
Food and litter material will cost around $20-25 per month, plus Vets fees, vaccinations and accessories all need to be factored into the cost of owning your rabbit
Q. Is an American Chinchilla Rabbit a rodent?
A. No, it is not a rodent. Rabbits, hares, and a few other species make up the Lagomorpha species.
The Rodentia, (rodent population) does not include rabbits; rabbits differ from rodents in having an extra pair of incisors and in other skeletal features.
Q. Is a Chinchilla Rabbit – half Rabbit and half Chinchilla?
A. No, Chinchilla Rabbit breeds are not in any way related to Chinchillas nor are they bred with them. A Chinchilla is a breed of rodent (Rodentia)