The angora is a type of domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), of which there are multiple breeds, including the English, French, German, Satin and Giant angoras. They all have one unique characteristic in common -- the active phase of hair growth is double that of other rabbits. This makes the Angora extremely desirable to farmers. They are farmed in hutches, in semi-darkness. The hair is removed, on average, every three months and one angora rabbit can produce up to 3.3 pounds of fiber per year.
The silky white hair of the angora is a hollow fiber which is considered to be a type of wool. With a diameter of about 15 microns, it is one of the silkiest of all animal fibers. It is very soft to the touch, due to the low relief of its cuticle scales. The hairs are light, absorb water well and are easily dyed. The best wool comes from the back and upper sides of the rabbit.
Angora wool is used mainly in knitted clothes such as pullovers, scarves, socks and gloves and produces a moderate "fluffing" effect. It is ideal for thermal clothing and for people suffering from arthritis and/or sheep wool allergies. Clothing made of pure angora wool is often too warm and the fibers are too fine to provide density. Therefore, it is usually blended with other fibers, such as wool, to improve its processing performance, elasticity and wearability. Most angora products usually contain up to 20% sheep's (or similar) wool.
Until the 1960‘s, France was the leading producer of angora wool. Since then, production has been overtaken by China, where angora farms raise more than 50 million rabbits. Other angora producers are Argentina, Chile, Czech Republic and Hungary. But many still consider French angora yarns to be the the highest quality available. Care must be taken when selecting Angora yarns. Source of origin and dying techniques make a big difference.