by Emily Drury
The angora rabbit has been bred to produce long, soft hair ideal for spinning into yarn. Every few months, when the hair is between 2 and 3 inches long, it molts. The hair is collected by "plucking," or gathering small bunches of hair between the index finger and thumb and pulling it out. Although this sounds like a painful prospect, the rabbit endures it in a quiet and rather disinterested manner. It is also necessary to regularly remove the molted hair, as it will easily become matted, and when the rabbit grooms itself will ingest excess hair and get sick. The angora hair does not need to be washed or carded before spinning, and can thus be spun directly from the rabbit, or it can be collected and stored for later use. Exalted for its softness, angora is very fluffy, light but warm, and comes in an array of natural colors. Some angora owners keep their rabbit inside as a house pet and litter train them, while others own many rabbits and collect large quantities of angora fiber to sell.
My angora rabbit, Daisy, is just over a year old. I got her as a bunny from the farm of a friend near my home in southern New Hampshire. Daisy lives outside in a cage and subsists on pelleted feed, hay, fruit and vegetables. I take her out regularly to groom her (combing out snarls, clipping her nails), and let her hop around inside the house or outside in her rabbit run. In addition to producing beautiful hair for yarn, she also makes a rich and generous contribution to the compost pile.
When I open Daisy's cage, I am welcomed by a soft, white, twitching nose. I like to think that she recognizes me, is happy to see me, and enjoys my company, but I am fairly sure that if a rabbit recognizes, is happy, or enjoys anything, it is food and not me. Once outside of her cage, she will sit calmly in my lap, assuming the shape of a massive cotton ball, almost perfectly round except for nose, eyes, and ears seemingly arbitrarily attached to one side. Inside the house and outside in her rabbit run, Daisy explores with a curious nose and expressive ears, hopping and bouncing around or sits perfectly still, pretending to be invisible. In the heat of summer she stretches out long, lounging in her cage to cool down, with her legs out in front and in back of her, her ears laying flat.