Saturday, December 22, 2007

ANGORA: grooming and shearing

The wool on an angora rabbit needs to be harvested about every 3-4 months. The recognized breeds of Angora rabbits in the US are the English, the French, the Satin and the Giant/and or German. The first three breeds are considered to be "molting" breeds, and the Giant/German is not. The molting breeds are supposed to an undercoat, and guard hairs. The Giants have 3 types of hairs. I will discuss my own rabbits, which are mostly German and German crosses. My rabbits do molt a bit, and this is noticable as trailing wool strands and wisps of wool sticking above the rest. It is easily no longer anchored into the skin. This is a sign that they are ready to be harvested. You want to get this wool when it is prime, and before webbing occurs. Webbing is where some of the loose hairs appear to be lying across the vertical hairs deeper's very easy to spot when the animal is being blown. Webbing can be combed out. If webbing is allowed to accumulate, then matting will eventually happen. Best to get to the job prior to webbing.The tools I used are as follows:The Air Force blower. A canister type similar to a vacuum cleaner, with a long hose and several nozzle attachments. This blows air instead of sucking like a vacuum does. It has two speeds...high and low. A grey hound comb. This is a metal comb about 7-8" wide, with narrow teeth at one end and wide set teeth at the other. Used for general combing, and to remove webbing. A slicker brush. a smaller sized one for the rabbits. This brush has numerous small fine wired bent teeth set in a flat base. It is a major grooming tool. You can groom the surface wool and by layering cam brush the depth of the wool all over the body.A stripping knife. This is a dog grooming tool that was designed for using to strip the coat of terriers. I use it to get small mats out of the wool. When I used to have English Angora I used it to pluck with. Nail clippers for trimming toenails. Scissors: I use a pointed barber style scissors, but this is a very individual preference sort of thing.Clippers: used for cutting the hair. Some folks use their scissors. I used my scissors for getting the matted areas under the front legs, around the neck, and cutting the odd areas...clippers do the rest. I will discuss clippers more later. If you use a blower as the mainstay of your grooming, you will not have to brush an animal very least my breed. I generally use the blower at least once between harvest sessions, but I try to do it monthly. Often about midway through a 3 month stretch, I will shear down the butt area, down the back of thighs, and around the genitals to prevent the area from getting into the condition I call "dirty butt." Incidently, my animals are not show rabbits, and the grooming and harvesting of those animals is probably different from my method. I clip toenails during these sessions if they need it. THE PROCEDURE: First place the rabbit on the grooming table, and give them a few minutes to relax while I check them over, and pet them a bit. Then I will begin by blowing them. If the bunny involved is a baby or is a nervous sort, I will start out on low speed. If they used to it we start with high speed. I blow them all over top and underparts as well. I turn the bunny over for the underparts, while cradling them by my left arm with their back resting on the table with the hind feet pointed away from me. Once that is complete the rabbit is placed back on his own feet on the table. Reblow the back, and then start cutting the prime area which is the back and down the sides. I have a catch bag placed conveniently close. I only save the prime wool and the 2nds...the rest is tossed. Some folks save that for various uses and for weighing but I don't. I weigh the rabbit before harvest and after so I know how much wool he/she had. I cut a small area where I want to start either by the base of the neck of near the rear on the back. Once I have that cut made I can take my clippers, and shear a straight line down the center of the back. The this first strip is the only one that is has no second cuts, and it is placed in the Prime bag. Following that I do one side and then the other, one strip at a time. I gather a hand full of wool and blow with my mouth to rid it of any second cuts and put it in prime bag. This stopping to blow is time consuming, but I would rather do it now than go through all the prime cleaning it out later. Seconds are the wool that is closer to the tail that is shorter, or on the belly or lower abdomen; sometimes on the brisket. Seconds are generally shorter, or a mix of long and short, might have a little VM (vegetable matter); a few more second cuts, maybe a small mat or two, and possibly some staining..but it is useable wool and good for blending, dyeing, and felting...just require a tad bit more work than the prime. Once the majority of the top work is done it is time to do the underparts. This varies for me depending upon the animal and how they are responding to this procedure. If they are limp and calm, I will generally sit down in a chair, and cradle them upside down on my lap and proceed that way. If they are large, or unruly or nervous, I will put their forequarters, and head between my knees and restrain them , while I work on the hind end. Again, for the same reason, above, I will reverse this by putting their hind quarters between my knees, and work on the front end. Once the harvesting and grooming is complete I fuss over them a bit to relax them. Rubbing the abdomen is very relaxing and almost has a hypnotizing effect on them. I then put the animal back in his cage, and clean up the area, and the tools. It takes my quite a while to do this. For one relaxed rabbit in good condition it will take me an hour just to do the grooming and clipping. For a bad conditioned animal or a nervous animal I have spent as much as three hours on them. In the beginning when I was learning it might tale me three hours to do just one relaxed rabbit. I'm sure there are folks out there who are more accompolished about this and are much faster...but I'm not there yet. Now to discuss clippers. When I started out about 2 1/2 years ago clipping angoras, I had an Oster Golden A5 clippers that I used to clip my dogs. This tool worked fine on the dogs. However, I soon found it would hardly budge through the fine wool of the angora rabbit. It was constantly jamming. So at that point upon a recommendation I purchased a mini Lazor clippers made by the Laube company. It buzzes through a prime coat like a hot knife through butter. It cost me around $200 plus or minus. Since that time I have heard of the German clippers used by many of larger breeders, and the literature on it reads well. I know there are numerous brands of clippers out there and so if you have opportunity to try them you are lucky. However, I am going to list some that I have either used or heard about and you will can then start your own research about them.

OSTER: I was unable to find a website from the company so therefore not a lot of information. This was the clipper I first had and it did not do the job for me. They can be found at

PREMIER: a great company, with lots of supplies related to sheep and goats, such as tags, fencing, shearing supplies. I have a friend who had one of their smaller clippers and she had a fair amount of trouble with it; I believe but am not sure that they have discontinued this model. they can be found at

LAUBE: this is the company that I bought my current clippers at. It is a USA product and they will communicate with you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The photo to the right with the fawn color is made from handspun yarn. The white yarn is a wool angora blend yarn and the fawn yarn is made from Belgiun Terveren...or wool. this yarn was spun without carding or washing, but just by polucking from a bag, and teasing it as I spun in a loose semi worsted method; then two plied it. It is knit in all garter stitch

Below is another version of the earwarmer. The white wool is the wool/angora blend yarn and the top yarn is more textured and is made from nautural colored sheep wool. It was done using my version of tailspinning. I took a class in that but never did quite get the hang of it...nevertheless it made a textured interesting yarn.

The wool used was a Wensleydale cross. As you can see I made this one longer to cover more of the head. It's very warm.

The photo to the left is another version. The white wool is from my yarn that was made from Bluefaced leicester x Shetland sheep and blended with my white angora bunny wool. It's about a 70/30 blend. Very soft and lovely and warm. It is knit in garter stitch from a pattern in the Interweave book called Handspun, Handknit. On the color side the yarn used is scraps of my left over stash. The blue is blend of wool and silk noils, and the black is wool and mohair. Court has modeled all of them for me.

I made these as Christmas presents, and made about 8 of them