English Angora rabbits have always been one of my favorite breeds, simply because of their unusual and comical appearance. I became acquainted with the English Angora rabbit breed as a child, when we were given a single white senior (adult) buck. My mother named the poor little fellow “Who Knows?” and it was through a great deal of trial and error that I learned how to properly care for an English Angora rabbit.
Let me start off by saying that, while a wonderful breed of rabbit, the English Angora is not a breed for the faint of heart, small children or couch potatoes. True, they are a beautiful breed to behold, but it takes a great deal of work to keep an Angora rabbit happy and healthy. Grooming is an essential part of Angora rabbit husbandry that every owner should familiarize themselves with, prior to getting an Angora rabbit as a pet. If you don’t prepare yourself ahead of time, you will find yourself in over your head in no time.
The Importance of Grooming Your Angora Rabbit
You want to groom your Angora rabbit regularly, not only to prevent him from having a bad “hare” day, but also for his health. Grooming an Angora rabbit is a necessity that cannot be neglected. If it is, there’s a good chance that your pet rabbit could die.
This may be a harsh opening statement, but it is very true – learning how to properly groom your rabbit can actually mean the difference between life or death for your bunny. Much like a cat, rabbits will groom themselves by licking and nibbling at their coat, particularly if they have a buildup of dander on their skin or if their coats become matted. As they groom, they injest a lot of this loose hair and, if it’s excessive, this can lead to a blockage in their intestines. This can happen with any breed of rabbit, but Angoras and other wooly breeds such as the Jersey Wooly and Fuzzy Lop are more prone to blockages, due to the density of their wool coats.
Wool block is a very dangerous condition in the Angora rabbit breed and many bunnies die when hair and food become impacted in their intestinal track. Fortunately, grooming your bunny regularly can cut down on matted fur, loose hair and dander. In addition to helping prevent wool block, regularly grooming your rabbit can reduce the risk of parasites like wool mites, and cutting down on the amount of dander on your bunny’s skin can reduce the allergens in your rabbitry. It’s work, but it’s also a win-win situation for both you and bunny.
Tools of the Trade – What You Need to Groom an Angora Rabbit
There are many different tools that will help you groom your angora rabbit. In this section, we will discuss what is needed to groom both a pet Angora rabbit, as well as the tools needed to groom an Angora show rabbit. If you’ve ever seen some of the behind-the-scenes grooming going on at the Westminster dog show, let me tell you they have nothing on these country divas!
In order to groom an Angora rabbit, you will need the following:
Spare clothes: No matter how tidy you try to be, you will still be covered in wool by the time you’re done, so be prepared to get changed after this grooming session.
An old towel or three: Not only will it help to protect your clothes from excess flying fur, it will also grant your bunny a little added security. Also, as a person who has bred rabbits for years, let me also say that they also come in handy because – sooner or later – you WILL get “wee’d” upon. There’s nothing more disturbing than grooming your bunny when you feel that tell-tale warm wetness suddenly spreading out over your lap. I personally believe it’s a revenge tactic.
A grooming table (optional): While not a necessity, I still highly recommend a sturdy grooming table for brushing your bunny. It allows you to work on your rabbit at a height that won’t cause a backache and it gives your bunny a feeling of added security as well. Grooming tables are very popular amongst people who show rabbits, but it can also be handy for the pet rabbit owner as well. If you’re interested in buying a good grooming table, check out one of your local rabbit shows or you can usually find them online for about $50-60.
A grooming platform (optional): Many owners of show quality Angora rabbits will invest in a grooming platform for their Angora bunnies. A simple carpet-covered raised platform, the Angora rabbit can be groomed or blown on this platform, as well as moved to the show table, without having to crush or flatten the rabbit’s wool by carrying him. While mainly a show rabbit tool, this idea can also be helpful to the pet breeder, as it allows them to turn the rabbit to groom her, without having to continually pick her up and set her down.
A wide-toothed comb
A wire slicker brush (for fine hair or small breeds)
A groomer’s blower: This is another tool that’s usually reserved for Angora breeders who either show their rabbits or who harvest Angora rabbit wool for spinning into yarn. Blowing your Angora rabbit’s coat a couple of times a week is an excellent way to push webs (the start of future mats) up to the surface of the coat for easy removal, and it will also help to blow the dander from your bunny’s skin. In a pinch, you can also try using a high-powered hair dryer for this, but you MUST ensure that it is set to a cold setting ONLY. Using a warm or hot air blower setting on your bunny could result in burning her sensitive skin. Also be wary of scaring your pet Angora with the blower and get her adjusted to it slowly – show bunnies are accustomed to blowers as babies, so they are usually used to it by the time they are ready for the show table.
How to Groom Your Angora Rabbit
I usually start at the abdomen, since the top is usually the main focus of the Angora rabbit. Gently grasping your rabbit by collecting the ears and nape of her neck in one hand, slide your other hand along her back and over the hindquarters as you gently turn your bunny onto her back. If you’re working on your lap, you can gently grasp her ears lightly between your knees and let her rest between your legs as you groom her. Grooming on a table will either require a very calm bunny or someone else to help support her, while you groom her tummy.
Careful not to scratch your bunny’s skin as you brush, gently working out any mats or tangles from the coat and insides of the legs. You may find that your bunny has some urine stains or skid marks on her fur, which you will want to gently clean away with a cotton ball and some clean water. Blow dry or wait for this wool to dry before combing it out, as you don’t want to comb the wool when it’s wet and remove its density. This is also a good time to clip your bunny’s toenails as well.
Be sure to groom underneath your Angora’s chin and don’t forget the furnishings around her face – areas which commonly become matted as your bunny eats and drinks. When that’s done, gently grasp your rabbit’s ears and nape, gently turning her back to rest on her feet once again. Now you’re ready to do the top half of your bunny.
To groom the rest of your bunny, use the same method as on her belly or as we mentioned before, you may want to use the blower to bring the webs up to the surface. Just take your time and go slow, not missing any part of your bunny and making sure to be mindful of her skin and eyes.
When properly groomed, an Angora show rabbit will look like a big soft cottony cloud, but pet Angoras don’t need to be so fluffy if you want to keep your bunny’s coat more manageable. Many people who harvest wool from their rabbits will thin the wool by plucking the coat – this doesn’t hurt the rabbit, providing you are only taking small bits at a time. Don’t be afraid to keep your Angora’s coat at a level that’s best for you to take care of. Your bunny will much rather be mat-free than look like a bunny pin-up model. Have fun!
Personal experience, having raised and shown rabbits