Angora rabbit hair fibre is a specialty fibre known for its excellent thermal insulation characteristics. Currently, these fibres are blended with wool in production of cold weather clothing and fashion garments. In India, these fibres are produced in very limited quantities and there is an urgent need for improving the production, development of new products and creation of market for these fibres. In this article, we look into the production, characteristics and product development aspects of this luxurious fibre.
Angora rabbit fibre is one of the finest specialty animal fibres with its well known reputation for fineness, lightness and softness. The Angora rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is raised solely for its fine and soft hair, unlike other breeds which are reared for their meat and fur (Figure 1). Angora rabbit hair is generally confused with Mohair, which comes from the Angora goat. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, any apparel containing Angora rabbit hair must be labeled as "Angora rabbit hair" on the garment. Today, China is the leading producer in the international Angora fibre market. Germany, France, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand are the other countries involved in Angora rabbit hair production. In India, these rabbits are reared in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and some north eastern states. The angora rabbits are reared in low temperature zone falling in the temperature range of 5 to 25C. They are generally shorn in every three months. The yield of fibre in different countries varies from 250g to 1200g a year. The price of Angora rabbit hair fibre is around Rs. 2000 per kg. The Central Sheep & Wool Research Institute (CSWRI) under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has its regional station in Garsa, Himachal Pradesh, where different varieties of Rabbits i.e. British, German and Russian are reared. In this article, the production, properties and product development with Angora rabbit hair fibres are discussed in detail.
Fibre Production and Grading
The Angora rabbit produces three kinds of hair:
(1) Guide hairs: They are 100 to 110 mm long; they guide and cover the growth of the other hairs.
(2) Guard hairs: They are 80 mm long. They have rough points that lock together, lie over the down hairs and seal it off.
(3) Down hairs: They are 60 mm long. The diameter of 1 2-141Jm makes down hair one of the finest animal fibers used in textiles.
The down fibres are very smooth, with few cuticles scales. The Angora rabbit produces hairs of several colours, but the strain bred for textile fibres is an albino strain that produces white fibres only. Colored Angora rabbits are raised in India for the manufacture of undyed artisanal fabric with muted colour motifs (Franck, 2001). It is difficult to obtain production figures across the world for Angora rabbit hair as there is no group or association specific to the fibre. Since rabbit hair is produced on small scale farms, actual production figures are difficult to establish, but it is estimated that the world production is around 3000 tons (Vineis et al., 2011). India produces about 100 tons of specialty hair fibres per year (50 ton Angora rabbit hair, 10 ton yak fibre and 40 ton Pashmina wool (Karim and Shakyawar, 2011). The rabbits are generally shorn in every 3 months before the hair starts falling which causes felting. Female rabbits