The origin of the angora rabbit is unknown. The hair is very fine and soft and is used in the production of high quality knitwear, although currently there is a trend towards incorporating small quantities of angora in woven cloth.
There are basically two types of hair. French hair is longer and spikier and contains guard hair that is hollow and does not take up dye. The second type of hair is less spiky and is used to make a softer yarn that is sometimes considered to be an alternative to cashmere.
There are issues of animal cruelty in angora rabbit fibre production. Farming of angora rabbits is not always animal-friendly. They are farmed on a highly intensive 'factory farm' system. Farming of rabbits is highly labour intensive. Rabbits are bred in hutches with a grid floor to keep them clean and to not damage their coats. Being albinos the rabbits have to be kept in semi-darkness. The rabbits are shorn every three months or on the French type it is sometimes pulled. This pulling method offers the advantage that new hair grows after each pulling, but it is not favoured because the animal can suffer from shock.
China is the world's leading producer of angora rabbit hair, contributing approximately 90 percent of world production. Chile is the second largest producer.
The angora fibre has a smooth, silky texture making it difficult to spin. Desirable characteristics of the fibre include its texture, warmth, lightweight, and pure white colour. It is used for sweaters, mittens, baby clothes and millinery.