The hair of a rabbit can be divided into three types:
- guide hairs: external hairs, long and rough
- guard hairs (also called "barbes"): four guard hairs surround each guide hair, sealing the coat
- down: there are around sixty down hairs for each guide hair; they are very short and barely visible, and serve to insulate the rabbit.
Rabbit hair is commonly considered a byproduct of the ordinary process of breeding rabbits for meat, and as such is manufactured in vast quantities in England and France; more than seventy million pelts a year in France alone. However, the quality of fur from these rabbits tends to be low, as the rabbits are slaughtered before reaching twelve weeks old and still have the infant coat.
In temperate climates, the highest quality furs are obtained in winter from rabbits over five months old, when the thickness of the fur is even; at other times of year, varying degrees of hair shedding causes uneven patches in the fur. The coat is also at its thickest at this time of year. The highest quality pelts are suitable for clothing, and typically constitute less than half of all pelts collected.
The hair of the Angora rabbit is plucked and used as fiber, rather than as pelts.
See also