As the temperature drops and the leaves turn, the idea of curling up by a warm fire in a cozy sweater sounds nearly perfect. When many think of a favorite chunky sweater, they think of sheep wool, but the first thing that comes to Anne Ott's mind is the soft wool of her Satin Angora rabbits.
Animal Hobby Goes Full Circle
While growing up in rural Ohio and later western Washington, Anne constantly had pets, including Dutch rabbits that she showed in 4-H. She enjoyed rabbits, but Anne's real love was horses. She continued to stay involved with them despite her busy military service as a Military Intelligence Officer, Aerospace Engineer, and Flight Test Engineer in both the U.S. Air Force and the Washington Army National Guard, in which she served for more than 22 years.
As the years went by, Anne's hectic lifestyle, serving both in the National Guard and working 12 hour shifts as a volunteer EMT-ILS and firefighter, began to take its toll. It became harder and harder to enjoy raising and training her horses. One of Anne's friends raised and showed Mini Lop rabbits. Although Anne didn't like the idea of having them as livestock, she did enjoy working with them, bringing her original 4-H rabbit hobby full circle. Angora rabbits, which provide a natural fiber source, were an ideal choice since Anne loves crafts—everything from quilting to painting to knitting.
"I've never looked back, and to be honest, I don't miss horses at all anymore," said Anne about her switch back to rabbits. "I've found the American Rabbit Breeders' Association shows to be a great hobby, with all the challenges of genetic development of new color varieties, and the enjoyment of raising gorgeous, friendly, Satin Angora rabbits as part of our family farm operation."
Raising Satin Angoras
Anne's rabbits definitely aren't livestock. They enjoy outdoor turnout year-round and air conditioning in their rabbitry building, even though Anne's 100 year old farmhouse doesn't have air conditioning. She gives them toys, beds to lie on, shelves to jump onto, free-choice home-raised grass hay to help prevent wool block, fresh parsley, herbs, and carrots as treats, fresh water in both crocks and bottles, and Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Show Formula.
According to Anne, even though Angoras need more grooming than other breeds, Satin Angoras are relatively trouble-free to care for since their wool is shorter and doesn't tangle easily. Anne grooms her rabbits individually, petting them and gently combing their fur with a soft slicker brush. After a day in the outdoor turnout, she uses cool air from a commercial dog grooming blower to dust her rabbits off.
"Since I hand-spin my Satin Angora wool, the feed that I choose is very important," said Anne. "The added fat, vitamins, minerals, and special gastrointestinal additives, like yucca shidigera, make Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Show Formula perfect for all of my rabbits."
"I've always enjoyed the Purina quality, from years of using it for my horses and now with my rabbits, said Anne. "Local feed brands just can't compete, as they often don't have Purina's fixed formulation and quality standards."
In addition to harvesting wool from her rabbits, Anne also sells her show rabbits both domestically and internationally, shipping across the U.S. and to Canada, Japan, and even Singapore.
Angora wool is extremely soft and great for people who can't wear sheep wool. It doesn't cause skin irritation or contain lanolin to cause allergies. Anne harvests wool from her rabbits through simple grooming as they shed. She often demonstrates hand-spinning at fiber festivals, craft fairs and rabbit shows. She uses both a drop spindle and a spinning wheel, but prefers a drop spindle since they're easy to make. You can find instructions on the internet to make one out of an old CD, a rubber 5/8" grommet from an auto supply store, a wooden dowel, and a metal hook.
"Rabbit wool can be used without any processing, as rabbits groom themselves, just like cats, so their coats stay wonderfully clean," said Anne. "And with Purina feeds to keep them healthy, a single Satin Angora rabbit can produce enough wool to spin and knit quite a bit of yarn, as they usually shed several times a year."
Anne's herdsire, Jailbird's Lou, was the Best of Breed Satin Angora at the 2009 ARBA Convention in San Diego. His offspring are also impressive, with his daughter, Louise, winning an Honorable Mention in Show at the age of 11 weeks and a Reserve in Show at the age of 4 months.
"ARBA Judge Cindy Wickizer called Louise the best Satin Angora she'd ever seen, so we're pleased to know that we're not only producing quality Angora fiber for spinning, but we're raising top show quality rabbits with great personalities," said Anne. "All in all, a fun way to spend 'retirement'!"