The Chinchilla is in the Mammal family (Mammalia). They are
Rodents (Rodentia), and their family is called the
Chinchillidae (Chinchillas and Visachas).
family is considered as the umbrella of the chinchilla.
The Andes Mountains in South America is considered to be
the origin of chinchillas. The size of
chinchillas closely resembles the size of rabbits,
approximately 9 inches. Their thick and soft coats of fur
serve as one of their characteristic marks.
: Chinchilla langier (Long-tailed chinchilla)
About the size of a small rabbit
Height: 12 inches (30cm.)
Weight: 1.3-4 pounds (0.6 - 1.8
Long-tailed chinchilla = 26 – 27 cm long (body
Short-tailed chinchilla = 30 – 38 cm long (body
Long-tailed chinchilla tail length is approximately 14.5
Short-tailed chinchilla tail-length is approximately 10
The long-tailed chinchilla weighs comparatively
The female is generally larger than the male.
Up to 10-20 years - in captivity
10-15 years in the wild
The Chinchilla originated from South America. In the early
1900's the Chinchilla was almost extinct because they were
killed for their fur. It takes 80-100 chinchillas to make a
single fur coat. In 1918 a gentleman by the name of Mathias F.
Chapman was working in Chile when he saw his first chinchilla.
He set out to save them from extinction. Chapman and 23 other
men spent the next 3 years trying to trap the Chinchillas.
Because they were so few they were only able to capture
11. It took 12 months to bring these 11 Chinchillas down
the mountain of Chile. They took every precaution necessary so
they would not lose any to the temperature changes they
encountered on the way down. During the shipment to the US one
chinchilla died and a new one was born.
These eleven chinchillas were the beginning breeding stock for
all of the chinchillas in the United States today. By the
middle of the 1960's, thousands of chins were being raised
throughout the United States and Canada. The name Chinchilla is
Indian for "little chinta".
The original range of chinchillas included the foothills of
Andes and adjacent mountains in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and
Peru with the Long-tailed chinchillas inhabiting the southern
portion of the range. Today, the short-tailed chinchilla is no
longer found in the wild and the long-tailed chinchilla exists
in the wild only in two disjointed populations in Chile
approximately 250 kilometers apart. They occupy burrows at the
base of Cardon plants or shelter in rock
The general coloration is bluish, pearl or brownish
gray. Each hair usually has a black tip. Underside is a
yellowish-white. Bushy tail covered with coarser hairs. Large
mouse-like ears, large black eyes, and a small squirrel-like
body. Fur is extremely plush producing more than 50 hairs per
follicle. (Humans produce only 1 hair per follicle.) Small bare
palmed forefeet with 4 digits. Elongated back feet are also
bare soled with four weak claws and stiff bristles that may be
used for grooming. Cheek-teeth are ever growing and their
incisors are coloured.
Read more about Chinchilla Care
Mainly nocturnal or crepuscular, but have been observed sitting
front of burrows on bright days. These creatures are highly
active and energetic during night-time because of their
Chinchillas sit erect to eat, sunbathe and groom. Dust baths
are frequently observed in their behaviour. They can climb and
jump bi-pedally with agility. Formerly found in colonies of
hundreds of individuals. Very few current colonies have been
observed with over 50 individuals. Females can be very
aggressive towards members of either sex, especially within
captivity. Serious fighting is rarely seen the wild; however,
growling, chattering the teeth, and urinating express
Wild: Feces content analyzed in 2002 found that wild
chinchillas are opportunistic generalized herbivores, which is
probably an adaptation to the harsh conditions and high
variability in food availability in their arid
: Sexual maturity reached at approximately 8 months. Breeding
season lasts from May to November with a gestation of 111 days.
Usually 2 litters a season, however, on average only 1 to 2
offspring are produced in a litter. Newborns weigh about 35
grams each and are fully furred, have their eyes open and are
active. They nurse 6-8 weeks.
Chinchillas do not prey on other species; they are
Their main predators are foxes and man.
STATUS IN THE WILD
The short-tailed chinchilla (C. brevicaudata) is thought
extinct in the wild. Both the long-tailed (C. lanigera)
and the short-tailed species are listed as “endangered” in
Chile and “threatened” by the IUCN. Many are now being raised
commercially on farms for the fur and pet trades. They are also
used for medical research.
Both species of chinchilla were considered extinct in the wild
by 1953. However, the long-tailed chinchilla was “rediscovered”
in 1975. Because Chinchillas have one of the softest, longest,
finest furs of any wild mammal, people have harvested these
rodents since ancient times. Inca noblemen used the fur to make
coats and ate chinchilla meat