A bunny way to make wool

HOP­PING TO IT: They’re big and fluffy and they just hap­pen to pro­duce some of the finest fab­rics avail­able, so why is their just one com­mer­cial pro­ducer in the this part of the world? Lynn Lead­beat­ter meets Sarah Paul. Pic­tures by Bruce Rollinson.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

HERE are fa­mously more sheep than peo­ple in the York­shire Dales – 30 times as many by one es­ti­mate. That’s an aw­ful lot of wool – but not one of those 600,000 fleeces wan­der­ing the fell­sides will pro­duce fi­bres as warm and light as the An­gora rab­bit.

This lux­ury yarn is much prized by hand knit­ters and textile artists for its lus­trous sheen, ex­treme soft­ness and out­stand­ing heat re­ten­tion. But har­vest­ing the coats com­mer­cially is fraught with dif­fi­culty – so much so that Lit­ton­dale farmer’s wife Sarah Paul is the county’s only com­mer­cial pro­ducer of An­gora wool.

The bright and airy pur­pose-built shed next to her Arn­cliffe farm­house is home to an ex­tended fam­ily of 97 rab­bits. At first sight they all seem enor­mous – but that’s un­til you spot the most re­cently shorn in­di­vid­u­als, their fluffy heads look­ing oddly out of pro­por­tion with their newly slimmed-down bod­ies. An­go­ras re­ally are nearly all hair.

With the ex­cep­tion of a re­cent im­port from Hol­land to di­ver­sify the gene pool, all are de­scended from one fe­male ma­tri­arch but their coats range from shin­ing white through cream and gold to agouti, grey and cho­co­late. But build­ing up the colony has not been easy be­cause An­go­ras don’t breed like, well, rab­bits.

“They can be tem­per­a­men­tal,” ad­mits Sarah, “and at first I wanted as many

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