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Chinchilla - History

Chinchilla: Chinchilla lanigera (little chinta)

Chinchillas are beautiful little animals, are herbivores and originate from South America where they were discovered by Spanish pioneers in the 16th Century. They live wild in the mountains of the Andes, in nooks and crevices in the rocks, at altitudes of 1,000 to 5,000 metres where there are massive fluctuations in weather and temperature. Their thick coat protects them from the cold. Tame Chinchillas are, however, unable to withstand these extremes in temperature.

Chinchillas were kept and used by the native Incas and Chincas for food and clothing and were later brought to Europe where their fur pelts became fashionable and widely used for clothing. The demand for chinchilla almost made them extinct.

In the early 20th Century, a miner called Mathias F Chapman captured ten or so chinchillas and bred them in captivity in the USA, securing the survival of the species by servicing the demand of the fur trade.

It should be noted that it is no longer fashionable or ethical to breed chinchillas for their fur.

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