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Chinchillas are furry mammals that are often kept as household pets, similarly to fellow rodents guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice. Two distinct species of chinchilla exist in the world, the short-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla) and the long-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera). The main physical distinguishing factor between the two species involves the tails -- long-tailed chinchillas obviously have lengthier ones.
Chinchilla Fur Texture
Both the short-tailed and long-tailed chinchilla have fur that is markedly thick and smooth in texture. Every individual hair follicle makes way for about 60 separate hairs, according to Animal Diversity Web of the University of Michigan. The fur on the tail differs slightly in texture, and has a rougher feel to it. Since the fur isn't packed very tightly onto these chinchillas' bodies, it has a tendency to fall out very easily. The uber-thick chinchilla fur is handy, as it helps defend the rodents against frigid weather situations.
Chinchilla Fur Coloring
In general, short-tailed and long-tailed chinchillas possess fur that is grayish-blue on the top, with white, yellow or off-white underbellies. The silky fur is usually black on the edges, as well.
Fur and Hunting
Both species of chinchilla are classified as being "critically endangered" animals by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, as of the 2008 reports. Illicit hunting for the prized fur is a serious problem for chinchillas that wander freely throughout their native South American geographic scope. This unlawful hunting is especially common in isolated regions. To produce one single coat out of chinchilla fur, 100 of the rodents are necessary, indicates The Zoo in Forest Park. Populations for both species are believed to be going down. However, conservation efforts for keeping chinchillas going strong are in full motion.
Short-Tailed Chinchilla Fur
Although the two species of chinchillas have very similar fur, throughout history the fur of short-tailed chinchillas has generally been considered more of a catch because of its perceived stronger grade, indicates The Zoological Society of London's EDGE website. Short-tailed chinchillas are also usually slightly bigger than their long-tailed counterparts, which means that they have more actual fur to offer, as well.
- Endangered Species Handbook: Chinchillas
- Animal Diversity Web: Chinchilla Lanigera
- The Zoo in Forest Park: Long-Tailed Chinchilla
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Chinchilla Chinchilla
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Chinchilla Lanigera
- EDGE: Short-Tailed Chinchilla
- Animal Diversity Web: Chinchilla Chinchilla
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images