Chinchilla History

Chinchillas are small nocturnal rodents that are native to the Andes mountains of Chile. Their name literally means "little Chinta", named after the Chinta Indians who used them for food, fur and possibly pets. Several hundred years ago chinchillas were living sucessfully in parts of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina but now they are only inhabiting restricted regions of Chile [pictured right]. Despite the

chinchilla being officially on the endagered species list, their numbers are falling each year.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the chinchilla is its incredibly soft, plush fur. Unfortunately, chinchillas have become targeted for their softness by fur traders who, somehow, bring themselves to kill approximately 120 chinchillas just to make one fur coat. Poachers nearly wiped out the chinchilla population in the 1920's, but chinchillas have luckily made a comeback -- predominately as pets. It is estimated that only 1% of all chinchillas live in their native habitat.

The scientific name for the domestic chinchilla is Chinchilla lanigera, closely related to Chinchilla brevicaudata (meaning "short tail") and the viscacha. More than 99% of domestic chinchillas in the United States descend from 13 chinchillas [Chinchilla lanigera] brought here from Chile by Mathias Chapman in 1923.

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