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WHAT ARE CHINCHILLAS?


Although there are tons of chinchillas living in pet stores, zoos and people's homes many people still don't know what a chinchilla is. The fact is that they are rodents. The world Cinchilla means "little chinta" given to them by Indians in their area. They are originally from the South American countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru and live in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains.



They were brought to the United States in 1918 at M.F. Chapman was on a working trip to Chile and saw his first chinchilla. He gathered a part of 20 men with him and they went to work catching as many of these creatures as possible. But they were near extinction at the time because of excessive trapping for their pelts. They caught 11 Chinchillas over 3 years. It took 12 months to bring these down the mountains of Chile and all of the them survived the temperature changes. By the mid 60's there were thousands of chins in the United States and Canada.














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Chinchillas were used in fur trading before they became pets. The spanish found that they had soft pelts that made great coats. In Europe in the 1700's and 1800's a chinchilla fur coat was a treat for many royals and aristocratic families. At the time it took 100 chins to make one coat. Because of this their numbers were near extinction when Chapman saved them. In their natural habitat they live in crevices between rocks and caves and they are very social and live in colonies of 100. Their number help protect them from predetors. Their natural predators include owls, foxes, snakes and hawks. Their grey color helps conceal them in the rocks of the andes mountains. Their tail also helps them balance their body so they can jump quickly and make quick escapes. They can use their hind legs to jump great distances. Their dense coats also protect them from the infestation of fleas and other parasites. They are very apt at survival.

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