The Chinchilla

Chinchilla Information Site

from a German Chinchilla Farm


About Chinchillas 

Chinchillas | Facts | Sex determination - female | male | Chinchilla species - lanigera | brevicaudata | Fur Colors

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Information on Chinchillas as Pets 

 Chinchilla Chinchilla lanigera

This site was made to help you decide if a chinchilla is the RIGHT pet for you! Please read the entire site before you make your decision.

A chinchilla is a LONG TERM commitment because of their 15-20 year lifespan. You have to think about where you will live for the next 15 years, and if you are prepared to keep your pet regardless of college, a move, a break-up, a new baby, or any other life change. Owning a chinchilla is like committing yourself to having a toddler for the next 20 years. He will get into everything, constantly put himself in danger, and never learn any better. If you think you can handle that part of it, read on.

A chinchilla is an expensive pet to maintain! Besides the cost of the animal itself, a decent sized cage and all the proper accessories will probably cost about 3 times the amount you pay for your pet. Vet care can quickly total into the hundreds for the smallest health issues, and a good exotics vet can be difficult to find in the first place. Monthly costs include pellets, hay, bedding, chew toys, healthy snacks, dust, etc. You should have money set aside for vet visits and keep emergency medical supplies on hand.

Check the PROS & CONS section first, and if you are still interested in chinchillas as a pet, keep reading. The best idea is to start gathering your supplies before you actually get the pet. Have the cage all ready and set up before you bring your new pet home. Find a vet familiar with chinchillas, and keep his number handy, just in case. If you prepare carefully, you will be that much more comfortable with your new pet once you bring them home.

Once you read this entire site, if you are still thinking that chinchillas are definitely the RIGHT choice for you, then start gathering your supplies and get ready to welcome your new pet home! - This is a Chinchilla site with many pictures and information on caring, feeding. Health and grooming of your chinchilla. The site is written in German language. Some of my page i have translate in English. has over 1400 sites in german.

This site is updated on: 04 January 2013
Created since: 01 May, 2003 (This site are over 8 years old)


 Chinchilla Facts and Care



CHINCHILLAS - Chinchilla lanigera

Chinchillas came from high up in the Andes Mountains of South America in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. Wild Chinchilla colonies were hunted almost to extinction during the 1800s. In the beginning of the 20th century the South American governments passed laws banning the hunting of Chinchillas. In terms of habitat erosion Chinchillas are still endangered.

Nowadays they can only be found in the mountains of Bolivia at elevations of 3,000-12,000 feet, a chinchilla eats roots, grasses, grains, bark, fruits, bulbs, leaves, stalks, seeds and nuts. Chinchillas teeth grow throughout their life and must be worn down. Chinchillas are low maintenance and have no foul odors if maintained properly.

The international trade in chinchilla fur goes back to the 1500's. Chinchilla lanigera originate in the Andes Mountains of South America where they inhabit rock crevices. The origin of wild chinchillas is in the gigantic mountains of the Andes; in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina chinchillas are at home. In this barren area, chinchillas live in crevices and caves, under extreme climatic conditions. They are subjected to considerable variations in temperature, long droughts as well as low humidity. They live on so-called puyas, among other things. Puya is a sort of plant which also serves as a source for water and nutrients and offers protection. Other bushes and grass plants serve as food as well.

The Spanish gave the chinchillas their name, after the native inhabitants of the area, the Chinchas Indians. The Indians highly valued these animals as their fur served them as a sheet to lie on for sleep, the sheared hair was used for weaving and the meat was tasty. The Chinchilla fur is considered the softest in the world and is thirty times softer than human hair.


Chinchilla facts


  • Life expectancy:  9 - 16 years, sometimes up to 23 years!
  • Tail length:  15 - 20 cm
  • Weight:  400 - 1100g
  • Hair length:  1,8 - 3,5 cm
  • Ear length:  4 - 6,5 cm
  • Sexual maturity:  with 4 - 5 months
  • Heart rate:  100 - 150 times per minute
  • Respiration:  95 - 170 times per minute
  • Body temperature:  37 - 39 degrees Celsius
  • Size:  25 – app. 35 cm
  • Gestation period:  app. 111 days
  • Number of young in a litter:  1 – 6 (2 is the most usual)
  • Number of litters per year:  up to 3 litters  

Pregnancy lasts about 111 days. During this time, the chinchilla couple lives together in harmony. While pregnant, the female needs an especially great deal of rest. In the last weeks of pregnancy the female often sleeps on her side. Practised chinchilla lovers are able to recognise a pregnancy from looking at the belly of the female alone. Otherwise the weight gives information about a pregnancy. Female chinchillas only gain weight from the 6th week after mating. It is obvious that the breeder has to devote his special attention to his females who are well advanced in pregnancy. If the birth goes off normal, he won’t have to take measures.

Merely fresh drinking water has to be provided because the females will be very thirsty after a birth! You may offer the mother animal a piece of fresh apple as well; it stimulates the production of milk.


SEX determination

Determining the sex of a chinchilla is very simple and can be determined right from the moment it is born. The hardest part is just getting a good look at that area. The best way to gain control of your chinchilla is to hold it with its front feet resting on your arm or leg.


At first glance, the genitals of both sexes look quite identical.


In the female, the anus and the urethral cone lie quite close together. In between, there is, nearly not visible, the vagina with a transverse opening. The buck shows a small space between the anus and the penis, app. 1 cm.

Female chinchilla

Picture Series 1 – female 8 months :

Female not in heat - vagina is not open
Female not in heat - vagina is not open

Female In heat – vagina is open
Female In heat – vagina is open


Male chinchilla

Picture Series 2 – male 8 months :

Anus and Penis
Anus and Penis

Penis and Anus
Penis and Anus, you can see a small space between the anus and the penis, app. 1 cm.


For comparison both side by side:

 A female’s urethral cone is often mistaken for a male penis


Adult Male and Baby Male

It can be difficult to sex chins, especially at a young age.  Females have less space between the cone and the anus that males do, but it is generally better to look at pictures because it is hard to describe how much space there is between the two sexes. 


Chinchilla species

There are short-tailed chinchilla and long-tailed chinchilla. These two species are further divided into subspecies.


Chinchilla Lanigera is distinguished by a more pointy face, a longer tail, and a more slender body, while the Chinchilla brevicaudata is thicker in the neck and shoulders and has a shorter tail. Visually the C. lanigeria looks larger, but the stockier C. brevicaudata is actually a bigger Chinchilla. It is mostly thought that the pets are of the C. lanigera species.


The genus chinchilla is divided into three species:

(Chinchilla species like lanigera, brevicaudata, king chinchilla and subspecies)


Chinchilla lanigera

Chinchilla lanigera

Body length of the chinchilla lanigera is 26 cm and corresponds app. our squirrel. Its head is pointed, when seen from the side regularly domed from ears to nose. The big thickly haired ears of 6 cm length seem to be very broad and become narrower to the rounded end. They seem to be rather long then broad. The whiskers are 10 cm of length, tail length is 14 cm, the fur is thin and soft. The colour on the upper side is light grey with darker spots. The underside and feet are of a dirty white. Hair length is 2,5 cm. The single hair is dark slate-grey at the bottom, slightly lighter in the last quarter, and darker again at the top. The overall colour of the chinchilla lanigera seems a bluish grey, the tail hairs are shaggy and app. 4 cm, partly even 7 cm long. The lanigera has 3 pairs of teats, which also holds for the brevicaudata and the king chinchilla.


Chinchilla brevicaudata

Chinchilla brevicaudata

(in German “Berg-Chinchilla”)

Brevicaudata Chinchilla - The brevicaudata has a body length of about 32 cm. Its tail is 10 cm long and consists of shaggy up to 4 cm long hairs. The head is in contrast to that of the lanigera considerably shorter. The ears are particularly rounded and have a length of 4 cm. the whiskers are a good 13 cm of length, the fur is very thin. It is longer than that of the lanigera. The back is light grey with dark spots, the underside is of a light colour. The lengths of the hairs vary between 2,5 and 3 cm. Because of this irregularity the fur is unsuitable for trade. The single hair is blue-grey at the bottom, then lighter, and at the top, e.g. on the back of the chinchilla, dark coloured again. The ends are bluish, very often also with a brownish tinge, and the lighter part is light grey and yellowish coloured.


King chinchilla

King Chinchilla - The king chinchilla is the biggest among the three species. It has a body length of about 38 to 40 cm. The ears seem a bit rounded and are app. 4 cm long. The tail length is about 7 cm but because of the covering with hair it seems longer. Its fur is exceptionally soft, light blue with a white underside. On the back it seems silvery mixed with slate-grey. The underside and feet are white. The hairs of the back are dark grey at the bottom and have a white girdle underneath the grey-black end. The lighter part of the hair seems sheer white. The darker part is of a rich blue-grey, which can partly merge into blue. The king chinchilla is regarded as extinct. A stuffed specimen is on display in the Senckenberg-Museum in Frankfurt am Main.

Allegedly, the Swede Martin Nilsson had possessed such a king chinchilla-breeding pair that brought him offspring within 2 years. Because of wrong keeping and feeding these animals died. Since scientists never got access to them, one has to assume that they were indeed not king chinchillas.


Further subspecies are:

La Plata type

La Plata Chinchilla Typ

La Plata Chinchilla Typ (The La Plata type has the strongest muscles and bone structure. It has also a very beefy and round form.


Costina type



Costina Chinchilla Typ

Costina Chinchilla Typ

If you compare the Costina with the La Plata type on the pictures, you can clearly see the differences. The body seems slim and “pointed”, the ears are longer and the animals seem not stocky at all.


Raton type

Raton Chinchilla Typ

Raton Chinchilla Typ

All wild forms of the chinchilla are nearly extinct because of excessive hunting. The colour of wild chinchillas ranges from light grey to dark grey and anthracite-coloured grey. The undersides of these chinchillas are considerably lighter, nearly white.

Sources ( literature and pictures ):

  • “Das große Handbuch der Chinchillazucht” von Dipl.-chem. Harry Eckard (1972) Verlag Harry Eckardt Miltenberg/Main 2. edition 679 pages ( German Chinchilla Book )




Scientific name: Chinchilla laniger (Molina).

Synonyms: Callomys laniger (J. Geoffroi); Ericetus laniger (E. Geoffroi); Eriomys lanigera (Bennett); Lagostomos Chinchilla (Meyen); Mus laniger (Molina).



The Chinchilla belongs to the order of rodents and forms, together with the Viscachas (Lagotis) a separate family called Chinchillideae, composed of a few species which are all native to South America. On account of its anatomical and biological peculiarities, this family should be placed between rats and hares, but it also has certain charac-teristics of squirrels.


The measurements of an adult Chinchilla are as follows:

  • From the snout to the root of the tail: 28 to 40 centim
  • Lenth of the tail: 13 to 16
  • Length of the ear: 4.5 to 5
  • Width of the ear: 3 to 3.5
  • From the ankle to the tip of the nail: 5 to 6
  • Width of the palm of the hand: 2.5 to 3
  • Length of the nails of the hand (front paw): .2 to .25
  • Length of the nails of the hind paw: .35 to .40
  • Length of the whiskers: 10 to 13


The general appearance of this animal is that of a new rabbit, the thick head, the long, somewhat stiff whiskers, the large, wide ears, rounded off and almost hairless; the large, black eyes, the skull divided behind and depressed above; the four molars with three layers of enamel; the hands (front paws) have five fingers, the thumb is complete (separated); the paws (hind feet) have four fingers, and are (built for) jumping; the strong nails, almost triangular, sharp and half covered with hairs which project by two or three millimeters; the tail is long, arched upwards, and it has on the Upper face very long hairs.

The skin is very smooth, silky, thick and fine. It consists of many woolly hairs and a very few pig-hairs which are from .5 to 1.5 centims longer than the former. The wool on the Upper part of the head has a length of 1.5 centims, on the back from 2.3 to 3 centims, and on the stomach from 1.8 to 2.5 centims. The hairs on the Upper face of the root of the tail are from 3 to 4 centims long, and toward the point of the same, (the tip of the tail), from 5 to 6 centims. On the sides and on the lower part they (the hairs) are quite shorter. The hands and the paws have long skin as far as the hand and the ankle; the remainder of the hair is short, smooth and thicker.

The color of the Upper face is uniform; a mixture of black and whitish silver lead-color. Every woolly hair is of a dark bluish lead color for 1.8 centims of its length; whitish for .4 centims and black at the tip. The hair (stiff hair) has the same color, but the black tip is much longer. The beard is black and partly white; the ears have thick hair only at the base, the other part is almost bare and of blackish color; on the outer side it is covered with a few short, black little hairs, and on the inside they are a little longer and white. The sides of the body are lighter (paler) than the back. All the lower part (face) of the body is white; each hair at its base (1.6 centims) is of a dark lead-color and white towards the tip. The Upper part of the tail is black mixed with white; each hair is black at the base and white towards the tip; the sides of the tail are white; and the lower face is black or whitish. The hands and paws are whitish.



The general color varies considerably, according to the length of the Space which the colors of each hair occupy. Thus, we see darker and lighter specimens, with shades of ashes color, whitish, yellowish, silvery and even some that have a slight tinge of dark brown. Neither is it infrequent to find skins almost white. It appears that the season of the year and the place in which it lives have much to do with the color. It seems that specimens caught in the winter are more white; and it is said that one coloring is more abundant than another in certain Valleys. 



Distribution It lives from the river Choapa, Department of Illapel, to the northern limit of the Republic (Chile), and perhaps also in the southern part of Peru and of Bolivia. It is found from the sea coast up to the high mountain ranges. It lives in the middle parts of the table-lands of Combarbala, down to the coast. In the Elqui ränge it goes up to an altitude of more than 2,000 meters, and goes down to within 25 kilometers of the sea shore. In the north (Arica, etc.) it goes back more into the mountain ranges, and specimens are still seen at altitudes of over 4,000 meters (above sea level). Long ago it was quite common in the country, and ancient writers relate that the number of these little animals was extraordinary, that they even ran around under the feet of the mules, and it is asserted that the traveler could see thousands on a Single day. Today it is quite rare, and from year to year fewer specimens are to be seen. Where it still exists in fair numbers is in the Depart­ment of Vallenar, but in all other districts they complain bitterly of its frightful disappearance, to the extreme that in many districts it is almost totally extinct, as for instance in the province of Antofagasta and Tacua.



From the high plains of Bolivia they send many Chinchilla skins to Europe, and there they give it the name, Royal Chinchilla. Ac-cording to Lichtenstein it is a new species, Eriomys Chinchilla or—Chinchilla Chinchilla. But the scientific descriptions that I have read, the pictures and the skins that I have seen of this little animal, lead to the supposition that it is a variety exactly the same as ours, differing only in its slightly greater size, (from 34 to 45 centims) and a slightly longer hair (3.5 centims), finer and much more thick. The drawing of the colors is the same, and now that we know that from Arica our animal seeks the slopes higher than 4,000 meters, it would not be strange if it were merely a variety which owes itself (comes from) climatic conditions. The National Museum of Santiago does not possess any specimen Coming from Bolivia, but I am hoping to obtain soon some specimens of skins of animals from these regions. 


Habits and Customs

The Information we get from the old writers, like Acosta and Molina, about the customs of the Chinchilla are quite rudimentary. The first person who observed it alive, in the London Museum, was the naturalist, Bennett, in 1829.

Later on we heard something from VonTschudi in his travels to South America; but after him there has been no more Observa­tion. Dr. R. A. Phillipi did not see it in his exploration of the desert of Altacama in 1860, and his son, Don Federico Phillipi (in 1900 director of the National Museum) did not see it either, in his visit to Tarapaca in 1884 and 1885.

The places in which it lives are dry lands, stony and rocky, the folds of the mountain ranges, high lands, rough places, with thistles, day formations, small Indian com among thorny bushes, wherever the land has cracks or is suitable for opening (digging) caves, and with preference for the place where the carob tree grows.


Diet Varied

It feeds on grains, seeds, fruits of bushes, thistles, tree tops, prickly pear (or Indian fig), sandillones (sandia means watermelon in Spanish), and other thorns; dry and green grasses, French daisy or globularia alypum, plants containing bulbs, little field onions, pin-like plants, beads of moss and of carbonillo (carbon means coal) and liquenes. Of all the fruits it appears that it prefers the carob tree, although its husk (or pod or hull) is quite astringent, but the seed is sweet and resembles the taste of a nut. They are in the habit of storing up the husks of the carob tree in their caves, and the hunters who know that hunt not only for the Chinchillas, but also for their caves, in order to secure the husks of the carob tree which are sold at a very high price to European "curtiembres" (workers in tanning skins or in oak bark).

The caves made by the Chinchillas are shallow and are generally found in deep cracks, under large rocks, in the midst of thorns, thistles and thorny bushes, and in places most sheltered from wind and rain.

As you see, they also hunt places hardest to be gotten at by men, foxes, vultures, owls and dogs, their natural enemies. What they like best is dryness, and for that reason they build their caves on an inclination upwards in order to avoid being flooded. They are also in the habit of deserting their caves after some time, and of building a new one. The place in which they want to build their cave is hunted for by the male and the female, and turn about they manage to give it the desired direction and size. Ordinarily they construct it in a straight line, and after a little turn they widen it enough for use as a store-house, sleeping room and nest at the same time. For this latter pur-pose, they stop it up with dry grasses and soft substances.


Breeding Habits

They breed in the months of August to October, for the first time, and then the male becomes very jealous and picks fights with the dwellers in the neighborhood, Utters cries like a rabbit, bites itself hard and ends up in a sad condition. One or two months after-wards the female begins to pull out her own hair, in order to pre-pare the bed for the young, which are from one to six, but generally they are no less than two and no more than four. It seems that abundance of food, and the mildness of the season has considerable influence here. The female nurses her young with the greatest care, and continues to pull out her own hair to furnish them with a nice, soft bed, while the male watches the neighborhood. In this period the female gets very weak, and its half-bare skin, all spotted, is not worth anything whatever. Later on the mother takes her young outside of the cave and shows them their food. As soon as they are able to feed alone, the attitude of the female changes. The cave has now become too narrow for the family, and when the young do not wish to abandon it, the mother drives them out by biting them. If it is a bad year, the pair is satisfied with one birth, but if it is all right, the female gives birth again in February or March, and it is also said that in good years they give birth even for the third time. It appears that this latter case is more frequent in the provinces of Tacna, Arica and Antofagasta; but very rare in the provinces more towards the south. Every time this phenomenon is produced, their months change in the following way: The first litter falls in October, the second in January and the third in April. These periods are also delayed occasionally by bad weather, and that has given rise to the faise idea that they give birth in all months of the year.

Young Grow Rapidly The young grow rapidly, and it is calculated that in from four to six months they grow to 23 to 25 centims long, and in one year, to a length of 28 to 30 centims. As soon as they attain this size they form new families and then the skin is useless because they pull out the hair. The period for growing hair falls in the months of the first conception, which are October and November. One may believe that nature has chosen this period in order to furnish them enough material for building their new couch.

The habits of the Chinchilla are quite like those of the rabbit and the rat. They run very fast, they jump more than they walk, climb on rocks that appear utterly smooth and hold on with their strong nails, that are short and sharp. They let themselves fall from a high rock with great ease; it then seems they are going to certain death, but when one draws near to pick them up, they have already disappeared! They move with great rapidity, they are never off guard, and at the least Strange movement or noise they run into their caves. Only after a long while do they stick out their heads to inspect the neighborhood, and then they disappear again. At last, when they feel sure, they come out in search of food, but never stay a long time in one place. While eating they sit on their hind feet, support themselves a bit with the tail, lift food to their mouth with their hands (front paws), and hold the food with them until entirely eaten. They spend the greater part of the day in the cave, and display greater agility in the morning than in the evening. They never get very far away from the cave, and they throw themselves into it at the least noise. Upon getting about the construction of the cave, they carelessly leave signs of their presence about the caves, and thus show men the places where they are to be found.


from the over 100 years old book " The Chinchilla " by Federico Albert - Chief of the Experimental Section, Zoology and Botany. Ministry of Public Industry And Works ( EXTRACT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY OF CHILE, VOLUME 10, PART 5 )

On the sixt side he wrote: Santiago, ( Chile ), November 21, 1900

You can see this very rare book here :


More Pictures and informations: