France can lay claim to the creation of the original Chinchilla rabbit breed known today as the Standard Chinchilla. The breed was developed by Mr. M.J. Dybowski first shown in 1913 and his breed is often referred to as the “granddaddy of all Chins.” The breed was an instant sensation in Europe because its fur resembled that of the South American Chinchilla which is an entirely difference species and not a rabbit at all. The diminutive South American Chinchilla was rare but exceedingly famous because of their luxuriously soft pelts that fetched enormous amounts of money in the fashion world (for those that could afford them!) Their great shortcoming is that they were tiny creatures producing small litters of offspring. It would take almost 100 pelts to make a single coat. With this in mind a business opportunity presented itself. It was a great motivator for rabbit breeders to produce a similarly colored pelt that would be larger in size, produced more quickly, and sold for less money than the smaller South American Chinchilla. This opened the door for the less affluent to afford garments that looked like the more expensive counterpart worn by royals and the who’s who around the globe.
The Standard Chinchilla arrived in America in 1919 and the first American Chinchilla Rabbit Association was formed in 1923 with a standard accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association later that year. It is the smallest of the three Chinchilla breeds and reaches a maximum weight of about 7 ½ lbs. Shortly after its arrival in the US, a larger American Chinchilla rabbit breed was created as more of a meat type rabbit reaching a weight of up to 12 lbs. Not long after, the even larger Giant Chinchilla was created reaching a massive weight of up to 16 lbs.
Despite all of the massive popularity, as the demand for fur coats diminished in the later part of the 20th century, all three breeds of Chinchilla rabbits are now considered endangered.