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WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?

From my own experience I have heard Chinchillas described as "like a mouse but bigger and furrier" "like a rabbit with a long tail and smaller ears"to a "A fat sort of squirrel", but in all fairness, I feel the only way to understand the appearance of a Chinchilla is to examine them face to face! Or at a second best, lets look at Mungo in a bit more detail!

The first thing that grabs the attention is the size of his ears! In the wild rodents such as Chinchillas need to rely on excellent hearing to warn them of any danger. Mungo does seem to have rather over sized ears even for a Chinchilla however. Moving on from the ears, large eyes show that the Chinchilla is a nocturnal animal, large eyes allow the maximum level of light to reach them to aid vision in the dark!Next on the face of course are the whiskers. A great deal of animals have these, they grow to the same lengh as the body is wide, thus allowing an animal such as a rodent, as it approaches an opening, an indication of if they will fit or not. If the whiskers are pushed against the body, then the body wont fit through the gap! Simple really!

Moving on from Mungo, to examine the body of the Chinchilla lets use these two pictures of Ripley, taken shortly after he came to live with us.

From these rather cute pictures we can see that the Chinchilla is a rather stocky, furry creature. Chinchillas have become world famous for their fur, and it truely sets them apart from other animals. The fur is so dense, light and soft that it has always been a source of envy, so much so that for hundreds of years the Chinchilla has been first hunted and then farmed for their fur. The reason for this amazing fur is that for each hair producing follicle on their bodies, 80 hairs will sprout. This compares to a human where only 1 to 3 hairs sprout from each follicle.

So now we have examined the face, the fur, whats left? The Chinchilla, as Ripley shows us from his pose is rather stocky, although this is deceptive, and is due in no small part to the large amount of fur on them. They have 4 legs, two long hind limbs and two short forelimbs. On each foot they have 4 toes with flexible digits. To finish it all off, coming rapidly along behind the Chinchilla is its bushy tail!

A Chinchilla's tail is very important to him. As you can see from the picture here of Mungo, the tail is stiff and firm to help with balance. They typically range from 7 to 25cm in length, covering up to one third of their total body length. Although this page is dedicated to examining how a Chinchilla looks, I will add here that it is very important you never pick up a Chinchilla by its tail, while it may look large, it is once more the fur giving the suggestion of this rather than them actually having a big tail, so to pick them up by it could seriously damage them!