1. Natives of Northern Chile
Chinchillas originated from Northern Chile’s Andes Mountains. These rodents are mostly kept as pets and were close to becoming extinct due to demand. Chinchillas have been in existence for about 41 million years. They were among the first rodents to invade South America.
2. Chinchillas have the Softest, Dense Fur
Of all land mammals, chinchillas have the softest, dense fur. Their luxurious soft far caused them to be hunted by native tribes in the Andes Mountains. Their fur is extremely dense with 50 to 80 hairs growing from one follicle compared to 2 to 3 hairs per follicle in human beings. Chinchilla fur gained popularity in 1700s and by 1900s, the rodents had been widely hunted, almost becoming extinct. Countries such as Bolivia, Argentina, Peru and Chile banned hunting of chinchillas in the wild in the 1900s.
3. Chinchilla Fur Color
Chinchillas are well liked because of their soft fur. Originally, their fur was spotted yellow-gray in color. However, other colors such as yellow-gray, white, bluish-gray, black, silver and beige have gained popularity as a result of selective breeding. Each fur has a black tip irrespective of the chinchilla color.
Chinchillas are known to survive in elevations of up to 5000 meters or 16,400 feet. In the Andes Mountains, they survive in high elevations with average temperatures of up to minus five degrees Celsius. They are known to withstand freezing temperatures but cannot tolerate temperatures that exceed 27 degrees Celsius. Humidity and high temperatures can lead to heat strokes for these rodents. The best temperature for them is between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius.
5. Female Chinchillas are more Dominant
Female chinchillas are aggressive towards their fellow females. When they are ready for mating, females act aggressively towards males and are more dominant. Throughout life, females mate with only one male but males mate with different females. This is more evident among domesticated males where they mate with more females for reproduction purposes.
6. Nocturnal and Crepuscular Rodents
Chinchillas are nocturnal and crepuscular meaning they are extremely active at dusk or dawn and sleep during daytime. They nestle rock crevasses or burrow the ground to create tunnels that serve as their homes. They are highly social creatures that live in colonies consisting hundreds of chinchillas.
7. Chinchilla’s Teeth Grow for Life
Chinchillas have their teeth growing throughout life. They never stop and they can grow up to 12 inches in a year. When left on their own, chinchilla pets can gnaw on unsafe objects that can hurt or kill them such as furniture and electric cables. They have 20 teeth in total; 16 molars and 4 incisors. These herbivores don’t have canines.
8. Underdeveloped Eyes
Chinchillas have big eyes that are not fully developed and so they cannot see well. However, they use their long whiskers to ‘see’. Their whiskers can grow to reach half their body length to enable them feel stuff around them or ‘see’.
Chinchillas become sexually mature at 8 weeks. This is the time when they are also ready to wean. Baby chinchillas weigh 35 grams at birth and gain a gram per day. The average gestation period of chinchillas is 111 days.
10. Fur Slips
Chinchillas shed fur in huge clumps when under attack or feel threatened. This is known as ‘fur slip’ and is different from shedding. They hardly shed fur and only do so when they are stressed. Their fur grows back over a six month period. Chinchillas are prolific jumpers; they use the tail to balance. They can jump over 6 feet heights and have an average life span of between 10 to 12 years.