Chinchillas can easily be distinguished from the other genera of Chinchillidae by their size. Whereas the viscachas (Lagidium, and Lagostomus) are large rodents of up to 9kg, the chinchillas are usually around 0.5kg. The most defining difference between Chinchilla lanigera and Chinchilla brevicaudata is in their size and body shape. Chinchilla lanigera are referred to as long-tailed chinchillas, whereas Chinchilla brevicaudata are referred to as short-tailed chinchillas (Jimènez 1996). As a whole, the most notable characteristics of the Chinchilla species are their fur and ears. The fur of these animals is known for its silky touch. The fur is very thick due to the number of hairs contained in each hair follicle. There may be up to 90 hairs emanating from each hair follicle (Saunders 2009). These hairs are adapted for keeping the animal warm in their original cold, dry climates of the mountains. The hair is also unique in that it helps to minimize dander, and is, in essence, odorless and hypoallergenic, making them desirable pets. The dorsal coat can be a variety of colors: grey white, black, charcoal, or sometimes a bluish color. The ventral coat, in comparison, is a yellow-white color. Maintenance and grooming of their hair is through dust baths, which helps to remove dirt and excess oil in the coat of the chinchilla. The “dust” in these baths should be ground pumice or silver sand (Saunders 2009).
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