Biology and behavior


Chinchillas are rodents and belong to the family of the chinchillidae. Chinchillas are originally from the Western part of South America and in the past, could be found from the mountain lands to the coastal regions. Because of its soft fur, the chinchilla is hunted intensely and has almost been exterminated. Today, only few chinchilla can still be found in the scanty mountain regions of Chile. These regions do not correspond to the natural habitat of the animals but it is only in these deserted regions that populations of these shy animals were able to survive.


With their large ears and long bushy tails and their hopping, chinchillas remind you of rabbits or squirrels. Their fore legs and paws are short but their hind legs and paws are long and strong. Their build supports their preferred manner to move, i.e. hopping. Chinchillas are exclusively nocturnal, which is why their eyes and ears are fairly large. Females have a torso length of 22 to 38 cm (tail: 12 to 18 cm) and are larger than the male animals. Females weigh up to 800 g, males no more than 500 g.


Chinchillas are plant-eaters. They feed mainly on grass, fruit, leaves, and barks but they also eat the meaty parts of certain cactuses. During the day, chinchillas withdraw to rocky caves. In order to clean their furs, chinchillas regularly bathe in fine sand.


In free nature, chinchillas live in large colonies of 100 or more animals. Females react aggressively to one another and therefore keep their distance. Aggressive behavior towards male animals is, however, also possible. 111 days after mating, females will have litters of 1 to 6 young. The young are suckled for 6 to 8 weeks. At 6 to 7 months, the animals are sexually mature. Chinchilla females usually have two litters a year. They can reach 10 and in captivity, even 20 years of age.


Almost eradicated

© Stefan Koeder /

Further information

Find beautiful pictures and short video clips on chinchillas in free nature here:


ARKive video - Long-tailed chinchilla - overview