The first chinchillas in the US were brought in by a California man named Mathias Chapman. He acquired a chinchilla while on a working in South America as a mining engineer and decided he wanted to import and breed them. He got permission to go on an expedition into the Andes to collect some chinchillas and traveled from 1919-1922 looking for wild chinchillas. During this time, his group was only able to capture 12 healthy individuals. These were carefully brought back to California by boat where they were cared for and bred in specially built houses. It is believed that virtually all of the chinchillas in the US today are descendants of the original chinchillas captured by Mathias Chapman. Chinchillas are now bred for their fur and are kept as pets. They can make good pets, but are nocturnal and need a fair amount of room as they can be quite active. Like other rodents, they also need something to chew on to wear down their constantly growing front teeth.
Chinchillas are a small rodent species found in the high Andes mountains of Chile. At one time they ranged throughout much of the mountains of Bolivia and Peru as well, but they were hunted to extinction in these place due
to the demand for their very soft fur. Chinchillas have extremely soft, dense fur used to keep them warm in the
high mountains. Chinchilla fur was used by the indigenous Chincha people of Chile giving them their name which means “little Chincha”. As early as the 16th century, chinchilla furs were being exported to Europe. By the early 1900s almost 500,000 furs were being exported each year. Laws were passed in the early 1900s making the hunting of Chinchillas illegal, but not before they were hunted almost to extinction. Since then, numbers have increased, but there are still thought to be fewer than 10,000 chinchillas living in the wild.