Long-tailed Chinchilla: Profile and Information

Long-tailed Chinchilla

The Long-tailed Chinchilla is an endangered rodent species that lives in tiny regions of South America.

The Long-tailed Chinchilla is also called coastal, Chilean, lesser chinchilla, or common chinchilla. Just like the short-tailed chinchilla, the Long-tailed Chinchilla.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Chinchillidae
  • Genus: Chinchilla
  • Scientific Name: Chinchilla lanigera

Physical Description

  • Size: The long-tailed chinchilla can grow up to 10 to 14 inches in length with its tail adding another 5 to 6 inches (which is longer in comparison to the short-tailed chinchillas).
  • Weight: The average weight of a long-tailed chinchilla is between 2 and 3 pounds.
  • Body Hair & Coat: They have very soft and thick fur that can be a variety of colors like black, white, grey, silver, or beige.
  • Head: Small head with rounded black eyes, relatively large and round ears, and a small nose (nostrils).
  • Sexual Dimorphism: The long-tailed chinchillas do not have many visual differences between both genders, except that the males are slightly smaller and less bulky than the females.


The lifespan of the long-tailed chinchilla in the wild is around a decade; however, when in captivity or under the care of a human, a domesticated long-tailed chinchilla may live for up to 2 decades.


The current range of the long-tailed chinchilla is restricted to the rocks and mountains of northern Chile.


You can find this species in the barren, arid areas, inside dens made in crevices, burrows, and in holes among the rocks.

Classification of Species

There are no subspecies of this rodent described yet.


The long-tailed chinchillas are often mistaken for guinea pigs and rabbits because they are gregarious, social animals and are known to live in independent colonies, with up to 100 members.

Interestingly, unlike several other animals, the females of this rodent species are larger in size, and also highly aggressive toward the males ( during estrus cycle/commencement of the mating season) and each other.

However, even though the females are known to be aggressive, they would rarely engage in severe fights in the wild.

When the long-tailed chinchilla gets excited, they will express their threats or anger using a wide range of expressions, noises, and calls, including growling, chattering the teeth and even urinating.

Long-tailed chinchillas are mostly nocturnal rodents with their peak activity being before dawn ( meaning they are ‘crepuscular’).

It is rear to find them during the day, as that is when they usually take their rest, often hiding in the crevices and tiny holes in the rocks, inside woods.

Sometimes, they can be observed on bright sunny days relaxing close to their holes or dens, climbing up rocks, or playing and jumping with so much agility.

They make great pets because domesticated long-tailed chinchillas have been discovered to be very much social.

Unlike other animals that are difficult to tame, the long-tailed chinchilla can easily be hand-tamed so that they interact with other pets or even play with their owners.

Sounds & Calls

The long-tailed chinchillas are very vocal animals, as we have earlier mentioned, and they can make unusual sounds and calls, including squealing, grunting, barking, and sometimes chirping when they want to communicate.


The long-tailed chinchillas are primarily herbivores, or folivorous to be more specific, the long-tailed chinchillas mostly feed on plant matters, mainly eating grass and seeds, as also, different kinds of leaves, vegetation, roots, mosses, and lichen.

However, in rare cases, they have also been spotted eating bird eggs and insects, especially when there is a shortage of plant matters which they prefer. Domesticated chinchillas are often fed with oats, corn, alfalfa, raisins, hay, wheat, and even store-bought food pellets.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The reproductive cycle of these chinchillas is quite interesting as they do not have a particular mating season and can mate all year round. However, they are known to matin mostly during the winter months. The females are naturally monogamous and can bear up to two litters per year.

After mating, and a four-month gestation period that follows, the female long-tailed chinchilla gives birth to the young, with each litter having between one to six tiny long-tailed chinchillas.

However, the average number of baby chinchillas is usually two to three. Baby chinchillas are well developed right from birth, so they do not take too long to grow up to become adults.

The newborns are nursed and cared for by the mother long-tail chinchilla until they are about 6 to 8 weeks old. The baby long-tailed chinchillas grow old enough to reproduce at four months.


The fur of the long-tail chinchilla is so dense that no parasite can live in their hair, not even fleas that are known to attach to other animals. Any parasite that attaches to them will die out of suffocation.

While feeding, the long-tailed chinchillas will sit erect and hold their food in the forepaws. Sitting and eating this way helps the rodent to keep an eye on any danger that might be approaching their environment.

The mother, chinchillas, do not need to spend too long in parental care. The baby long-tail chinchillas wean only after 6-8 weeks, and that saves time for the mothers to re-mate and birth the next litter as quick as possible.

Like other rodents, the teeth of these species keep growing continuously, especially because regular chewing of coarse plant matters causes wearing of teeth.

One of the most used defense instruments of these little herbivores is their fantastic jumping skills. They are excellent jumpers with an ability to jump as high as 6 ft (1.8 m).

These rodents also have another peculiar defense mechanism known as the ‘fur slip.’ If they get caught by a predator, the long-tail chinchilla can release a part of its fur to get out of the predator’s claws. The pulled out fur will regrow in no time and fill up space.


In the wild, the primary predators of the long-tailed chinchilla include birds of prey, skunks, felines, snakes, and a few other canines.

Conservation Status

With their rapid decline in population, the long-tailed chinchilla has been declared by the IUCN 3.1 as ‘EN’ (Endangered).

Interesting Facts

  • The long-tail chinchilla has the thickest fur of all land animals in the world, with about 50 hairs growing from one hair follicle and one sq cm of skin carrying around 20,000 hairs.
  • The long-tailed chinchilla is one of the few animals that can sleep in an upright position.
  • Like rabbits, the long-tailed chinchilla ingests specific droppings in an attempt to get the required amount of nutrition from the food they eat.
  • The long-tailed chinchilla originated from the Andean Mountains of Southern America.

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