The chinchilla is a favorite of many animal lovers, but did you know that chinchillas come in another sub-species? The short-tailed chinchilla, scientifically classified as chinchilla chinchilla, is another sub-species of chinchilla that also deserves our love and attention.

Let’s break down everything you need to know!

Long Tail vs. Short Tail Chinchilla

The long tail chinchilla (chinchilla lanigera) is the sub-species of domestic chinchilla that we all know and love. True to its name, the long tail chinchilla has a longer tail and more angler body. The short tail chinchilla is stockier, due to a thicker neck and shoulders. The short tail chinchilla also has denser fur than the long-tailed species.

Other than these differences in tail length, build, and fur density, there is no significant difference between the two sub-species.

The Short Tail Chinchilla

The short tail chinchilla has its own unique traits, which can endear them to you especially.


The short tail chinchilla looks very similar to its popular, domestic counterpart. They have a short, bushy tail, a soft coat, and large ears. Their coats vary from blue-gray to pearl or grey, with a yellow or off-white belly. This coat is very thick, providing insulation in the cold temperatures of its environment.


Like its longer tailed counterpart, the short tail chinchilla comes from the Andes Mountains in South America. They create their dens in between rock crevices, hidden behind thick grasses and shrubs. They used to have a range of areas they called home, including Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia. However, due to the decline in their numbers, both species of chinchilla can only be found nowadays in Bolivia and Chile.


Because of their sparse and dry environment, chinchillas do not have a lot to choose from when it comes to food. In the Andes Mountains, the chinchillas only have access to grasses, twigs, cacti, and the occasional insect. For this reason, short-tail chinchillas are herbivores, compared to the vegetarian diet of their long-tailed counterpart. The short tail chinchilla diet consists of grasses, herbs, vegetation, and various insects. They get their water from the flesh and fruit of cacti, as well as from the morning due.

Habits and Lifestyle

During the soft glow of the sunrise in the Andes Mountains, the short-tailed chinchilla will come out of their dens to take a dust bath. A dust bath is how the chinchilla keeps their coat clean and shiny; because of the lack of water in the area, they use dust, specifically pumice and volcanic ash. They will rub their fur against this ash for hygiene—and if they are like their domestic counterparts, they do it for enjoyment, too. Being a crepuscular animal, active during dusk and dawn, the chinchilla will exit its cave at dusk, perhaps to take another bath.

Being nocturnal, they navigate at night with their whiskers, which are highly sensitive to vibrations. When the sun rises, they once again return to their hiding spots, to steer clear of predators and the harsh sun.

Endangered Population

Currently, the short-tailed chinchilla is classified as endangered by the IUCN, and their population numbers are on the decline. Their decline is due to a number of factors, a large percentage by which is made by humans.

Natural Predators

The chinchilla is a prey animal, and they have a lot of natural predators in the wild. The main predators of chinchillas are foxes, birds of prey, and snakes.

Environmental Threats

The chinchilla is a grazing animal and therefore has to compete with other herds, most of which are much larger than the small animal. In the wild, the chinchilla has to compete for grazing grounds against herds of goats and cattle.

Compared to this, environmental threats caused by humans are a bigger threat to the chinchilla. Mining and firewood extraction alters their home environment. Burning and harvesting of the algarrobilla shrub is a more direct threat to them, as this is where they make their home. Long-term environmental changes also threaten this species’ small population with eventual extinction.

Illegal Hunting

The biggest threat that the chinchilla population faces is hunting. Chinchilla hunting is profitable, because of the large demand for their fur, as well as the exotic pet trade. Even though it is illegal to hunt wild chinchillas, there are still individuals who break this law due to profit. Nonetheless, the introduction of this law is responsible for a slower decline in the chinchilla population.


There have been many efforts to stop the eventual extinction of the chinchilla population. The most common of which is the illegalization of hunting and trapping of wild chinchilla. Countries have also begun to restrict the export of chinchilla fur. Different organizations have also undertaken conservation efforts to save this adorable animal.

Here are some ways you could do your part:

  • Buy from responsible chinchilla breeders.
  • Refrain from buying items or accessories made of chinchilla fur.
  • Promote further study of the species, especially about its endangerment.
  • Support the conservation of the species, such as creating reserves and lessening the environmental impact on its natural habitat.
  • Lobby for laws that help chinchilla populations.

Now you know all about the short-tailed counterpart of the chinchilla we love!