Chinchillas are a small rodent native to the Andes Mountain Range in Chile, South America. Prized for their luxurious soft fur, they were hunted and captured to almost extinction before a protection ban was put on them in the 1900s. In 1923, Mathias F. Chapman was given special permission by the Chilean Government to bring 11 chinchillas back with him to the United States. Today, nearly all of the US population of pet chinchillas are descendants from Chapman’s 11. Chinchillas have very thick fur in order to adapt to their cold life in such high elevation, some of them up to 16,000 feet. Their body is about the size of a baseball, but their fur is so thick that they look much bigger. Chinchillas don’t bathe in water because their thick fur prevents effective air-drying. If the water holds in their fur it can cause fungus or fur rot. To combat this, they bathe in volcanic dust which clings to the fur to draw out dirt and oil.