Chinchilla, a little animal of the family chinehillidae and order rodentia. The family is defined by Mr. Bennett, to whom the world owes most of what is known concerning this species, as follows: The incisors are §, simple; molars 4/4-4/4, consisting of 2 or 3 taenial or ribbon-like lamella; or plates, parallel with each other, entirely surrounded by a vitreous substance; the crowns exactly opposite to each other, and flattened by attrition. The posterior limbs are nearly twice as long as the anterior. The tail, produced, has long and bristly hairs about the tip and on the upper side. Anterior feet five-toed; posterior feet four-toed, the nails small and subfalcular; the tail rather long. This is the well known fur-bearing chinchilla, the skins of which are so much used in the winter dress of ladies. The chinehillidm are gregarious and subterranean in their habits, and mild in their disposition. Mr. Waterhouse, in his "Natural History of Mammalia," makes the chinchillidce a sub-family of the family hystricidoe.
There are two species of this genus, C. lanigera and C. hrevicaudata (Waterhouse); the former, to which the following remarks particularly apply, peculiar to Chili; the latter, somewhat larger, coarser, and less known, to Peru. The length of the body of this beautiful little creature is 9 inches, and that of the tail nearly 5. Its proportions are close set, and its limbs rather short, the posterior being considerably longer than the anterior. The fur is long, thick, close, woolly, somewhat crisped and entangled together, grayish or ash-colored above and paler beneath. The form of the head resembles that of the rabbit; the eyes are full, large, and black, and the ears broad, naked, rounded at the tips, and nearly as long as the head. The mustaches are plentiful and very long, the longest being twice the length of the head, some of them black, others white. The tail is about half the length of the body, of equal thickness throughout, and covered with long bushy hairs; it is usually kept turned upward toward the back, but not reverted as in the squirrels.
Mr. Yarrell, who dissected one that died in the menagerie of the zoological society in London, has given the best account of it in the "Proceedings" of the society; and while he points out that in the possession of an extra toe on each of the feet it requires the generic distinction claimed for it by Mr. Bennett and Dr. Gray, he adds that the resemblance of the skeleton to that of the jerboa is also remarkable, particularly in the form of the head, the excessive development of the auditory cavities, and the small size of the anterior extremities compared with the hind legs. Although an extensive trade has been carried on in the skins of this interesting little animal, it is only within a few years that it has been seen alive in this country. Molina says: "It lives in burrows underground, in the open country of the northern part of Chili, and is very fond of being in company with others of its species. It feeds upon the roots of various bulbous plants which grow abundantly in those parts, and produces twice a year five or six young ones.
It is so docile and mild in temper that, if taken into the hands, it neither bites nor tries to escape, but seems to take pleasure in being caressed." Mr. Bennett says: "To the account of its habits given by Molina, we can only add that it usually sits on its haunches, and is even able to raise itself up and stand upon its hinder feet. It feeds in a sitting posture, grasping its food and conveying it to its mouth by means of its fore paws." It breeds freely in confinement.
Chinchilla, a city of Spain, in the province and 10 m. S. E. of the city of Albacete; pop. about 12,500. It stands on an abrupt hill, and is surrounded by a wall built in 1837 out of remains of older ones. It contains a handsome parish church, several chapels and convents, a prison, hospital, theatre, cemetery, poorhouse, barracks, and Latin and primary schools. There are various manufactures, and trade in cotton, wool, grain, and fruits. Quarries of granite, alabaster, gypsum, and limestone are wrought in the vicinity. The railroad from Madrid to Valencia passes about 3 m. from the city.