The wide majority of rabbit breeds existing today appeared in 19th century. Although they differ in many aspects such as size, shape, fur and color, all of them have the same ancestor: The wild rabbit. There are more than 60 different rabbit breeds
Origination of rabbit breeds
This variety of breeds was created in two ways:
- Involuntarily: breeds developed in a natural way. Rabbits were transported from one region to another which gave birth, by the passage of time, to new breeds due to the different ways of lives in each region. Later, different males and females mated and gave birth to new different breeds.
- Voluntarily: Cross-breeding originated other breeds. Later, as breeders were looking for specific characteristics in rabbits, they created other breeds using genetic modifications. Such a process may take years to succeed. To be officially recognized, the new breeds need to comply with ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) standards. These standards are a detailed description of different criteria concerning breed’s weight, color, fur and morphology.
Breeder classify rabbits according to their size (although there are classifications taking into account other aspects such as color, fur …etc). We find giant rabbits, medium-sized (or standard rabbits) and dwarf rabbits.
We present in this article the most popular breeds.
Most popular rabbit breeds
The white rabbit
Two types of white rabbits are very popular: Californian white rabbit and Vienna white rabbit.
California white rabbit
This breed originated in 1923 in California. It is the result of multiple cross-breeding operations of the Russian rabbit and the Chinchilla rabbit and then the New Zealand rabbit.
The California white rabbit is well appreciated for both his meat and fur quality. Breeders often use it in cross-breeding operations aiming to get more productive meat rabbits.
It is considered to be a medium-sized rabbit as his weight at the adult age is around 9 lbs. As for morphology, he has a big rounded body, large head, pink eyes and long (4 inches) black ears. He has a dense and glossy white fur with black ends (ears, legs, tail, and nose).
This bunny can be an excellent pet thanks to his good character and beautiful shape.
Vienna white rabbit
The Vienna white rabbit emerged in Austria in 1907. Viennese Railway man Mr W. Mucke continued the work that famous rabbit breeder Mr Hermann Ziemer began with the objective to obtain a white colored rabbit with no red eyes.
Vienna white rabbit has a white fur and large blue eyes and exists mainly in Europe (Germany, Switzerland, and Holland). The rabbit’s weight varies between 6 and 10 lbs. He is athletic with strong muscles. His head is large and his neck is quite short. His fur is exclusively white. It is shiny, silky and thin.
This bunny is well adapted to intensive meat production. For professional breeders, it is the perfect rabbit since its meat quality is good and his productivity is high. Of course the quality of the meat also depends on the quality of the food he is provided with.
It is also a good choice for amateurs. Vienna white rabbits are docile and calm and can live in cages.
The Chinchilla rabbits look just like the chinchilla, the well-known mammal rodent. This is the reason behind their name. It is more of category of 3 breeds that differ mainly in their size: the standard chinchilla rabbit, the American chinchilla rabbit and the giant chinchilla rabbit. The three of them have the same dark grey fur.
Standard chinchilla rabbit
The standard chinchilla rabbit originated in France and is not very widespread. Previously used for meat and fur production, it is now an excellent pet and a beautiful competition animal.
Weighting between 4 and 6 lbs., he has a short and solid body. His strong head has two fleshy, hairy, and slightly inclined ears. His ash grey fur is abundant, smooth and quite long. We can also clearly see his dark slate blue undercoat.
As we said, in the beginning of the 20th century, breeders raised this bunny was for his fur and meat. Nowadays, he is an excellent animal for domestic keeping and for beauty competition. Unfortunately, as the US banned chinchilla hunting, more and more furriers found in the chinchilla rabbit the perfect alternative which may put the breed at risk of extinction.
American chinchilla rabbit
American chinchilla rabbits or heavyweight chinchilla rabbit are bred from standard chinchilla rabbits for larger size. As the standard chinchilla rabbit apeared in the US in 1919, American breeders tried to get a bigger and meatier version of it.
Weighting between 9 and 12 lbs. this breed is known for its slightly extended and strong body. The American chinchilla bunny has a strong head with 5 inches ears. As for fur colors, it is ash grey with dark reflections. His belly, tail, and chin are white.
It is perfectly suitable for beginner keepers due to its calmness and kindness.
Giant chinchilla rabbit
The giant chinchilla rabbit is the most recently developed of the three chinchilla rabbits and of course the largest. It is the result of many cross-breeding operations and selections made by Mr. Edward H. Stahl for whom the American chinchilla was not big enough. These cross-breeding operations involved the New Zealand White does, the Standard Chinchilla bucks and afterthat, the American Blue rabbits.
His minimum weight is 13 lbs. and his body is semi-arched with strong feet. His ears are straight and erect. The giant chinchilla rabbit looks just like the other chinchillas: same dark grey fur with the slate blue undercoat. As for eyes colors, they can be blue grey or brown.
For domestic keeping purposes and given its large size, it is preferable to provide for the largest cage possible. You can enjoy the giant bunny’s company as it is an easy going pet that gets along well with families and lives quite comfortably indoors and outdoors.
Flemish giant rabbit
Flemish giant rabbits are very popular European rabbits. They originated in Belgium in the 20th century. Given their size, they are obviously an excellent choice for professional breeders. They can also be suited for individuals given provided enough space is available.
As he pertains to “giants”, the Flemish giant rabbit’s weight at the adult age is between 12 and 16 lbs. Do not be surprise if you encounter bigger Flemish rabbits. Darius, the biggest rabbit on earth is actually a giant Flemish rabbit weighting more than 40 lbs. He lives now in Worcestershire, Bromsgrove in England.
If you view from above, you will notice his strong muscular body is 30 inches long and looks like a rectangle. He has a large chest and shoulders and strong well positioned legs. Female’s head is more extended while male’s head is round and strong. This breed is easily recognizable by is 8 inches long V shaped ears, and his wide open big eyes.
The giant bunny’s smooth fur can have many colors: black, blue, tawny. The most widespread color is the grey.
Flemish giants are considered meat rabbit, meaning they are commonly raised for their meat by professional breeders. That is, they are also suited for amateur keepers if some necessary precautions are taken into consideration. Specific bigger hutches are needed. If you decide to make your rabbit one of your family members, make sure he stays away from electric wires, TV and books.
Apart from that, the giant Flemish is such an intelligent animal, sensitive, loving and calm. He is so calm that it is not recommended to let him with disruptive companions such as kids. Also, keep in mind that he doesn’t like to be held in arms too often. It actually stresses him, so he may struggle against it and fall.
As you may know, to maintain his large size, the giant rabbit needs abundant rich and varied diet. To be included in this diet are alfalfa grains, barley, and hay. Some fruits and veggies are most welcome.
The rex rabbit is a European rabbit. The breed originated through spontaneous genetic mutation. In 1919, in the farm of Mr Callion –a French farmer- a male rabbit with brown and fluffy hair was born to two grey rabbits. Soon after, a female rabbit with the same characteristics was born to the same parents. Inbreeding of the two gave birth to the rex rabbit (meaning king in Latin). Later, Abbé Gillet conducted various works aiming to eliminate various malformation problems due to inbreeding and got an healthy rex rabbit.
Rex Rabbits’ original color is beaver. But they can also be in other different colors: black, blue, white, grey. Dwarf Rex Rabbits exist in the same colors. Rex Rabbit’s biggest appeal is his fur. Hair is particularly short and thin. Fur’s density is higher compared to other breeds which gives the rabbit a velvety appearance and makes him pleasant to touch. The Rex Rabbit generally weights approximately 9 lbs. and has a balanced body with a slightly extended head and 4 inches ears.
If you decide to raise one, it will shortly create a sensation in your family and among your friends. The rex rabbit is alert and intelligent. He maintains sustainable physical activity and likes to play with toys. For that, it is preferable to have a backyard where the he can run around and jump freely.
Given the multitude of colors available, you can be sure you’re bunny will be quite unique.
Lionhead originated in 1930 as a result of the cross-breeding of the Swiss Fox Rabbit and the Belgian dwarf rabbit. It wasn’t introduced in the USA until 1999.
Lionhead is a dwarf rabbit. His long hair tuft around the head makes him look just like a lion. The ideal weight is between 2 and 4 lbs. His body is short and his head is round and has a flat snout and short ears (aound 2 inches). Lionhead’s typical mane makes him very popular. Long and bushy, it surrounds his head with long hair and a fringe between the ears. His coat is less abundant and is shorter. The mane’s size and shape obviously change according to the age, to the weather and to the rabbit’s diet. As they get older, some rabbits would maintain a beautiful mane but unfortunately, others may lose their baby hair completely.
Lionhead is excellent for beginners. He is sociable and curious. He is also very affectionate and can give kisses with the end of his snout. Weekly brushing is a must to prevent node formation. He is to be handled with precaution due to his small size. Pay special attention when brushing him. If too much hair enters his stomach, it can seriously hurt his intestines. His eyes also need regular care so that hair won’t stick to them which may hurt his vision. You can do it using wet cotton.
Special dwarf rabbit food is available and is essential for you little bunny’s diet. You can also provide him with some veggies and fruits.
Silver Fox Rabbit
Here again, the name of the rabbit is due to the resemblance of his fur color to that of the silver fox. The breed is quite old. It originated in the 18th century in France but the by the French rabbit association didn’t recognize it until 1912. The beauty of its fur that particularly seduced women was the first reason for which the breed gained interest. After the collapse of the fur market in 1950, professional breeder’s interest turned to rabbit meat. Many conservation programs included the Silver fox rabbit in their lists because it is one of the rarest breeds in the world. Experts say there are no more than 3000 silver fox rabbits worldwide.
As for body characteristics, the rabbit normally weights between 8 and 11 lbs. His massive body is harmoniously arched and his muscles are compact and well developed. His back is long and thick. The bunny’s large and concave head has a rounded skull on which stand two V shaped medium-sized ears. This breed has the particularity that the little bunnies are born black and become progressively grey. Other variations of color exist: pale bluish, and dark slate blue.
The silver fox rabbit is very well suited for domestic use. He is easy to raise and offers one of the most abundant and excellent rabbit meat among all the breeds. Of course, the meat quality depends on a rich and well balanced diet that includes specific rabbit food and some dry food such as corn, wheat, and oats. You can also provide hay at will.
New Zealand Rabbit
This time, the name of these rabbits has nothing to do with their appearance or origins. New Zealand rabbits emerged in the US essentially in the intent to get abundant and good quality meat. In fact, this breed is an excellent meat provider. Some say its meat is the best.
Weighting between 8 and 11 lbs. New Zealand rabbits have a strong and impressive bodies with strong muscles and compact backbones. Their somewhat flat head is short and solid. Their jaws are voluminous and well pronounced. New Zealand rabbit’s fur is white, shiny and thick. White is not the only color they can be. There are three variations of New Zealand rabbits. White with red eyes (also called albino rabbits), Red with brown eyes and black with brown eyes. In England, breeders created a fourth variation: New Zealand rabbits with blue fur.
As we said earlier, breeders created this breed for meat production purposes. Also, scientific research uses New Zealand bunnies as laboratory animals. Some animal protection associations call for making them domestic pets after their long experimental career so they can enjoy peaceful retirement in the company of a loving family. In fact, they suit perfectly this role since they are kind, calm and sensitive. They also are alert and rustic, so they can easily adapt in different conditions.
Nutrition wise, like practically all other rabbits, they can be fed hay and rabbit food at will. Rich and varied diet is a plus. Keep in mind that the more balanced the diet is, the better the meat quality is.
Harlequin is a French rabbit breed. It originated in the end of the 20th century as the combination of the Holland lop rabbit and other multicolored rabbits in the objective of eliminating the white spots of the Holland lop.
His fur color is black and yellow-orange like that of a tortoise shell. Although his backbones are somewhat light, his body is still robust. His back is thick and large with horizontal lines. Above his bicolor and rigid head are two hairy close 4 inches ears. His Eyes are generally brown. The magpie harlequin rabbit is another variation. There is the black magpie (black and white), the blue magpie (blue and white), the brown magpie (dark brown and white) and the Lila magpie (light grey and white).
Magpie Harlequin rabbits are primarily competition rabbits. Breeders use them in beauty competitions. For this reason, they have to satisfy specific criteria required by the judges. Otherwise, rabbit lovers can use them for domestic keeping purposes. In fact, this is becoming new tendency as the competition criteria are more and more complicated.
As long as the cage is comfortable and full of toys, the harlequin rabbit will feel at ease. Many amateur keepers noticed that when these conditions are not available, the bunny can become quite nervous and aggressive towards kids.
Dry hay, fruits and vegetables and some rabbit food are perfect to nourish the harlequin.
Holland Lop Rabbit
The Holland lop rabbit is a dwarf rabbit. The little bunny originated in Netherlands as the combination of the French lop and the Netherlands lop. The breed is very popular and is the biggest of dwarf breeds.
Ideally, the weight of a Holland lop rabbit varies between 3 and 3.5 lbs. The bunny has a short, and muscled body and short powerful legs. His head is strong with an arched full muzzle. The moderately large fur is dense and shiny. A number of color variations are available: chamois, black, white, blue.
Raising Holland lop rabbits is very easy. They are docile, sociable, and loving. Plus they are very patient with kids. It is important though that the kids do not consider them as toys: like all other domestic bunnies, Holland lops need periods of calm and rest. Although they are the biggest of dwarf rabbits, they do not necessarily need a big cage. That is, you will need to clean regularly the cage. Holland lops are sensitive to moist, airstream and cold, that’s why the location of the cage should be carefully chosen. Moreover, make sure to change the water every now and then.
As for the diet, keep in mind the bunny is a big eater. For that, feed him only in small quantities each time. Classical rabbit food is suitable. You can complement it with fruits and veggies like for other bunnies.
This is another misleading name for a rabbit with English origins. The breed is the result of many cross-breeding operations involving Holland rabbits and other smaller white specimens. The breed developed in Germany and Eastern Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. As opposed to the Holland lop rabbit, the polish rabbit is the smallest of dwarf rabbits.
Concerning body characteristics, the rabbit is no heavier than 2.5 lbs. His body is stocky, short and muscled. His dorsal line is arched and short. The tail and legs are also short. Everything about this bunny is small. He has a rounded voluminous head with two very short and straight hairy ears. His has short, dense and thin coat. As for colors, two classifications exist: solid (one color) and broken (two or more colors). White, chestnut agouti, chinchilla and chocolate are example of solid variations. Smoke pearl and sable points are examples of broken variations.
Until 1950, the only fur color recognized by the ARBA for the Polish rabbit was the white. In fact, the Polish and the New Zealand rabbits share the same white gene of the Vienna rabbit. Later, ARBA recognized the other color variations we mentionned.
The polish rabbit is an excellent domestic companion. He is docile, vivid and gets along well with kids as long as they respect his rest periods. A small cage with some litter is an excellent bedroom for this little bunny. Regular cleaning is of course mandatory. If you leave often the house and leave him by himself, try to provide him with some toys so he can escape loneliness.
Nutrition wise: hay and water at will. Rabbit food in small quantities as polish rabbits tend to gain weight quickly.
English Spot RabbitOriginated in England, the English spot rabbit are the result of the cross-breeding of French and German spot cousins. The breed is moderately popular. The English spot rabbit is essentially used for two main purposes: domestic keeping and exposition.
The optimal weight of the English spot rabbit is between 4 and 6 lbs. For a standard size breed, he has a quite large body with a well-rounded back. His ears are straight and erect. His eyes have generally the same color of the spots on his body. The English spot rabbit has a beautiful coat. His fur is short and dense and the spots on it are form a big butterfly. We can also clearly see a spot on his cheek, a large line on this back, and dark colored ears all of the same color. The particularity of the coat is that the spots are symmetrical from both sides. Many variations of colors are available, the most common is the brown.
The bunny is easy to domesticate and very friendly. He is also very active and likes to run around for hours. He gets along well with other pets and with kids. That is, he needs a lot of space to enjoy freedom. As such, a cage might not be good idea. If you find it necessary, the bigger the cage is the better.
As for other breeds, diet includes proper rabbit food, hay, fruits and veggies. The only detail to keep in mind is that English spot rabbits have somewhat sensitive stomachs. To protect them against digestive problems, do not change the diet often. Once he gets used to a certain type of food, a sudden change may hurt him.
Havana rabbits are named so because of the resemblance of their coat color with that of the deep brown Havana Cuban cigars. The breed originated in Netherlands in 1898. Soon after, Havana rabbits arrived in many European countries (France, Germany, and Belgium) as the interest for the rabbits grew. In 1916, the Havana rabbit entered in the US.
Weighting between 5 and 7 lbs. Havana rabbits are medium-sized rabbits. The standards require short well-rounded bodies, strong heads with straight and erect 4 inches ears. The dark chocolate coat is thin, dense and shiny. ARBA also recognizes black and blue furs.
You can raise Havana rabbits indoors or outdoors. They do not like to stay enclosed for a long time. They like to have a great deal of freedom to stretch their legs and enjoy the sun.
Hay is the most important element of their diet. You can use some leafy greens and some fruits and veggies as complements.
Satin rabbits appeared in the US as a result of genetic mutation. In 1930 in Indiana, Mr. Walter Huey was making a number of selections on Havana rabbits in order to confirm their dark chocolate fur color, when he noticed that the bunnies he got had unusually dark glossy and soft furs.
The satin rabbit has the same body characteristics as the Havana rabbits but his fur is more glossy and soft. He now exists in a variety of colors as the Havana. Same weight and same short rounded body.
It is important to mention though that the breed members are often victims of a disease called osteodystrophy. The calcium in the bones diminishes gradually and is not replaced. The bones become weaker by the passage of time which provokes serious physical problems. Teeth also become weaker and do not allow the rabbit to eat normally. As the rabbits suffer more and more, a number of keepers choose euthanasia to bring their sufferance to an end.
As those symptoms are not isolated cases, we do not recommend this breed for domestic keeping purposes.