The Complete Guide to Rabbit Breeds

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It’s love at first sight for some. How can anybody not fall in love with the cuddly bundle of fur that hops around and stares at you with eyes that could melt your heart?fo

We are talking wabbits here.

Like good old Elmer Fudd exclaimed.

While some make instinctive decisions, the discerning pet parent will spend all the time in the world researching and try to make an informed decision about bringing home bunnies as pets.

Either ways, the good news is that the number of pet owners opting for rabbits is on the rise each passing day. And we couldn’t be happier.

It would be safe to say that rabbits are among the most misunderstood pets ever.

Three different rabbit breeds together

For the uninitiated, they appear to be a laidback and easy going pet that comes with minimal upkeep. Just feed them some hay and carrots and they will be fine.

Others find these cutesy critters to be pesky. Too much time to spend in the upkeep and not to forget the horrible stench that their urine leaves.

And then there’s the third kind of rabbit owner who signs up for it without having the slightest idea of what they are getting into.

The truth is that rabbits are one of the best choices for a house pet. They are extremely social and love to spend time with their owners. However, like any other pet they come with a bunch of responsibilities.

More importantly, there are hundreds of rabbit breeds to pick from. Dwarves, minis, lop and giants, how do you ensure that you make the right choice?

This is a complete guide to the most common and popular rabbit breeds in the world now. To make things easier, we have separated the bunnies according to their physical traits. So, if you find yourself on the fence about which rabbit breed to choose, just bookmark this page and flick through it to get comprehensive information about rabbit breeds.

Dwarf Rabbit Breeds

There’s something inherently cool and attractive about a ball of fur that can fit right into your palm. Therein lies the appeal of a dwarf rabbit breed. These tiny fur balls are loved by adults and kids alike. The fact that they rarely weigh more 4 lbs. in weight is an additional reason for their popularity.

Dwarf rabbit breeds are compact, extremely cute and easy to care for. Also, they happen to be the third most popular pet sold in the US. That’s a tall order.

Dwarf rabbits require less space as compared to a medium or a gigantic lagomorph. The small size also translates into lesser food consumption. If you were looking for a rabbit on a budget, then the dwarf fits right into your scheme of things. But it’s not all about physical traits only.

Dwarf rabbits are a bundle of energy and have a bunch of funny antics up their sleeve. At times you will find them chasing nothing. They might just hop their way to every nook and corner of your home during playtime. And they love to be cuddled too.

They take less time to groom and will rarely chew through your expensive rug or exotic hardwood furniture. They are easier than other rabbit breeds to litter train.

The presence of a dwarfing gene is what separates these tiny rabbits from other breeds.

Today, we take a look at the three most popular dwarf rabbit breeds in the world.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit

The Netherland dwarf with its perpetual baby-face and shy demeanour is a rage among homeowners looking for a cuddly bunny companion. Their slightly docile temperament makes them excellent pets for households with children in them.

If you are willing to put in the time and effort, these bunnies are easy to socialize as well.

  • Appearance: The Netherland dwarf is easily distinguished from other rabbit breeds due to its slightly larger head which is not in proportion with the body. Also, it is one of the smallest domestic rabbit breeds in the world. Some can weigh as less as 500 grams only. The maximum that a Netherland dwarf will weigh is approximately 4 lbs when fully grown. They have small, oval faces with large eyes which make them look like an infant rabbit even into adulthood. Netherland dwarfs are available in a stunning array of colors and patterns. You have dark chocolate, orange, black, chinchilla, snow white, fawn, Himalayan, tan, silver and teal to choose from.
  • Temperament: These tiny bunnies have a calm and gentle temperament and are easy to litter train. They are fastidious cleaners and will groom themselves most of the time. However, there may be phases during which the bunny sheds excessively and some assistance will help remove the excessive fur. Although they appear to be extremely delicate, the Netherland dwarf can easily sweat you out with their playfulness.
  • Care: As we mentioned earlier, the Netherland dwarf does not require excessive attention or care. With some basic know how about rabbit health, diet and the common health problems that occur in rabbits (link here), you can easily have a healthy and active pet. Netherlands are not too different from other rabbits when it comes to dietary requirements. The only notable difference is that due to the compact size of the bunny, they are more susceptible to extreme weather conditions. On hot summer days, ensure that you have a bottle of cold water available 24/7 to keep the hutch cool. It goes without saying that if you are keeping the bunny outdoors, it needs a shaded rabbit hutch in a cool place. Keep lots of hay to allow the bunny to nest comfortably and stay warm on cold days.

The Dwarf Hotot

The Hotot, pronounced Hoe-Toe is quite a charmer with an unmistakeable appearance. These bunnies are white from head to toe barring a band of brown or chocolate fur around their eyes which give them a very unique appearance. Hotots are playful and love being petted. Their small size and easy temperament make them excellent household pets even for first time rabbit parents. Having said that, hotot dwarfs have very distinct personalities.

Don’t be surprised at all if your hotot is a bundle of energy that loves to hop around home.

  • Appearance: As we mentioned earlier, the biggest draw of the hotot dwarf rabbit is the appearance. They grow up to 3.5 lbs. in weight. The all-white short but dense coat requires little attention except during molting periods. Brushing it once a week will keep your home free of fur during this phase. ARBA recognizes only two universal color combinations for show-worthy Hotot rabbits. That’s white with a band of black or chocolate around the eyes. Some rabbits may also have colored spots around their ears though in which case, they will be disqualified from shows and kept as indoor pets instead. The ears of the hotot are upright and in rare cases, may touch each other.
  • Temperament: If you wanted a friendly, active and social pet that is practical and suited for indoor living, then there is no better choice than a hotot dwarf. They love to interact with humans and get accustomed to petting and cuddling very soon. It is not uncommon for a dwarf hotot rabbit to jump out of its rabbit cage in excitement when it sees its owner. So, it is recommended that you maintain caution while opening the cages for a few minutes at least and never leave the hotot unattended. Playtime should be restricted to a couple of hours with bunny-safe toys. The hotot is not suited for outdoor play. But a few laps around the lawn in pleasant weather should be fine. Hotot rabbits are not easy to toilet train though.
  • Care: One of the commonest mistakes that first time owners of hotot dwarf rabbits make is to over feed them. Despite their compact size, these bunnies have a voracious appetite and can gorge on as much pellets as you feed them. So, restrict their pellets to less than quarter of a cup every day and give them access to unlimited hay. You can throw in some rabbit-safe veggies and fruits as treats. Common health problems include intestinal blockages and malocclusions. Both of these conditions are easily preventable.

Dwarf Hotot Rabbit sitting on some hay

Lionhead Dwarf Rabbit

The Lionhead Dwarf Rabbit is a recent addition to the list of officially recognized rabbit breeds by the ARBA. It gained recognition only in 2014 in the US but was already recognized as an official breed in 2002 in the UK. With a thick and bushy mane that has remote similarities to the mane of a lion, the lionhead dwarf is a fancy breed and hence requires additional attention and care. However, their popularity continues to rise due to their cute appearance and sprightly personalities.

  • Appearance: Like most dwarf rabbit breeds, the lionhead looks like a ball of fur with a lush mane that can extend from their head to their flanks. The mane is approximately 3 inches in length and often forms a ‘V’. It is not uncommon to find some transitional wool on other parts of the body, particularly the hindquarters of the Lionhead. The breed was formed by crossing two distinct rabbit breeds. Most experts believe that it could be the Swiss Fox and Netherland Dwarf. Lionheads have compact bodies and can weigh up to 3.5 pounds when fully grown. They have short upright ears which are covered by their lush manes. They are available in a range of colors and patterns.
  • Temperament: Lionheads are extremely social, easy-going and well-mannered bunnies. However, they develop a very strong bond with their owners which make them slightly more demanding as compared to other rabbit breeds. As a lionhead owner, you must be willing to invest that little extra time. Living with them makes it completely worth it though. They make great pets for children as well. However, they are known to be slightly aggressive if they feel insecure which is a possibility with young children who are not experienced enough to handle fragile pets like rabbits.
  • Care: The presence of the lush mane makes the lionhead prone to mites and lice or fleas and checking for the presence of louse/mite eggs should be a part of routine grooming. The lionhead can also carry the E. cuniculi parasite which if left untreated can cause fatal conditions. Be prepared to detangle their manes from time to time and to groom it if it grows long enough to hinder their sight. The diet of the lionhead should be 75% of hay with healthy rabbit pellets thrown in along with safe plants and veggies.

Mini Rabbit Breeds

Time and again, we get mails from enthusiastic pet parents who are clueless about the difference between a dwarf rabbit breed and a mini rabbit breed. Well, you are not alone. That’s a very genuine concern indeed. Both these breeds are small and have many overlapping similarities which adds to the confusion. We figured that it was time to clear the air.

All dwarf rabbit breeds have a dwarfing gene present in them which causes their stunted growth. Mini rabbit breeds on the other hand, do not have the dwarfing gene in them. And despite their name, they may not necessarily be the smallest rabbit breed. For example, you have the mini lop which happens to be the second smallest non-dwarf rabbit breed. They can grow up to 5.5 pounds in weight.

On the other hand, the Holland lop, which has the dwarfing gene does not grow beyond 4 lbs. in weight.

Mini rabbit breeds generally are smaller versions of large rabbit breeds.

Here are some of the popular mini rabbit breeds in the US.

  • Mini Rex: The mini rex is the smaller version of the Rex, which is a European breed renowned for its plush, short coat. The Mini Rex can grow up to 4.5 pounds in weight.
  • Mini Plush Lop: The Mini Plush lop was bred by crossing as many as 4 different rabbit breeds including the netherland dwarf. However, it is not a dwarf breed but can easily be mistaken for one because of its incredibly small size. A mini plush lop does not weigh more than 4 pounds when fully grown. The breed is very popular among rabbit owners due to the velvety coat.
  • Cashmere Lop: Although not recognized by the ARBA, the cashmere lop is one of the most popular rabbit breeds in the UK, where it is recognized by the BRC. The cashmere lop can weigh up to 5 pounds when fully grown and it is available in both a standard size as well as a mini breed.
  • Himalayan: The Himalayan Rabbit is undoubtedly among the oldest known rabbit breeds in the world. It is also one of the first breeds to be recognized by the ARBA. With a cylindrical shaped body when viewed aerially, the rabbit can grow up to 5 lbs. in weight when fully grown.

Small Rabbit Breeds

Rabbit breeders never classify any breed as ‘small’. It’s a word used more commonly by rabbit parents and owners and may generally include both mini rabbit breeds as well as dwarf breeds. If you are a first time rabbit owner, then any rabbit that is small in size can be a good pick for your home.

Since we have spoken in detail about both minis as well as dwarfs, we will take a look at some of the lesser known but equally popular small rabbit breeds. We will also briefly touch upon the never ending debate about which is the smallest rabbit breed in the world.

Here’s our pick of some of the best small rabbits for your home.

  • Florida White: The Florida White was selectively bred to create a rabbit breed with all the desirable qualities of rabbits. So, it has a lush, soft coat, makes for an excellent pet with its docile demeanour, can have ample meat as it can grow to 6 lbs. and is a completely show-worthy pet. It is recognized by the ARBA, does not require too much space or care making it ideal for apartment living and is not prone to too many health problems.
  • Dutch Rabbit: The Dutch rabbit is believed to have descended from the brabancon rabbit that was extremely popular as meat in the later part of the 19th With a compact body, a glossy and short coat and a lively temperament, these bunnies will quickly adapt to their surroundings and thrive equally well in apartments as well as outdoor hutches. The Dutch rabbit is available in a stunning array of colors and is considered to be a show-worthy rabbit if well cared for.
  • Mini Satin: Despite having an extremely lustrous and soft coat, the Mini Satin is surprisingly low on maintenance. Even a weekly brushing suffices to keep the coat in top shape. This small sized rabbit breed (3-4.5 lbs.) is now available in a variety of colors and is very resilient against common health problems which plague other rabbit breeds. As a result, its popularity has a household pet is on the rise.

The Smallest Rabbit Breed

Which is the smallest rabbit breed in the world? This question is often met with fervent responses from rabbit parents who are largely divided into two groups. The first group believes that the Netherland Dwarf is the smallest rabbit breed whereas the other one bats for the Britannia Petite.

So which one is it really? Well, turns out that neither of these two are the smallest rabbit breed. But if you are looking for one that is domesticated, then either of these two breeds is your best bet.

On the other hand, if you are just looking for information, then the smallest breed is called the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. This rabbit breed originated in the Columbia basin area of Washington State and was largely isolated until only 14 individuals remained in the wild. A captive breeding program was then initiated and the numbers have since risen to 76.

Since we have already spoken in detail about the Netherland dwarf, let’s take a look at the other two in this list.

Britannia Petite: The Britannia Petite also called as the Polish Rabbit is one of the smallest non-dwarfed rabbit breeds in the world. It weighs up to 2 ½ lbs. when fully grown and despite the pocket-sized appearance, can be quite a livewire.

New rabbit parents be warned that it will take a certain amount of time, perseverance and patience to train a Britannia Petite. Even when trained, it is not the best choice for a pet if you are looking for a laidback bunny.

Instead, these bunnies love attention and have a very inquisitive nature. If you have a household with children for example, then you’d be better off picking one of the other smaller rabbit breeds mentioned here instead of the Britannia petite.

Appearance wise, a Britannia Petite is a cute little ball of fur. They have elongated bodies with short and upright ears. The coat is dense and has a shiny, silky texture. One of the most appealing aspects about them is their extremely compact size.

Britannia petite is available in a whole range of colors.

britannia petite rabbit on the grass background

Large Rabbit Breeds

A lot of first time rabbit owners are on the fence about opting for large rabbit breeds because of the additional room that they require to be housed as well as the added expense for the copious amount of food these bunnies consume.

But if you are looking for a cuddly, laidback companion in the world of lagomorphs, then there’s no better choice than a large rabbit breed. These big guys are social, friendly and relaxed. Before you raise eyebrows and say that there are no guarantees when it comes to personality or behavioural traits in rabbits, we strongly believe that the larger rabbit breeds are less likely to hop to your ceiling and clamber over the furniture.

We love large rabbits. There’s only one thing better than a bunny. Its having more bunny to play with and cuddle. And depending on which large breed you pick, you can have as much as 20 pounds of bunny with some of the larger breeds.

Here are some of the more popular large rabbit breeds in case you are looking for some help in selecting one.

  • German Lop: The German lop is not the largest large sized rabbit in this list. In fact, they weigh only up to 8 lbs. when fully grown. But, they are recognized as a large sized rabbit by most certifying organizations around the world. A healthy german lop tends to be more muscular as compared to other rabbit breeds. It has a short and dense coat with a layer of guard hair. The German lop is available in a whole range of color combinations. As is the case with most large sized rabbit breeds, it requires a lot of space to move around as well as live. If you intend to keep it outdoors, ensure that you provide it with a large and roomy hutch that is raised above the ground and well protected from the elements.
  • American Chinchilla: Originally developed for the meat and the gorgeous fur, the American Chinchilla has a very ‘commercial’ appearance. They are stickily built and can weigh as much as 12 lbs. when fully grown. Unlike other rabbit breeds, only one color of the American Chinchilla is accepted by the ARBA. That’s the color of a Chinchilla which is a slate blue lower base coat topped with a darker blue coat with a hint of gray. The coat is short and requires minimum upkeep except for the shedding season. Come spring or fall and you will find rabbit hair all around your house. Groom them twice a week during this phase to remove any stray or shed hair. American Chinchillas are pretty resilient and are rarely prone to health conditions.
  • Californian Rabbit: The Californian Rabbit along with the New Zealand White is one of the most popular domesticated rabbit breeds in the US. Once again, their origin can be traced back to the gregarious demand for meat and fur. Weighing up to 11 lbs. when fully grown, they have a snow white coat that is similar to that of the Himalayan. It must be mentioned though that the coat is slightly coarse and does not make for a very comfortable petting or cuddling experience. They have a very mild temperament which makes them excellent household pets.

The Biggest Rabbit Breed

Once again, we have a tie for the top spot for the biggest rabbit breed in the world. ARBA recognizes the Flemish giant as the biggest rabbit breed whereas the current world record for the largest rabbit breed is held by Darius, a four feet four inch continental giant rabbit. What’s ironical is that continental giants are believed to have descended from Flemish Giants whereas the origin of the Flemish Giant remains unknown.

While some believe that the Flemish descended from the Argentinian Pentagonian rabbit, others say that their origins can be traced back to stone rabbits.

Appearance: A full grown Flemish giant can weigh up to 14 lbs. There are reports of them growing much bigger though. They have an arched body with upright ears that can be as big as 8 inches. They have short and dense coats and are available in a whole range of colors.

Temperament: The Flemish giant is right called the ‘Gentle Giant’. These large lagomorphs have a very sweet temperament which makes them a great choice even for first time rabbit owners and households with children. The only caveat is that kids will find it impossible to lift these bunnies like they usually would lift up dwarf rabbits. The giant enjoys their playtime and rabbit-safe toys will help their personalities to develop. Another perk of the Flemish giant is that they mingle well with other animals in the house.

Care: The Flemish giant will need a living space large enough that allows them to stretch out as well as move around. Multi-level hutches are a strict no-no for these large lagomorphs because there is a risk that the ramp may give away under their weight. Giants have very similar dietary requirements like other rabbits and are susceptible to the same health conditions as others. You’d have to keep an eye out for hairballs, myxomatosis, ear mites and dental problems.

But surely, the Flemish and Continental giants aren’t alone in the big rabbit universe, are they? There are more large bunnies out there. Let’s take a look at some of the other giant rabbit breeds.

  • The Giant Chinchilla: When the Chinchilla rabbit first arrived in the US, it took the market by storm thanks to the gorgeous coat. But at 7 lbs. it wasn’t enough to satiate the demand for meat. A few years later, a breeder developed the Giant Chinchilla which can weigh up to a whopping 15 lbs. when fully grown. They have a lush flyback coat and an easy going demeanour. Giant Chinchillas are usually preferred as show animals. But they make excellent pets for singles as well as seniors due to their laidback temperament. The breed needs a large living space and does well with a diet that comprises of 70% hay, pellets and fresh fruits and veggies.
  • French Lop: Originally bred as a meat animal, the French lop has become extremely popular as pets due to their gentle temperament and wonderful coats which are available in a whole range of colors, both solid and broken. Despite being docile, the bunnies have the potential to be a wonderful companion who will never leave your side at home. But it does take some early socializing. French lops need a large living space as they can weigh up to 15 lbs. when fully grown.
  • Checkered Giant: One of the oldest giant breeds to have been recognized by the ARBA, the checked giant can grow up to 13 lbs. and has an uncanny resemblance to a wild hare. Their strong legs allow them to hop more than you would expect. The checkered giant isn’t a very cuddly breed. That does not mean that they do not socialize or bond with humans. It’s just that they’d do well without the constant cuddling and petting that some other rabbit breeds like.

White Flemish Giant Rabbit resting

The Best Rabbit Breeds For Pets

Having mentioned the ‘cuddle’ factor, different rabbit owners have different expectations when it comes to pets. Some prefer a rabbit that can live without the extra attention, while others want a pet that they can constantly pet and cuddle in their laps.

So here are the best pet rabbit breeds according to their temperament for a change.

Gentle and Laidback rabbit breeds: While most large sized bunnies are gentle and laidback, you can always end up with an individual that’s the opposite. The same stands true with dwarves and mini rabbits. While most of them are pretty active, there’s always the possibility that you get an individual rabbit that likes to kick back their legs and rest. But, if the temperament is a priority, then a mini lop, a Holland lop, Rex, a Flemish giant and a Himalayan are your best bet. These breeds are quite commonly found in homes with seniors, singles and children.

Children friendly rabbit breeds: Rabbits are an excellent choice for a child’s first pet. They are not as high-maintenance as a dog nor as independent as felines. But they need enough attention to teach your children the fundamentals of pet care and management. As is the case with any other pet, some breeds of rabbits are child-friendlier. They are gentle, easier to tame and love being around children during playtime. They also do well despite the constant petting that children can subject them to. The Dutch, the chinchilla, the Himalayan, California white, Havana and the Japanese harlequin are some of the popular child friendly rabbit breeds.

Best pet rabbit breeds for outdoor living: While it cannot be denied that domesticated rabbits are gentle and delicate creatures, they can also be quite resilient and hardy. With the right care and the right living space, they can enjoy a healthy and active life in an outdoor hutch. Provide them with the protection they need against extreme weather conditions and predators and they might even enjoy the outdoor hutch more than indoor living. Some rabbit breeds are known to be a better bet than others for outdoor living. Some of these are the Belgian hare, Californian, the New Zealand and Flemish giant. Most breeders say that the breeds that were originally bred for meat are your best choices for an outdoor bunny.

Angora Rabbit Breeds

Winter is just about peeping over the horizon and it’s time for those luxuriously warm sweaters to come out from the wardrobe. How about an angora wool sweater this year? Angora Wool is an incredibly soft woollen fiber that is softer than cashmere. It is only 11 microns in diameter and it trades for almost $37 for two pounds of fiber.

The fiber is sourced from the domesticated Angora rabbit which is touted to have originated in Ankara, Turkey. The rabbit was bred for centuries in Europe for their wool and was introduced to the United States in 1920.

Since then, Angora rabbits have made their way into homes in the US as pets. These delicate and docile animals love to live both indoors and outdoors. There are four Angora Rabbit breeds that are recognized by the ARBA, although there are five of them in all.

  • The English Angora is the most popular of them all because of their lush and fluffy coats. These are also the smallest of the lot. A full grown English Angora can weigh around 7 lbs. The short bodies with the lush coats give you an impression that it is a ball of fur. Due to the extra fur, the English Angora demands a lot of attention. The fur can get matted if you do not groom it from time to time. Shearing is recommended once every three to four months. It goes without saying that the rabbits are also prone to mite problems. However, if you are looking for the cutest of the Angoras or are breeding them for fur, then this is your best choice.
  • The French Angora rivals the British Angora in popularity and is considered to be closest to the original Angora rabbits that were bought from turkey in terms of appearance. They have compact bodies that are covered in a silky under wool and a guard coat. The coat is considered to be the easiest to maintain. But it goes without saying that you may have to brush it every day and blow dry it to keep it clean and tangle-free. Due to the thick coat, Angoras are most likely to follow a small amount of fur when they groom themselves leading to a condition called wool block. This is similar to intestinal blockage caused due to fur. A French Angora is slightly bigger than their English counterparts and can weigh up to 10.5 lbs. in size.
  • Satin Angora: The Satin Angora was developed by crossbreeding a French Angora and a Satin Rabbit. As the name suggests, their coat have a satin like sheen which makes the fiber difficult to spin. However, the yarn is considered to be a specialty and hence commands a higher price in the market. Satins produce the least wool among all the breeds of Angora rabbits.
  • Giant Angora: The Giant Angora was selectively bred to create a large sized bunny that could generate a surplus amount of Angora wool in each shearing. As the name suggests, this giant bunny can weigh more than 12 pounds when fully grown and can generate almost 12 oz. of wool at a time whereas the smaller sized bunnies generate just about 20 oz. in a year. The Giant Angora is the last of the ARBA recognized Angora rabbit breeds.

The other breed of Angora rabbit that is mostly bred in commercial Angora farms is the German Angora. A German angora has been selectively bred to avoid the shedding process. So, the rabbit never sheds its fur unless you shear it for wool. It looks very similar to the English Angora but is noticeably bigger in size. It can grow up to 12 lbs. Angoras are rarely bred for meat and hence can appeal to a lot of farmers.

We think we have managed to sum up just about all the important domesticated rabbit breeds on the basis of their size as well as other characteristics. If you have anything to add to this, then feel free to drop us a line. We would love to hear your thoughts. Until then, happy rabbitting!

Images source: Bigstock.com

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