It is not commonly known that there are actually 45+ breeds of rabbit! Most people looking for a pet rabbit just find a randomly bred one in a pet store in their area. While this is perfectly fine for most people, it is often misleading. It is unlikely most of the time that those are the actual breed that they are said to be.
Choosing the right breed is just as complex as picking a new puppy for your family. Rabbits are full of personality and different breeds have different characteristics.
In the show circuit, rabbit breeds are divided up into groups by their body types. This is the best way of viewing all of the different breeds, as it divides them mainly by size and type. This information will help you select the best pet rabbit for your home. If you want to find detailed information about different types, then I recommend rabbits-online.co.uk.
Below we will explore each body type and the breeds within them:
- Compact Body Type -- The compact body type is where all of the smallest breeds of rabbit fall. Small breeds range from 1 1/2 lbs to 5 or 6 lbs. Compact means they have very small, rounded bodies. Below we will highlight some of the more prominent breeds in this category.
- Netherland Dwarf. This is probably one of the most popular of the compact breeds. Often baby rabbits at pet stores will say that they are Netherlands when in reality they are often mixed. A Netherland Dwarf will be a max of 2 1/2 lbs. They have what is called a bold head. Their head is small and very round, and their face is flat, with very large round eyes. Their ears are not supposed to be more than 2 inches long. Their bodies are similar in the way they are very short and round.
Netherlands come in an incredible variety of colors. The colors are split up in categories as well and range from white with blue eyes to orange!
Netherlands are beautiful rabbits but they may not be the best pet for your young child; they are very small, but they tend to have a mind of their own. They have a reputation for being a bit grouchy and nippy at times. This can be remedied of course if they are raised with love and care.
- Dutch. The Dutch is also a very popular compact breed. It is also one of the larger ones. Full grown a Dutch will be around 5 1/2 to 6 lbs. The Dutch has a round head, with long ears, about 4 to 5 inches. Their bodies are round but longer than the Netherland Dwarf.
Color and markings are the Dutch's most recognizable attribute! They are white along with another color, black, chocolate, gray, blue, steel, or tortoise. The best way to describe the markings is that they look at lot like a Boston terrier or a Tuxedo Cat.
As far as personality goes, you will not find a nicer rabbit. Dutch are very laid back and are great rabbits for kids. Caring for them is very easy and they are low maintenance.
- Polish. The Polish are the best-kept secret of the compact breeds. They are the great small alternative for the Netherland Dwarf. Polish are very small like a Netherland Dwarf. They have small, round bold heads and round bodies. They are a bit larger in weight than a Netherland. At the top weight, they are 3 1/2 lbs. They also have slightly longer ears.
Polish do not come in as many colors; they only sport black, blue, chocolate, white (blue eyed and ruby eyed), and broken (which is any color available with white).
The best trait of the Polish is their personality. Although they are small, they are very gentle and loving rabbits. They are great pets and good with kids. They are also very low maintenance.
- Commercial Body Type -- This body type is pretty much restricted to large breeds of rabbit. Larger and chubbier than most breeds, they are often referred to as meat breeds, as they are often raised for their meat. Although this is true, they make incredible pets! They have a large weight range from 6 1/2 lbs to 12 lbs. Commercial breeds of rabbit are among some of the gentlest.
- New Zealand. The New Zealand is possibly one of the most recognizable commercial breeds. They are large, weighing 9 lbs to 12 lbs. The females (does) will weigh more than the males (bucks). They have very large round bodies. They should have very full hindquarters and full shoulders. They have large heads, with does having longer faces than the bucks. The ears will be around 6 inches long.
The breed comes in three different colors -- black, white, and red -- although a blue will pop up from a black breeding every now and again (they are diluted blacks that have a blue appearance, but they are not recognized or showable).
Although these are the same breed, the different colors seem to have different personalities. White New Zealands have commonly been used in scientific research. It is possible that this mass breeding of them has made them jumpier and not as friendly as the other two varieties. Whites are not best for pets or for children. Reds and Blacks are a different story, however. They tend to be a lot more gentle and loving. If nurtured from a young age, reds and blacks can become big teddy bears!!!
- Champagne D' Argent. Champagnes are among some of the sweetest large breed rabbits you will find! They are roughly the same size as a New Zealand -- only a pound smaller for the does. They have the same body type, which is round and very full.
The most interesting characteristic of the Champagne is its beautiful coat of fur. It has a silver thick coat of fur with longer black guard hairs dispersed throughout the body. It is incredibly soft to the touch, and will bring a smile to your face.
The Champagne also has an incredibly sweet personality. They are very large but they have very laid-back personalities. An interesting trait of this breed is that they are born solid black and, as they grow, the black disappears and the silver coloring comes in. By the time they are 5 to 6 months, they are fully silvered.
- Silver Marten. The Silver Marten is one of the smaller of the commercial breeds. At their top weight, they are around 8 to 8 1/2 lbs. They have the same body type as the previous two breeds, only a bit smaller. They have more elongated heads and roughly 5 inch ears.
They come in only four colors: black, blue, chocolate and sable. The unique trait of Silver Martens is their silver ticking. The belly is completely silver, and the silver travels up onto the sides of their body. As it goes up, there are silver hairs dispersed throughout the sides, eventually disappearing into a solid color, like black. The ticking is also present around the jawline and the ears.
These rabbits have fairly docile personalities. They can be a bit active and may not be for the person looking for a lazy lay around the house kind of rabbit.
- Full Arch Body Type -- Full Arch breeds are the terriers and the Border Collies of the rabbit world. They are very unique in appearance and very high in energy! These types of breeds are for the very dedicated or experienced rabbit owner.
- English Spot. English Spots are incredibly beautiful rabbits! The term "full arch" means that they have a body that is thin and arched. These rabbit stand tall and high up on their legs. Their body is arched and very cylindrical shaped. They weigh around 7 lbs and have very long ears of 5 or 6 inches, as well as a thin head.
English Spots are very unique looking in their markings. They have what is known as a butterfly of color on their nose, and have circles of color around their eyes and colored ears. From the base of their ears all the way to the tip of their tail, they have a perfect stripe. On each side of their hind legs, they have a series of spots that are around a half inch across (some may be smaller).They come in many colors, including, black, chocolate, blue, gold, and gray.
As far as personality goes, English Spots have a lot of it! They are very busy, active, and happy animals. They are very powerful and are known for running, however, and are not for the inexperienced rabbit owner. They are friendly rabbits but may not be the best for small children.
- Tan. Tans are very similar to the English Spot in body type, with the arched back, and tall body, and thin face. They are however a bit smaller, weighing only about 6 lbs.
The Tan is black, with a belly of another color. The belly color can be tan, blue, chocolate, or lilac, but tan is the most common.
They are every bit as high strung as the English Spot and just as hard to handle. It is not a good rabbit for children. They can be kind of temperamental, and are better suited for adults.
- Semi Arch Body Type -- Semi Arch breeds are sometimes known as being shaped like mandolins. This is because they are commonly very large breeds that have very low lying shoulders and a very high arched hind quarter.
- English Lop. The English Lop is one of the most interesting Semi Arch breeds and one of the most interesting rabbit breeds in general. They are very large, weighing between 10 and 12 lbs. They have the mandolin shaped body, and a very long, large head.
The most interesting characteristic of the English Lop are its long ears. The English Lop has the longest ears, when full grown should be 26 inches in length each. When on the show table the judge will pull out a ruler and measure them! The Lop comes in a variety of colors, all the way from black to orange to broken.
English Lops have a laid back personality, but they are very large. so they do need to be worked with in order to get used to being handled.
- Flemish Giant. The Flemish Giant is just what it sounds like; it is GIANT! This is the largest breed of rabbit that you can find. The lowest weight it should be is 13 lbs, and most can get to the incredible weight of 20 lbs or so. 16 to 17 lbs is the most common weight.
They have the mandolin shape, with a high hindquarter and low shoulder. They have incredibly long ears, and a long large head. They come in quite a few colors including, black, blue, white, sandy, and fawn.
The biggest part of this rabbit however, is its great personality! Flemish Giants are smart and very friendly. They do need to be worked with, since they are very large. They are great with children, and all people in general.
- Cylindrical Body Type -- There is only one breed that has a cylindrical body type.
- Himalayan. The Himalayan is unique as it is the only cylindrical breed. It has a very long body that is just what it sounds like, the shape of a cylinder. It is small, weighing around 5 to 6 lbs. Its face is just as thin as its body, very pointed in its nose.
A Himalayan is white in color with a dark nose, ears, feet and tail. The dark color can be black, chocolate, blue, or lilac. They also have ruby colored or pink eyes. This gives them a very striking appearance.
The personality of this rabbit depends on the devotion of the owner. They can have a very calm personality if they are worked with from the time they are young. If they are not, Himalayans can become a bit high strung.
This information will help with the first part of selecting pet rabbits. Now that you are familiar with many breeds, you need to decide where to get your rabbit. Your best bet will be to locate a breeder of the breed you are attempting to purchase. There are two great ways you can locate one.
- The Internet -- It is really easy to locate breeders online. Your best bet is to go to Google or Yahoo and type in the breed you are looking for. This will almost always provide you with some results.
- 4-H, FFA, and Shows -- If you are familiar with your local 4-H or FFA organizations, contact them and have them put you in touch with a rabbit-related club. These clubs should be able to direct you to some breeders or better yet, they could tell you when there will be a 4-H or ARBA rabbit show where you could go and find them.
It certainly isn't a crime to buy a rabbit from a pet store. Just make sure you ask questions and realize what you are getting.
Have fun and remember to research before buying! It's a new member of the family... just remember that!