Dwarf Rabbit Breeds: a Colorful Variety

Rabbits that live in the home as pets are usually dwarf rabbits. But “dwarf rabbits” is not a breed name; rather, several rabbit breeds are summarized under this term, which could not look more different. They all have one thing in common: They are small. You can read here what differentiates them and what you should know about dwarf rabbits.

What is the Difference Between Rabbits and Dwarf Rabbits?

There are actually “real” dwarf rabbits in nature: The species is called Brachylagus idahoensis and occurs in North America as a wild rabbit breed. These animals are natural dwarfs: They are no more than 30 centimeters long and weigh no more than 500 grams. Zoologically, they are related to the predecessors of our domestic rabbits, the European wild rabbits, but they belong to a different genus. The wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, the forefather of today’s dwarf domestic rabbits, is significantly larger – up to 45 centimeters – and weighs between 1.3 and 2.2 kilograms. The wild rabbit originally spread from the Iberian Peninsula and parts of North Africa, initially across Europe and then through humans almost worldwide. The background: rabbits served as food. Because they were easy to keep and extremely fertile, they were bred in private households and monasteries and also taken by seafarers on their journeys.

But back to the domestic rabbit: Even in their natural range, people came up with the idea of ​​domesticating and breeding wild rabbits in order to eat them. Of course, they selected and mated the animals that promised the best meat approach. Therefore, the domesticated wild rabbits soon differed in size from their wild ancestors: They became significantly stronger and more massive. Color mutations were more of a coincidence. These were later passed on under controlled breeding conditions, so that “colorful” rabbits spread. The targeted selection produced interesting colored animals whose fur was in great demand. Last but not least, the targeted breeding of colored rabbits established itself. How did the still brightly colored, but again significantly smaller dwarf rabbits come about alongside such breeding forms, and which do not appear economically to be kept? The decisive factor was simply the cute appearance of the small animals. Dwarfism is a naturally occurring genetic factor in rabbits, which is passed on with a certain probability and which is more widespread when small animals are specifically mated. By the way: The same principle is used when breeding giant rabbits. Small rabbits, which are characterized by their special appearance, were probably taken from breeding and kept as pets and lovers.

The systematic breeding of dwarf rabbits in Europe has been practiced for about 100 years; Today the little Mummler lives mainly as cherished and beloved pets.

Which Dwarf Rabbit Breeds are There?

Dwarf rabbits have a comparatively stocky build; their ears are close together. The rounded head and the large eyes trigger protective instincts in the human observer: the well-known child pattern. The targeted breeding of small rabbits resulted in many varieties that influenced both the color variations and the fur textures of the rabbits. In addition to an almost unmanageable variety of colors, coat length and structure are important distinguishing features of the individual dwarf rabbit breeds.

Some of the well-known breeds are:

  • Ermine rabbits: Animals of this breed have a stocky stature with a round head, white with blue or red eyes, and weigh about 1.5 kilos.
  • Color dwarfs: They are considered to be the “typical” dwarf rabbits and come in many different colors. They weigh around 1 to 1.5 kilograms and are considered active but cautious.
  • Piebalds: This breed of rabbit always has a white base color with different piebald colors. With a weight of 1.4 to 1.8 kilos, they are a medium-sized dwarf breed.
  • Rex dwarfs: These animals have a significantly shorter coat with protruding guard hairs. They look velvety because the fur does not fit properly on the body.
  • Dwarf rams: They are one of the best-known breeds of dwarf rabbits, their characteristic feature is the lop ears. With a weight of around 2 kilos, they are slightly larger and heavier than other dwarf rabbits.
  • Lion head dwarfs: Strictly speaking, lion heads are not a breed of their own; there are no size, weight, or color standards. Their distinguishing mark is a more or less pronounced mane on the head. As a lion head ram, it is also available in a variant with lop ears.
  • Teddy dwarfs and teddy rams: They are the long-haired counterparts of the dwarf and dwarf ram rabbits. In contrast to pronounced long-haired breeds, they do not have to be sheared, as the coat changes naturally. However, they need intensive grooming so that they do not become matted.

When Did Dwarf Rabbits Mature?

If you want to buy a dwarf rabbit or already have a young animal in the house, the legitimate question soon arises as to when the animal will be fully grown. However, in view of the numerous dwarf rabbit breeds, no generally binding date can be given. Dwarf rabbits are fully grown at around eight months, but this does not mean that a growth spurt cannot follow after this point in time. But even if the animals can still gain size and weight: The extremely fertile rabbits reach sexual maturity at around three months, long before they are fully grown. In order to prevent unwanted rabbits’ offspring, you should think about castration at an early stage or practice strict gender segregation.

What is the Life Expectancy of Dwarf Rabbits?

How old dwarf rabbits get depends on many factors. With good husbandry and without major complications from diseases, life expectancy is around eight years; however, it is not uncommon for dwarf rabbits to live to be ten years or older.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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