Lionhead rabbit
The Lionhead rabbit breed was recognized by the ARBA in 2013. Click the photo credit to see a cute Lionhead rabbit video. Myriam Quaranta/Youtube

The words dwarf bunnies might make you think of seven small rabbits marching down to a gem mine singing the song “Heigh-Ho.” Although they might seem like something from a Disney movie, dwarf rabbits are actually adorable, smaller breeds of pet rabbits. But even that’s not the whole story. Just being small doesn’t automatically make a rabbit a dwarf. In fact, some small rabbits are not dwarf rabbits.

Defining Dwarf Bunnies

To the average person, rabbits that weigh less than 4 pounds or so might seem like a dwarf. Actually, a dwarf gene is what makes rabbits officially a dwarf. And the dwarf gene does slightly more than just produce a small rabbit. Dwarfism in rabbits is also shown through other traits, including a compact body, shorter ears, and a rounder head.

Not all rabbit breeds carry the dwarf gene. Those that do include the American Fuzzy Lop, the Dwarf Hotot, the Holland Lop, the Jersey Wooly, the Lionhead, the Netherland Dwarf, the Mini Rex, and the Mini Satin. The Britannia Petite and the Polish are two other breeds that sometimes get included as dwarf rabbits, but some sources dispute this.

The Appeal Of Dwarf Bunnies

Whether or not people prefer small rabbits to large boils down to personal preference. Small is cute, so naturally smaller bunnies are cuter to some people than larger bunnies. Another plus to smaller rabbits is that they eat less, create less mess, and need a bit less space than larger rabbits.

But dwarf bunnies might have some drawbacks. Being so small, handling must be more gentle, as they are that much more delicate than larger rabbits. It’s also possible that small breeds might face some different health issues, just as larger breeds or senior rabbits might have different health issues.

The Difference Between Dwarf And Small

For people who share their lives with rabbits, it’s probably not important to know the difference between rabbits with the dwarf gene and rabbits that were merely bred small. For people who breed rabbits, it’s critical to know. This is because the dwarf gene is dominant, and it is lethal.

Rabbits get one copy of the gene for size from each parent. A rabbit that has one dwarf gene and one normal gene is a true dwarf with all the dwarf characteristics. If a rabbit gets two normal genes from the parents, then he is what’s known as a false dwarf. He has the characteristics of the breed, but he grows larger, has longer ears, a less-round head, etc. The size difference isn’t massive, but it’s clearly visible. But if a rabbit gets two dwarf genes from the parents, he will be stillborn or die hours, days, or weeks after birth. Rabbit babies with two dwarf genes are called peanuts, and they experience the full force of the lethal dwarf gene. For dwarf rabbit breeders or anyone with a rabbit breed that carries the dwarf gene, a pregnancy means that some rabbits in the litter might die.

Info About Dwarf Rabbit Breeds

Currently, eight breeds are undisputed as carrying the dwarf gene. Below is a bit more information about each as referenced from Bob Whitman’s book “Domestic Rabbits & Their Histories,” individual breed websites, and the American Rabbit Breeders Association.

American Fuzzy Lop: Weighs up to 4 pounds and was developed from the Holland Lop with some mating to English Spots and French Angora. The crossbreeding introduced broken colors and the wool fur. Accepted by ARBA in 1988.

American Fuzzy Lop rabbit
The American Fuzzy Lop is similar to a Holland Lop, but has wooly fur. Linda Hibbert/Facebook

Dwarf Hotot: Weighs up to 3 pounds and was developed from Netherland Dwarf varieties and matings of standard Hotot to Netherland Dwarf. Accepted by ARBA in 1983.

A post shared by Lollipop Wang (@lollipop.w) on

Holland Lop: Weighs up to 4 pounds and was developed from mainly French Lops and Netherland Dwarfs, with one English Lop in the breed history. Accepted by ARBA in 1979.

Holland Lop
The Holland Lop has the distinctive lop ears. Ohio Holland Lops/Facebook

Jersey Wooly: Weighs up to 3.5 pounds and was developed mainly from Angora breeds and Netherland Dwarfs. Accepted by ARBA in 1988.

Jersey Wooly rabbit
The fur of the Jersey Wooly rabbit requires more grooming. Exotic Animal Hospital of Orlando/Facebook

Lionhead: Weighs up to 3.75 pounds and was developed in Europe, the exact ancestry is uncertain. Breeds that might have contributed to the Lionhead include Swiss Fox, Belgian Dwarf, and Jersey Wooly. The Lionhead in the United States took the European Lionhead and introduced other breeds, including Netherland Dwarf, Britannia Petite, Polish, Florida White, and Holland Lop. Accepted by ARBA in 2013.

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Mini Rex: Weighs up to 4.5 pounds. It was developed from Dwarf Rex rabbits and standard Rex. The Dwarf Rex have genes from Netherland Dwarfs. Accepted by ARBA in 1986.

Mini Rex rabbit
The fur of the Mini Rex is very plush and dense. Foth’s Mini Rex/Facebook

Mini Satin: Weighs up to 4.75 pounds. It was developed from normal Satins, Polish, and Netherland Dwarfs. Accepted by ARBA in 2005.

Mini Satin rabbit
The fur of Mini Satin rabbits has a sheen. Donna Williams/Facebook

Netherland Dwarf: Weighs up to 2.5 pounds. Its ancestry includes the Polish rabbit from England and the Hermelin rabbit from Germany, along with various other breeds. Accepted by ARBA in 1969.

Netherland Dwarf rabbit
Is there anything cuter than a Netherland Dwarf rabbit?Honey The Netherland Dwarf/Facebook
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