Bunnies can enter your life in many ways, and if you didn’t adopt your little fluffball from a rabbit breeder, you might wonder about your rabbit’s breed. Of course you love your rabbit no matter the breed or breeds in his or her ancestry. Knowing your rabbit’s breed is crucial if you plan to enter your pal in a breed show, but if shows aren’t in your future it still can be fun to get to know your rabbit more by making an educated guess about his or her lineage. How do you do that? It’s mostly based on appearance. Take a look at the features of your rabbit to zero in on what breeds make up your companion.
Dwarf, Standard, Or Giant?
These terms don’t refer to new drink sizes at the local coffeehouse. They offer a rough guideline of rabbit sizes. The American Rabbit Breeders Association currently recognizes 49 rabbit breeds, and a chart on its website shows breed images with the weight range or maximum weight for each. The Netherland Dwarf and Britannia Petite are the smallest at 2.5 pounds. The 5.5-pound Dutch and 6.5-pound Mini Lop are among the middle-sized. The giant rabbits include the Flemish Giant and Checkered Giant, both of which have no maximum weight, and 16-pound Giant Chinchilla.
Smooth, Fluffy, Plush, Or Shiny?
Your rabbit’s fur is another big clue to breed type. Most of the ARBA-recognized breeds have short, smooth fur. This is likely what most people picture when they think of a rabbit. Stroke your rabbit from tail to head to determine if your furry friend has flyback, rollback, or standing fur. Flyback fur will almost immediately return to its normal position after being stroked backward. The Dutch, Himalayan, English Lop, Polish, and New Zealand are examples of flyback fur breeds. If the fur returns more slowly to its normal position, it’s called rollback fur. Dwarf Hotots, Holland Lops, Flemish Giants, and Mini Lops are some of the rollback fur breeds. The Silver Fox breed has unique standing fur. When stroked backward, the fur remains standing until brushed back into place.
Rabbit breeds with long, fluffy fur have wool coats, which feels and looks distinctly different from the short, smooth coats. Wool breeds include the American Fuzzy Lop, the four types of Angora, the Jersey Wooly, and the Lionhead.
Have you ever touched a stuffed animal toy that had dense, velvety fur? That somewhat describes the coat of the Rex and Mini Rex rabbit breeds. The fur is completely different from other rabbit fur because it is so dense and it stands upright. The ideal length of the fur is just under an inch, but that’s a lot of plush to touch. This type of fur is an easy way to identify the Rex and Mini Rex breeds.
Only three breeds have satin fur: Satin, Mini Satin, and Satin Angora. What is Satin? The fur is finer and more translucent than usual fur, so it creates a sheen that makes the fur shiny.
Lop Or Not? Big Or Small?
Another obvious characteristic to help determine breed is a rabbit’s ears. Here the questions are simple: Are the ears up or down? Big or small? If the ears normally lay along the side of the head, compare your rabbit to the Mini Lop, American Fuzzy Lop, Holland Lop, English Lop, or French Lop. Either your rabbit is one of these or is a mix with one or more of these. The English Lop has the largest ears of all the breeds, while the Netherland Dwarf and Britannia Petite have the smallest.
Profiling Your Bunny
Take a look at your rabbit’s profile when he or she is sitting and relaxed. The American Rabbit Breeders Association breaks breeds up into five body type groups: semi-arch, compact, commercial, cylindrical, and full arch. Semi-arch includes breeds like the English Lop and Flemish Giant, which have a longer body and arch shape that reaches its peak at the top of the hips. Compact breeds like the Dutch, American Fuzzy Lop, and Netherland Dwarf have less slope to the arch of their back. The Californian, New Zealand, and Rex have the commercial body type, which has a full body that is a bit longer than the compact type and an arch that peaks above the hips. Only one breed is cylindrical: the Himalayan. As you might guess, the shape is straight and “tubular” with no arch. Rabbits with a full arch have a distinct arched look, and examples include the Belgian Hare and Checkered Giant.
Spots, Patterns, And More
A rabbit’s coat color or pattern offers another clue in your breed quest. The fiery orange-red Thrianta breed is known for its distinct color. The Dutch has a unique saddle pattern. English Spots and Rhinelanders have special markings. Some breeds come in numerous colors, such as the Holland Lop and Netherland Dwarf, while others only have one recognized color, such as the Giant Angora, Californian, Florida White and Cinnamon.
Once you decide what key characteristics match your rabbit, you’re well on your way to determining the breed or breeds that created your little buddy. Research the breeds and delve into those that look most like your rabbit. The ARBA-recognized breeds are an excellent place to start for people in North America, but know that the history of rabbit breeds worldwide is complex. Many other breeds are recognized around the world, and some rabbit breeds have gone extinct while new rabbit breeds are still emerging. Good luck!