What Breed Is My Bunny?
This is one of the most common questions asked by new pet bunny owners, particularly if the bunny had been purchased from a pet store. Most pet store employees know little, if anything, about rabbits in general, not to mention how to identify the specific breeds. Although it is impossible for a knowledgable rabbit breeder to properly identify the breed of a rabbit without being able to actually see and feel the rabbit, we can, however, provide a basic guide for narrowing down the choices.
In order to identify the breed of a bunny, the reader must first understand that there are currently “recognized” 45 breeds in the United States today, with more under development certificates. It takes many years of development and a stringent three-year process of evaluation before a new breed can be accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA).
Rabbit breeds come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, ear carriage, and colors. It is impossible to identify the breed of a rabbit by color alone because the same color may be available in many different breeds and including the “spotted” varieties. Color is referred to as “varieties,” and the “spotted” is called “broken,” which means “a white body broken up by colored spots or blotches.” The colored portions may be any of the recognized colored varieties. To make matters more difficult, the common “mixed breeds” are available in the same color variations and including broken varieties.
A word of caution before we begin–the majority of the bunns found in pet stores are what the breeder terms as “culls” that do not conform to the “Standard of Perfection” for that breed for show purposes. In the case of the small breeds, they are often too large in body structure or have other major faults such as ears over the maximum length, or poor coloration, or not enough color. However, these “rejects” make wonderful pets and are just as lovable and affectionate as a top-quality show rabbit. You will need to bear these facts in mind while attempting to identify the breed of your bunny. Do not expect to purchase a rabbit worthy to compete in rabbit shows from a pet store! Should the reader be interested in participating in rabbit shows, it will be very important to acquire your rabbit(s) directly from a “reputable” breeder–never from a pet store!
Ear carrage should be the first characteristic to consider, since it may narrow the field down quickly. Do the ears stand upright or do they “lop” down alongside the head? “Lops” are often referred to as “floppy-eared” by pet owners. Keep in mind that many “pet quality” lop-eared bunnies have what we call “helicopter ears” that will stand out horizontally from the head! Sometimes, a rabbit will have only one helicopter ear. Having the ears lop forward, giving the appearance of a “charging bull”, is also not uncommon. Sometimes, the rabbit may appear only as “lazy-eared.”
There are five lop-eared breeds: American Fuzzy Lop, Holland Lop, Mini Lop, English Lop and French Lop. All other breeds have upright ears. Determining the difference in the lop-eared breeds will depend mostly upon the mature, adult weight (size) and in the case of the American Fuzzy Lop, the fur or wool, as well. However, English Lop has extremely long ears that literally drag on the ground, whereas the other lop-eared breeds have shorter ears, which makes identification of English Lop easier. Minimum length for the ears on a mature English Lop is 21 inches.
Next,the size of your bunny can help identify its breed. However, the size cannot be properly determined until the rabbit has acquired its full size, which is at least 6 months of age for the smaller breeds, and 9 months of age for larger breeds. Although very few of the “giant” breeds are ever found in pet stores, we will include them, as well, for the purpose of providing “complete information.”
For the convenience of determining what “category” your bunny falls into, we will use the terms very small breeds, small breeds, medium to large breeds, and giant breeds.
Very Small Breeds
These breeds range in mature weights from 2 to 4 lbs. with some requiring lesser maximum weights than others. Keep in mind the possibility of over-sized pet quality! The most popular of the breeds listed below that are found in pet stores would be the Holland Lop and the Netherland Dwarf. Minimum and maximum mature weights are shown:
|Breed||Min. Weight||Max. Weight|
|American Fuzzy Lop||None||4 lbs.|
|Britannia Petite||None||2-1/2 lbs.|
|Dwarf Hotot||None||3 lbs.|
|Jersey Wooly||None||3-1/2 lbs.|
|Holland Lop||None||4 lbs.|
|Netherland Dwarf||None||2-1/2 lbs.|
These breeds range in mature weights from 3 lbs. to 7-1/2 lbs. with the most popular found in pet stores being the Mini Rex, Dutch, and Mini Lop.
|Breed||Min. Weight||Max. Weight|
|English Angora||5 lbs||7-1/2 lbs|
|Standard Chinchilla||5 lbs.||7-1/2 lbs.|
|Dutch||3-1/2 lbs||5-1/2 lbs.|
|Florida White||4 lbs.||6 lbs.|
|Havana||4-1/2 lbs.||6-1/2 lbs.|
|Mini Lop||4-1/2 lbs.||6-1/2 lbs.|
|Mini Rex||3 lbs.||4-1/2 lbs.|
|Silver||4 lbs.||7 lbs.|
|Tan||4 lbs.||6 lbs.|
These breeds are not commonly found in pet stores, but are often acquired from shelters, the Humane Society, and sometimes purchased from breeders as “pets.” These breeds will range in size from 5 lbs. to 12 lbs. The most popular in this range would most likely be the popular New Zealand White, Californian, and Rex meat breeds and a wide variety of “mixed breeds.”
|Breed||Min. Weight||Max. Weight|
|American||9 lbs.||12 lbs.|
|American Sable||7 lbs.||10 lbs.|
|French Angora||7-1/2 lbs.||10-1/2 lbs.|
|Satin Angora||6-1/2 lbs.||9-1/2 lbs.|
|Beveren||8 lbs.||12 lbs.|
|Belgian Hare||6 lbs.||9-1/2 lbs.|
|Californian||8 lbs.||10-1/2 lbs.|
|Champagne d’Argent||9 lbs.||12 lbs.|
|American Chinchilla||9 lbs.||12 lbs.|
|Cinnamon||8-1/2 lbs.||11 lbs.|
|Creme d’Argent||8 lbs.||11 lbs.|
|English Spot||5 lbs.||8 lbs.|
|Harlequin||6-1/2 lbs.||9-1/2 lbs.|
|Hotot||8 lbs.||11 lbs.|
|New Zealand||9 lbs.||12 lbs.|
|Palomino||8 lbs.||11 lbs.|
|Rex||7-1/2 lbs.||10-1/2 lbs.|
|Rhinelander||6-1/2 lbs.||10 lbs.|
|Satin||8-1/2 lbs.||11 lbs.|
|Silver Fox||9 lbs.||12 lbs.|
|Silver Marten||6 lbs.||9-1/2 lbs.|
These breeds tend to grow very large and most have no maximum weight limitations. The most popular found as pets would be the Flemish Giant, English Lop, and French Lop.
|Breed||Min. Weight||Max. Weight|
|Giant Angora||8-1/2 lbs.||None|
|Checkered Giant||11 lbs.||None|
|Giant Chinchilla||12 lbs.||16 lbs.|
|Flemish Giant||13 lbs.||None|
|English Lop||9 lbs.||None|
|French Lop||10 lbs.||None|
Only certain breeds have very special types of fur or wool. By now, the reader has picked out all the breeds in the weight categories that may fit the rabbit being identified. We can further narrow down the choices by pointing out and describing the breeds possessing unique fur or wool.
|Breed||Fur or Wool||Unique Fur/Wool Characteristics|
|American Fuzzy Lop||Wool||Min. length 2″|
|English Angora||Wool||Min. length 3-1/2″ covering entire body Sports excessive ear tufts.|
|Giant Angora||Wool||Min. length 1-1/2″ covering body only. Head and ears are bare of wool.|
|French Angora||Wool||Min. length 2″ covering entire body. Small tufts on ears, only. Shorter wool on face.|
|Satin Angora||Wool||Min. length 1-1/2″ covering body only. Hasdefinite “sheen” noticeable on bare face & ears.|
|Jersey Wooly||Wool||Min. length 1-1/2″ covering body and cheeks only.|
|Rex||Fur||Very short and stands upright like a plush stuffed toy. The “velveteen rabbit.”|
|Mini Rex||Fur||Smaller version of the Rex.|
|Satin||Fur||Very shiny, smooth lay-down fur–like satin.|
|Silver Fox||Fur||Smooth lay-down fur, but when stroked from rump to head, will stand upright with no fly-back or roll-back.|
A few breeds have very specific markings that can be used for identification purposes. Again, please bear in mind the tendency for “pet quality” to not match the required markings, but they usually have enough of the right markings to be able to use for breed identification. “Markings” differ from “broken” patterns in that the markings must always be in the same locations on every rabbit of that breed.
|Breed||General Description||Common Misplacements|
|Californian||White body with colored nose, ears, tail, & feet.||Pale or no markings on feet & tail or “smut” on dewlap or body.|
|Checkered Giant||White body with colored nose, ears, eye-rings, cheek spots, strip down length of spine, & 2 spots on each side of body.||Too many spots, not enough spots, lack of nose or cheek markings, or broken line on spine.|
|Dutch||White forequarters with back half of body colored, colored and even ears & cheeks, white nose, distinctly marked similar to “belted” black & white pigs.||These markings need to be very exact. Any variation deems it as “pet quality.”|
|Dwarf Hotot||White body with obvious black “mascara” around eyes.||Eye line is too thick, too thin, or “feathered.” Sometimes will have occasional spots on body/ears.|
|English Spot||White body with colored nose, ears, tail, cheek spots, eye rings, unbroken spine strip, unique line of “spots” running from shoulders & widening to cluster on haunches.||Any variation of marking placements, broken spine strip, or absence of spots.|
|Harlequin||“Striped” bands of color encircling width of body; head marking is evenly divided down center of face with two difference colors (one on each side).||Any variation of placement. Absence of color division on head/face.
|Himalayan||Same markings as the Californian.
||Mostly culled on body type rather than the markings. See section on “Body.”|
|Hotot||Same exact markings as the Dwarf Hotot||Same as the Dwarf Hotot|
|Rhinelander||Colored nose, ears, tail, eye rings, cheek spots, 6-8 medium sized spots on sides, colors. & spine strip. Must consist of 3 colors!||Any variation in marking placement. Lack of markings, lack of required colors|
|Tan||2-tone colored body with darker color on top, light eye rings, belly, chest & “V” at nape of neck.||Poor color, body type, lack of typical Tan “V” at nape of neck.|
There are 5 different body-type categories. These consist of Semi-Arch, Compact, Full Arch, Commercial, and Cylindrical. A brief description of these body types will help the novice to further determine the breed of a rabbit.
This group gives the appearance of a “sway-backed” animal when in a normal sitting position, with the shoulders noticeably lower and gently rising to an “arch” over the hindquarters. Breeds in this category consist of: American, Beveren, English Lop, Flemish Giant, and Giant Chinchilla.
This group is short, blocky, compact and possess the same qualities as the Commercial group, but are too small to qualify for the meat industry. Breeds included in this group are: American Fuzzy Lop, English Angora, Standard Chinchilla, Dwarf Hotot, Dutch, Florida White, Havana, Holland Lop, Jersey Wooly, Lilac, Mini Lop, Mini Rex, Netherland Dwarf, Polish, and Silver.
This is the group that closely resembles the stature of a true hare. Normal sitting position shows a definite large space between the belly and the floor. Breeds in this group consist of: Belgian Hare, Britannia Petite, Checkered Giant, English Spot, Rhinelander and Tan.
These breeds are the meat breeds and are often very massive in meat qualities. For the novice, this is the “typical” rabbit, such as the albino New Zealand White “Cadbury Egg Bunny.” Breeds in this category are: French Angora, Giant Angora, Satin Angora, Champagne d’Argent, Californian, Cinnamon, American Chinchilla, Creme d’Argent, French Lop, Harlequin, Hotot, New Zealand, Palomino, Rex, American Sable, Satin, Silver Fox, and Silver Marten.
Only one breed in this category and a very unique one. The Himalayan has a long body that is the same width from front to back, just like a “rolling pin,” and sits flat with a flat back and no arch whatsoever. This body type is very obvious.
With the aid of this guide to help the novice, it is also recommended to obtain a book that shows examples of the various breeds in order to get a better idea. The main keys to consider will be ear carriage, fur/wool, weight, and body type. Once those categories have been singled out, the rest will tend to simply fall into place. Color was not included due to the vastness of the recognized varieties and with some breeds having as many as 18 different varieites. This guide is not intended as an infallible method of determining a breed, but only as a basic guide. The best method is to simply visit a rabbit show in order to see first-hand the differences between the many breeds, or visit an experienced breeder for identifying your rabbit. The different breeds may also be viewed on the Internet at the ARBA web site at: http://www.arba.com/.