Choosing your perfect pet rabbit
We know from analysing the searches conducted on this website that many of you are seeking information on breeds of rabbit, and choosing a rabbit to live indoors as a housebunny.
Baby or adult?
First of all, decide if you want a baby rabbit or an adult. Babies are great fun, but very hard work. If you want your bunny to live indoors as a houserabbit it's much easier to start off with a rabbit over 12 months old. Adopting an adult rabbit also means you can pick a bunny whose personality you like.
As for the question of breed.... there is no "best breed" for life as a houserabbit and there are plenty to choose from - there are around 50 breeds in the UK! Basically, any rabbit can be a houserabbit. The vast majority of rabbits adapt happily to life indoors, even after several years alone in a hutch.
As a general rule, large/giant breeds are more laid back and less excitable than small/miniature rabbits. On the other hand, the larger the rabbit the shorter the life span. Dwarf breeds may live 10-12 years whereas many giant breeds struggle to reach 4 or 5 years. Long haired rabbits are only for the dedicated - they often require hours of grooming.
More of a concern is whether the breed you have chosen has any health problems. For example, Netherland Dwarfs as well as the popular Lop breeds are at high risk of serious teeth and eye problems. It's vital to select a breeder whose stock has no history of such problems, or if you are adopting a rescue rabbit, choose a bunny that has had a careful dental check at the time of neutering.
In response to demand from people visiting this web site we are constructing a database of rabbit breeds, providing basic information on breed characteristics, as well as important data on breed- specific health problems.
Don't forget that any rabbit (male or female) living indoors will have to be neutered - rabbits left un-neutered are difficult if not impossible to house-train once they reach puberty.
Please consider adopting a rescued rabbit. Tens of thousands of unwanted rabbits pass through rescue organisations in Britain every year and by adopting a rescue bunny you will have the satisfaction of knowing you've saved a life. A wide selection of rabbits (including babies) are usually available via rescue and as an added bonus many are already neutered and vaccinated. See our rehome section.
If you are looking for a rabbit of a particular breed or colour, your best option is to locate a reputable and caring breeder. The Pet Plan Rabbit List contains information on the different breeds and lists breeders by region. A free copy can be obtained by writing to Pet Plan Rabbit List, FREEPOST, SEA0883, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 9YY. Make sure you visit the premises before purchasing your rabbit and that you are happy with the conditions the rabbits are kept in.
Please don't buy your new pet rabbit from a pet shop. Changing homes is a very stressful experience for a young rabbit and baby bunnies in pet shops have to endure two changes of diet and environment in quick succession which can trigger serious and sometimes fatal stress-related digestive problems. Plus, rescue workers and knowledgeable breeders are likely to be much better equipped to teach you how to look after your new pet.
Probably Britain's most popular pet rabbit, the Dwarf Lop is a surprisingly big rabbit. Contrary to the name, it is not actually a dwarfed rabbit, rather a smaller version of the larger French Lop.
Size: Medium sized! Ideal show weight is 4.8lb, but most pet quality Dwarf Lops grow between 4.5 to 6lb. Have the leg ring removed if you buy an ex show rabbit. - it is likely to get too tight.
Colour: Just about anything you fancy, including 'butterfly' patterned (white blotches on a coloured background). Sooty fawns, agoutis, whites and sables are currently popular.
Grooming? Thick medium length coat. grooming required 2 - 3 times a week and daily during moult.
Temperament: Usually cheerful and outgoing. Some females are especially stroppy until they are spayed; un-neutered males tend to be complete sex pots and will take it out on your cuddly toys, shoes and feet!
Health problems: Bad news here. The round head and flat face predispose to dental disease. Front teeth malocclusion is common - buy from a reputable breeder. Back teeth problems develop later – regular veterinary checks and pet health insurance are strongly advised. Eye trouble increasingly common. If you adopt a rescue dwarf lop, consider an adult that has had a careful dental check at the time of neutering.
Life span: Potentially long lived - but only if you escape the dental problems.
In the house: Deservedly popular as houserabbits.
Availability: Take your pick. There's usually plenty available in rescue centres. Avoid woolly coated ones - they are a matted welfare disaster.
Fascinating Fact: The nearest US/European equivalent breed is the Holland Lop. The long haired version is the Cashmere Lop - best avoided unless you have an interest in home spinning. If you actually want a dwarf sized lop, you need to find a miniature lops instead!
Alternative Breeds: The long coated version of the Dwarf Lop is called the Cashmere Lop, which is best avoided unless you have an interest in home spinning or have time to dedicate to daily grooming which is a must to prevent mats forming. If you like Dwarf Lops but would prefer a smaller rabbit then the UK Miniature Lop, makes a good alternative along with keeping the good temperament known in the Lops and is also available in nearly every colour possible.
The Himalayan is an old breed renowned for its good temperament – grumpy Hims are virtually unheard of. Many people are put off by the pink eyes and slender shape (described as 'snaky' in the breed standard) but the Him is actually a charming character that makes a lovely pet!
Size: Small/medium - around 4.5lb (2kg)
Colour: White with markings in black, blue, chocolate or lilac. Eyes pink/red.
Grooming? Short coat - minimal grooming required, during moult only.
Temperament: Remarkably quiet to handle. Very docile as hutch rabbits, surprisingly lively as house rabbits! Building a relationship takes time - Hims tend to be a little aloof initially.
Health problems: None known. Possibly at risk of eye injuries due to prominent eyes.
Life span: Long - 8+ years
In the house: Beware of the very narrow build - they can squeeze into the tiniest spaces and create havoc behind the washing machine!
Availability: Easy to obtain.
Fascinating Fact: The colouring on the extremeties is temperature dependant. Baby Himalayan rabbits are all white, and only develop pigment on their nose, tail, ears and feet when they leave the warmth of the nest.
One of the smallest breeds around and very popular with their apple round heads and short erect ears. Very cute looking.
Small - around 2lb
Colour: Within five primary colour groups; self, shaded, agouti, tan, pattern and any other variety!
Grooming? Short coat, grooming required during moult period.
Temperament: Can be a bit skittish and feisty. Lively and love climbing! Not ideal pets for children.
Health problems: Prone to malocclusion and dental disease. Buy from a reputable breeder, or older rabbit from a rescue. Back teeth problems develop later – regular veterinary checks and pet health insurance are strongly advised.
Life span: Long -
8+ years (committee member's 'Nethie' lived to the age of 14!
In the house: Takes a while to build a relationship with them, but it's one worth having. Great fun to watch. Loves getting into mischief.
Availability: Reputable breeders or rescue centres.
The classic 'big white bunny', NZWs are ideal family houserabbits - they're too big for young children to pick up, by far the safest way to mix rabbits and kids!
Large. 9 to 12 lb (45kg), females larger than males.
Colour: Usually white: an albino rabbit with pink eyes. The Black and Blue (grey) New Zealands are now very rare.
Grooming? Thick, dense coat needs a weekly groom; daily when moulting.
Temperament: Friendly, calm and even tempered.
Various exotic diseases have been found in some in-bred strains of meat and laboratory rabbits. There are no particular problems in the show strains likely to be kept as pets. Watch the weight, though – they do get fat easily.
Life span: Probably 5 - 7 years.
In the house: Great housebunnies and fabulous characters, but beware of the hair - they moult vast quantities of white hair absolutely everywhere, several times a year!
Availability: From show breeders, whites are getting scarce; blues and blacks very rare. Because NZWs are still bred for meat, you could adopt a bunny and save it going in a pie. Former laboratory rabbits are sometimes available for adoption (all legal and above board!) and such animals are generally extremely well handled and always absolutely healthy.
The New Zealand Red is an entirely different breed: smaller, lighter in build and a very pretty orange-red colour.
The Polish shares with the Netherland Dwarf the distinction of being the smallest breed of rabbit. Other than size, the two could not be more different. Instead of the pug-like physique of the Netherland Dwarf, the Polish is a graceful, elegant breed with the characteristics of a whippet. They're lively -VERY lively - and they're also very smart. Despite their size, this is definitely not a suitable pet for a young child. A Polish obtained from a reputable breeder, who has handled the babies from a very young age and selected for good temperament, is capable of making a very entertaining, active and intelligent pet, even though you'll never persuade a Pole to sit on your knee for a cuddle for more than about 5 seconds. However, far too many Polish are bred by people who keep far too many rabbits; ignore temperament when selecting breeding stock; and rarely handle the youngsters. All of which goes a long way in accounting for why the breed is often written off as being "vicious".
Size: Tiny - a show rabbit will weigh in at around 1kg. However, some Polish sold as pets are are a bit larger. If they have not inherited a copy of the "dwarfing gene" they may be about 25% heavier.
Colour: Just about anything that takes your fancy - the Polish in the UK is allowed to be any colour, so long as it is recognised in another breed. The Red Eyed White (REW, or albino) is most popular on the show bench, but probably does have more temperament problems than the "coloureds". The most common colours are sable, smoke pearl, himalayan-patterned "Himpoles", and agouti patterns including chinchilla and opal, but rarer colours also exist.
Grooming? Short coat - minimal grooming required, during moult only.
Temperament: You need to take care here. Choose your Pole carefully, handle it lots, and never ever grab it, and you'll be rewarded by a real character bunny whose company you will treasure. Make sure you have female Polish spayed as soon as possible.
Health problems: None known. Dental problems appear to be very unusual in this breed, incomplete contrast to the Netherland Dwarf.
Life span: Long -
Long. 8-10 years plus.
In the house: Beware of the very narrow build - they can squeeze into the tiniest spaces and create havoc behind the washing machine! Don't adopt a Pole if you want a rabbit that will snuggle beside you on the sofa. But if you want a cheeky rabbit who will climb all over you, use your shoulder as a launchpad to reach forbidden table tops, and race around the house with the sheer joy of living, do have a look at this breed.
Availability: Easy to obtain from breeders - rarely found in rescue.
US/UK differences: The UK Polish is known as the Britannia Petite in the United States. Whereas the US Polish is a different, more thick-set rabbit that's a bit bigger.
The Polish rabbit doesn't come from Poland... it's a very old English breed, and got it's name from the "polished" glossy coat!
The Sussex is a recently created breed which was developed in the early 1980s. With their teddy-bear looks and loveable characters, Sussex make superlative housebunnies and are highly recommended. Size Medium-large. 7.58.5 lb (3.33.8kg)
Colour: Two colours: Gold is the teddy bear colour - reddish gold with milk chocolate shading. Creams are much lighter in colour with a pinky cream-coloured and lilac shading. Both very pretty.
Grooming? Thick, dense coat requires a weekly brush for most of the year but daily grooming when moulting.
Temperament: Absolutely A1. Rather like a Labrador - friendly, outgoing, and greedy. Young males can be determined and slightly stroppy until they are neutered. Definitely not shy!
Health problems: None known, but don't let them get fat - Sussex put on weight very easily. Round head shape may possibly increase risk of teeth and eye problems, just as with lops.
Life span: Medium - probably 6-8 years, but a little too soon to tell yet.
In the house: Perfect houserabbits! Wonderful companion bunnies who love hanging out with humans. Big enough to cope with dogs and cats around the house.
Availability: Rare variety: you may have to travel to find a breeder, but babies are often available.
Fascinating Fact The Sussex was created from crosses of the Californian and Lilac breeds.
A hutch is not enough...