When choosing a pet rabbit, breed is one of the major factors to consider. Rabbits vary a great deal from breed to breed in terms of temperament, lifespan, care needs and ease of handling. With more than 60 rabbit breeds and over 500 varieties worldwide, there are many to choose from; this article gives information on the breeds most commonly seen as pets.
Rabbit breeds are classified into four sizes – dwarf, small/medium, large and giant. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the breed, the longer the lifespan, with dwarf breeds having an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years while giant breeds have a shorter lifespan of 5 to 6 years.
Size also has a bearing on temperament, with the larger breeds tending to be more laid back and friendly, while the smaller or dwarf breeds can be very energetic, highly strung and more difficult to handle. Long haired breeds such as the Angora need almost daily brushing while very short haired breeds like the Rex need no brushing whatsoever.
Therefore, the ‘best’ pet rabbit breed in terms of friendliness and ease of care would be a large breed e.g. English Spot, New Zealand, Californian, Standard Rex or French Lop. Dutch and Himalayan rabbits are also friendly and easy going, despite being a small/medium size.
The most common pet breeds seen today are dwarf or small breeds e.g. Netherland Dwarf, Dwarf Lop, Mini Lop, Holland Lop, Lionhead, Mini Lion Lop, Polish, Mini Rex etc. These have been breed to look small and cute with rounded heads, however, these breeds have a far higher risk of dental disease which can be very costly to treat. They are also not recommended for inexperienced rabbit keepers or children as their lively, energetic nature makes them more difficult to handle.
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