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I need to preface this article with a disclaimer: breed does NOT guarantee temperament. In any animal. For every sweet and loving Lionhead, there’s a total arsehole.
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I always advocate getting a rescue rabbit – here’s why
There are SO many rabbits in rescue centres. When we were looking for Holly and Daisy, we came across rabbits of every age, size, and breed.
I would only ever get rabbits from rescues for a couple of reasons:
1 – I don’t really care about temperament. Some rabbits hate to be cuddled, some don’t. I’m not bothered either way, which is why I’m happy to take angry rabbits. Often they’re just scared, and if you leave them be for a few few months, they start accepting the odd nose scratch.
2 – This is selfish, but I like getting rabbits that are already spayed and bonded. It’s just less hassle. The rabbits are more expensive, but it’s to cover vet bills that I’d have to pay later anyway.
Rabbit breeds perfect for a first time rabbit owner
Rex rabbits crop up time and time again as nice, friendly rabbits. They come in a variety of colours, are medium-sized, and are super soft. I’ve fostered one before, and can confirm – they’re really sweet and convivial, and Molly would happily sit on the knee of a total stranger.
Rex rabbits don’t require so much in the way of grooming – though they look really weird when they’re moulting – but they can suffer from sore hocks, so make sure the floor oftheir set up is nice and soft.
I’m sure there are some angry rex rabbits out there, but I don’t think I’ve heard of any. They still don’t like being picked up – very few rabbits do. They do seem to have a track record of actually liking kids. Most rabbits will tolerate them, some hate them, but rex rabbits seem to like them. It’s the same with beagles. Animals are weird.
I have a soft spot for Dutch rabbits. They have a lot of personality, and they’re intelligent and sweet. I have had one that was an arse, and then mellowed with age. I’ve found that they get friendlier the more attention they get, and more feral if they get ignored (true of most rabbits), but Dutches can take a while to trust you.
I’ve not ignored my rabbits, but I’ve had Dutches that was neglected for 18 months, and it took them a while to come round.
Obviously this is only my experience. If you Google ‘are Dutch rabbits friendly?’ you get a variety of answers, and it’s hard to judge a rabbit’s friendliness if you don’t know what the caregiver was expected. If you pick up even the friendliest rabbit, it may try to bite or scratch you.
Mini lops are small and cute. They have medium-long fur that would require brushing, but not frequently – monthly would be fine.
Lops in general can suffer a few more health problems than non-lop rabbits –
1 – because their ear canals tend to be smaller, and they can infections easily, and
2 – because they’ve been more narrowly bred than non-lops (in general – this isn’t a hard and fast rule), so they’re a wee bit more inbred.
The lop rabbits I’ve had have required more frequent ear cleaning, and they often get dental problems later in life. I’m not saying that this is the case for all lops, but it’s something to think about.
I had a lionhead a long time ago, and he was really sweet. They’re generally described as friendly and non-aggressive, but they’re also very headstrong. It’s something I see a lot of in rabbit Facebook groups – lionheads are SASSY.
This isn’t a problem for me – I love a sassy rabbit – but if you’re after something that’s just a cute snuggle bug, then you might be better off with a Dutch or mini lop.
I’m going to remind you again that breed doesn’t dictate temperament, but…I’ve seen a lot of sassy lionheads.
English rabbits are the white ones with black spots. In temperament, they seem to be very similar to Dutch rabbits.
Bear in mind that English rabbits are thought to have been bred from giant breeds, so you do occasionally get enormous ones. Big rabbits are cool though.
Harlequins seem to be pretty popular in pet shops at the moment – they are pretty small and cute though.
I fostered a harlequin for a few months last year and he was gorgeous – super friendly and cute, and desperate to be friends with my 10-year old German lop who hated his guts.
He was a dump job (my boyfriend found him outside his work) so I don’t know what his crime was, but I know he didn’t really like to be cuddled.
Rabbit breeds renowned for being sassy
Rabbit breeds that require a lot of extra care
I’ve never had an Angora rabbit, but prepare to do a lot of grooming. There are also really furry breeds like Jersey Wooly which will also require you to spend a lot of time with a brush in your hand.
Final thoughts on rabbit breeds for first-time rabbit parents
In all honesty, I don’t think you need to worry too much about the breed, so long as you know the kind of size you’re looking for. We’ve always picked out a rabbit first and then researched the breed later.
The benefit of getting a rabbit from a rescue is that the employees will be able to tell you more about the rabbit’s temperament than googling the breed of the rabbit ever will.
Oh, and if you’re getting a giant breed, make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Some of them are freaking enormous, and they eat A LOT.