When thinking about purchasing your first rabbit, breed selection should be at the top of your list of considerations. Rabbits come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re raising rabbits for fun or profit, there is a breed out there that is perfect for you. It’s easy to become overwhelmed in the world of rabbit breed registries. There are a lot of buzzwords floating around out there. Because of this, heritage breeds have also grown in popularity over the years.
What is a Heritage Breed?
Heritage breeds are typically non-commercial breeds that were imported generations before our time. These breeds are no longer used in mainstream agriculture, but still boast many desirable qualities, such as self-sufficiency, hardiness, and natural reproductive ease. Most of these breeds are threatened, their population numbers are declining and their risk for endangerment can be classified as critical, threatened, watch, or recovering. An example of a critically endangered heritage rabbit breed would be the Blanc de Hotot. The Blanc de Hotot was established in France in the early 1900s. They were first imported into the US in 1978 and first recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1979.
In addition to the Blanc de Hotot, there are two other rabbit breeds on the critically endangered list – the Silver, which was imported into the US in the 1800s, and the Silver Marten, which is a breed that was developed in the US in the late 1920s. If you are interested in raising some rare rabbits, these three breeds are a great place to start.
ARBA Recognized Rabbit Breeds
The American Rabbit Breeders Association is an organization that governs US breed registries and breed specific standards for show rabbits. Today, the ARBA recognizes fifty breeds of rabbits here in the US; from the cute and fuzzy two-and-a-half-pound Netherland Dwarf, to the large but agile thirteen-pound Checkered Giant. In addition to size and function, temperaments can also vary by breed. Some friendlier rabbit breeds include the American rabbit, the Dutch rabbit, and most Lop varieties. Of course, lots of gentle handling can help a shy or flighty rabbit feel more at ease with you.
Fiber Breeds of Rabbits
Rabbits that are raised for fiber do require a little more upkeep. Grooming and brushing are necessary for maintaining healthy coats. Some rabbit wool is very valuable and can even be sold to crafters and yarn makers. One of the largest of the fiber breeds would be the Giant Angora; they can weigh in at over ten pounds. This breed was developed specifically for its wool and has three different types of fiber – underwool, awn fluff, and awn hair. Since this breed does not molt, it must be shorn regularly.
There are three other Angora breeds – the English Angora, the French Angora, and the Satin Angora. All three of which are highly sought after for their wool.
For More Information
Additional information, photos, and brief summaries on each of the fifty ARBA recognized rabbit breeds can be found at the American Rabbit Breeders Association website. Information on heritage breeds can be found at The Livestock Conservancy website.
Please also check out our Raising Show Rabbits article for best handling tips.