Bunny breeds: choosing your perfect pet
Choosing the rabbit breed that’s right for you is no easy task, with the huge choice available. All bunnies require long term commitment, and have lots of care needs to consider, but some are a little higher maintenance than others.
If you are a first-time owner, a breed with potentially less complex care requirements may be a sensible choice. Why not consider a breed like the Dutch? With their distinctive good looks, docile nature and short, easily maintained coat, it is no wonder that they are one of the most popular types in the UK.
Or maybe you would like to consider a cute English lop or a gorgeous British giant? Read on for our great advice on choosing a bunny that is right for you!
How about a lop-eared bunny? With their long floppy ears and cute face, the lops can be a popular choice. They are often inquisitive, friendly and docile and can make a great choice of pet. However, their cute lop-eared looks can come with a downside. Years of selective breeding for their appealing looks has increased the risk of ear and dental disease and any prospective new bunny owner should bear this in mind.
Lop-eared bunnies tend to have narrow (stenotic) ear canals. This can predispose them to ear infections, ear pain and deafness. Regular ear cleaning can help to keep ear disease under control and should be part of the routine health care of all lops. Chat to your vet for advice on the best way to care for your bun’s ears and how to hold them without making it a stressful experience – both for you and your hoppy pal.
Breeding for the lop-eared look has also led to a change in skull shape with the lower jaw tending to be slightly longer than the upper jaw and the face somewhat flattened (brachycephalic). Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously, wearing down against each other to stop them becoming too long. However, the altered skull shape of lops can result in misalignment of the teeth where they do not meet correctly, referred to as dental malocclusion. The result is overgrown incisors and painful spurs or spikes on molars, making it difficult and sometimes painful to eat.
Top tip: Once a week clean your lops’ ears and check their teeth!
Top tip: As with all breeds, ensure your lop is eating plenty of hay; a portion of hay the same size as their own body is a great guide!
Bred for their cute faces and small size, these are a popular choice of pet in the UK. Despite being mini in size, they still need maximum space to exercise and living accommodation of an adequate size. They are friendly and energetic but can be quite skittish in nature so may be better suited to a more experienced home. The Netherland Dwarf is probably the smallest of the dwarf breeds and with its short upright ears, compact size and appealing face, it is easy to see why it Is so well liked.
Breeding for their cute looks is not without disadvantage. Like lops, selective breeding for dwarf features has resulted in changes in skull shape. Dwarf rabbits tend to have a small round skull with a brachycephalic face and this altered skull shape increases the risk of dental malocclusion and dental disease. Additionally, their brachycephalic features can make them more snuffly than the longer nosed breeds and this may predispose them to airway disease.
Top tip: Keep a close eye on your dwarf bunny’s teeth and seek veterinary advice if concerned!
These magnificent creatures tend to have a gentle, friendly nature and can be less skittish than their smaller friends. Despite their calm personality, their very large size may make them harder to handle and less suitable for kids.
Their large bunny bodies can increase the risk of sores on feet and hocks from carrying around that extra weight. Plenty of soft, dry bedding provides padding for their paws and will help to prevent this. Additionally, their size can make them at risk of back problems and arthritis. Keeping them slim will help to prevent the health problems typically associated with the giant breeds.
Top tip: Feed a healthy diet with unlimited hay to help keep your giant bunny trim!
Bunnies such as the angora or cashmere breeds have luxurious fur that make them possibly the most glamorous members of the rabbit world. They are generally docile, however they require a lot of maintenance to keep them in tip top condition, so are only suitable for owners with the time to commit to their grooming needs.
Without adequate grooming, their coats are prone to matting. Not only is this uncomfortable but it can predispose to soiled fur, skin infections and flystrike. Flystrike is an unpleasant and life-threatening condition in which flies lay their eggs on sore, wet, or soiled skin. In a very short time, the eggs hatch into maggots which start to feed on the rabbit. This is a medical emergency and prompt veterinary treatment is needed if the rabbit is to have a chance of survival. Read more about flystrike here.
Rabbits groom themselves several times a day. In most breeds this causes no problems, however the long-coated rabbits can end up swallowing quite a lot of fur. Swallowing large quantities can increase the risk of gut blockages and gastrointestinal stasis where the food stops moving properly through their gut.
Top tip: Groom your long-coated bunny every day to help keep them healthy!
So, there is a huge choice out there when it comes to choosing your perfect bunny friends. Some require more care than others but with the right knowledge you can help to keep them fit and healthy throughout their life.
Wondering if now is the right time to commit to a new furry friend? We’ve got you covered here.