Monday, February 21, 2011

Breed History

Lilac rabbits originated in a number of places around the same time.
The first known breeder was H. Onslow of Cambridge, England. In 1913 he showed Lilacs for the first time at the famous London exhibition.
In 1913, Mabel Illingworth crossed the Blue Imperial (a breed that she had newly developed) with the Havana and created a Lilac rabbit, which she called the Essex Lavender.
In 1922, Professor R.C. Punnet of Cambridge University crossed the Blue Beveren and the Havana to create a lilac rabbit, which he called the Cambridge Blue.
Eventually the 3 British lilac strains merged together and were recognized by the British Rabbit Council as the Lilac rabbit.

Another story of the history of the Lilac rabbit states that the breed first showed up in a litter of Havana rabbits as a sport.

Lilacs were being developed in countries other than England as well. In 1917, C.H. Spruty of Gouda, Holland, used Havanas and Blue Beverens to create a lilac rabbit which he called the Gouwenaar or Gouda. Gouwenaars are recognized today in Holland and the Scandinavian countries.

In America from 1922 to 1926 many shipments were being made from England to the United States and the breed was becoming quite popular. In the 1930's the Lilac was recognized by the ARBA and a National Lilac Club was formed. In 1951 the Lilac club became inactive and the Lilac began to loose most of its breeders but in the next year a few Lilac breeders reorganized the club and made it active again. Today, even though Lilacs have such lovely fur and sweet temperaments, they are still a very uncommon breed.

Oryctolagus cuniculus (Havana )

Scientific name: Oryctolagus cuniculus

Country / Place of origin: Holland

History: Havana Rabbits are said to be descendants of Dutch Rabbits and first bred in the late 1800s in Holland. They were brought to the United States in 1916.

Appearance: Havanas are considered compact because of their short, round bodies. The ears are short and upright. The fur is short, soft and dense, and strikingly dark in color, which are black, blue, and chocolate brown.

Average weight: 4 - 6 lbs.

Lifespan: 5 - 10 years

Grooming: Havanas require simple brushing at least once a week to remove loose and excess fur and prevent matting of the coat.

Rabbits naturally groom each other by licking the ears, nose, top of the head, and around the eyes.

Diet: Like other rabbits, Havana Rabbits are herbivorous. The main ingredient of their diet is hay, preferably Timothy grass hay, which is rich in the fiber needed to prevent diarrhea, obesity, and hairballs. Leafy vegetables, though also essential to a rabbit’s health, should be given sparingly to prevent digestive disorders. For variety, treats may be given (although occasionally because of potentially high starch or sugar content) such as carrots, peaches, plum, apples, papaya, pears, strawberries, and other fruits. Commercial rabbit pellets also add nutrients to the daily diet. Fresh water should always be available, either from a sipper bottle or in a stable water bowl.

Housing: Havana Rabbits are best kept indoors to protect them from extreme temperatures, predators, and other outdoor dangers. They should be allowed to roam and exercise, preferably where they can get sunlight and fresh air. Extension hutches, exercise pens or lawn enclosures are recommended for safe outdoor exposure. If kept in a cage, the enclosure should be at least five times the size of the rabbit with plenty of room to stretch and stand upright. Wire mesh flooring should be avoided because the rabbit’s feet could get caught in them. A hide box or sleeping quarters should be provided for times when the rabbit needs to hide or sleep in private. Baby toys and interesting items should also be available for entertainment.

Rabbits can be taught to use a litter box. To avoid health hazards caused by toxic wood shavings or clumping kitty litter, only organic litter should be used such as paper, citrus, or wood pulp. Rabbits may also be allowed to roam inside the house as long as the areas where they are free to explore are “rabbit-proofed” for safety.

Health issues: Like other small mammals, Havana Rabbits can be susceptible to colds and viral infections. Exposure to draft, sudden changes in temperature and stress can lower the rabbit’s resistance to sickness. Rabbits are also vulnerable to conjunctivitis (a bacterial infection of the eyelids caused by smoke, dust, and fumes) and ear mites. Intestinal ailments like coccidiosis (parasites propagated by unsanitary conditions), bloat, and hairball obstructions are also common in rabbits.

Behavior / Temperament / Activity level: Havana Rabbits are calm, sweet tempered, and social, getting along with other domesticated pets like cats, dogs, and guinea pigs. They are best kept in pairs or trios but preferably one per cage to minimize injury from occasional infighting. They are most active at sunset and at daybreak. Because they are timid, easily stressed, and physically fragile, they are not recommended as pets for small children. Havanas are known to be one of the best pet rabbits because of their very gentle demeanor.


The original Havana began from a Dutch doe and an unknown buck breed. A similar breed of rabbit appeared at a Paris Exhibition in 1902 leading the way for other European breeds such as the Feh de Marbourg and the Gris Perle de Hal. The original Havana rabbits are believed to have been bred with Himalayan rabbits thus the reason behind the distinct colors and brilliance of this breed's coat. The Satin rabbit breed which also has a unique coat began from a litter of Havana rabbits.

The Havana is a small to medium build rabbit averaging four to just over six pounds. A true Havana rabbit will have the same color on the entire body excluding the broken variety and the fur should be short, dense and quite silky. The body is compact but well-rounded. The head will appear to be sitting directly on the shoulders rather than the neck while the ears stand erect but close together.

Even with their incredible coat that appears to need special care, the Havana rabbit requires no extra care than that of other short-haired breeds. Weekly grooming is usually all that is needed except during the shedding season when extra grooming may be needed. The Havana rabbit also doesn't require a special diet and can be fed the same foods as other breeds.

The Havana rabbit breed is known to be quite docile, making the breed a wonderful companion. Havana owners describe the breed as mild tempered that bond closely to their owners. Their personalities tend to be playful and they fully enjoy affections given by their owners. Because of their compact size and sweet temperaments, the Havana rabbit breed has become increasingly popular among new rabbit owners.


THE RABBIT HANDBOOK by Dr. Karen Gendron, copyright 2000.

Havana Rabbits

It is believed that this beautiful silky rabbit was first bred in Holland in 1898, using an unknown buck and a Dutch doe. Other European breeds have taken off from the original Havana, including the Feh de Marbourg and the Gris Perle de Hal. The original Havana is thought to have been bred with Himalayan rabbits which is the reason for the distinct colors and brilliant coat. The satin fur, a genetic mutation, was first discovered in a litter of Havanas. The first Havana was presented in 1899 in Holland, introduced in Europe in 1908, where it is still very popular, then making its way to the United States and accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association in 1916.


Chocolate was the original variety of the Havana but now black and blue are accepted. They are a compact rabbit weighing ideally 5 ¼ to 5 ½ for both bucks and does. They have a rich shiny coat that should have the same color over the whole body (except for the brokens) and very silky. They are known for their docile nature, friendly personalities, and love attention.

Looking after sick rabbits and info on common illnesses

Looking after a sick or incapacitated rabbit
Make sure the rabbit has food and water close by. If its painful for the rabbit to move, it won't get up to eat or drink. Offer your bunny food and water now and then to encourage it to eat/drink.

The rabbit will also poop where ever it happens to be sitting. Make sure that the rabbit does not get a rash or skin irritation from urine on the skin. Gently wipe the genital area with a damp cloth. Remove any cecals from the bunnys fur and offer them to your bunny to eat. This sounds yucky, but rabbits need to eat the cecals. You may need to wash the rabbit's tail area if poops are getting stuck to the fur.

Most likely the rabbit will need a soft warm place to sit, where he/she can feel safe. Most likely this will be an enclosed space or next to a wall. Put towels, blankets, carpet etc. on the floor so the bunny has grip and is not on the cold floor. Block any draughts coming in under doors etc. You may want to use a WARM (not hot) heat pack or hot water bottle to keep your bunny warm after surgery. Most vets will put your bunny on a warming pad after surgery.

You may need to confine your rabbit if he/she has had surgery. Moving around may aggravate the wound and/or tear stitches. If he/she tries to eat stitches, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar. Also known as a bucket collar. Rabbits really really hate these. Bandaids (sticky bandages/plasters) worked really well to deter a rabbit from licking or biting at stitches. Check with your vet first to make sure its ok for your rabbit's wound. You can also use a sock as a body suit to stop the rabbit eating stitches.

If you have two rabbits you may need to separate them. Animals in pain usually prefer being alone, and other rabbits may lick at the wound and disturb the sick bunny.

Poopy Butt
Poopy butt is a condition where the rabbit's poops cease being solid round balls and are mushy and liquidy. Often the poops will stick to the fur around the rabbits tail and bottom. Poopy butt is usually caused by an upset in the rabbits diet. Try feeding more hay and pellets and fewer fresh veggies to see if it bulks up the poops. If it doesn't clear up in a day or two, take your rabbit to the vet. Normally rabbits have soft poops called cecals which are eaten straight away. These are different from poopy butt.

Stasis is a condition where a rabbit does not eat or poop due to an upset in the intestines/stomach. If you notice your rabbit is not eating or pooping and seems dejected and unwell, contact your vet asap. This condition can be fatal, but with the right treatment your rabbit will be ok. This is a good reason to have your rabbits inside the house. It is much easier to see if your rabbit is unwell.

Head Tilt
Head tilt is a symptom that can be caused by various conditions. The most common conditions are an ear infection, Pasteurella and Encephalitozoon cuniculi (commonly known as E. cuniculi or EC). Head tilt is often accompanied by loss of balance and eye rolling. An affected rabbit is generally unable to hold its head upright, and the head is tilted to one side. Either one eye, or both eyes will roll backwards towards the rabbits tail every few seconds.

If you suspect your rabbit may have head tilt, take the rabbit to a vet ASAP. If the head tilt is caused by an ear infection, the infection may spread to the brain. If the rabbit has EC, the next symptoms can often be paralysis of the limbs and severe loss of balance and muscle control, resulting in unstoppable rolling. If treated quickly, these horrific symptoms may be prevented, otherwise they are generally not reversable.

Generally it can be difficult to tell which problem is causing the head tilt, and most vets will provide medication to treat all three problems (Baytril, Panacur etc.). Further investigation, such as X-rays may be required to rule out ear infections.

General rabbit questions and useful tips

Should I get a male or female rabbit?
Once a rabbit has been spayed/neutered, their personalities are quite similar. The decision really depends on whether you already have a rabbit.

It is easier to bond a male and a female rabbit than it is to bond two males or two females. (Bonding is the process of getting two or more rabbits to make friends). Bonding can be incredibly difficult, rabbits seem to be very fussy as to the companion they want. The best matches tend to be a neutered male with a spayed female. Two Unneutered males will tend to fight, as will unspayed females. It is possible to bond an unneutered male with a spayed female, however the female rabbit may become upset if the male rabbit continually mounts her. If he mounts her head, she may bite his genitals.

Should I get one rabbit or two?
Rabbits are generally happier in pairs. After all wouldn't you like to have someone to talk to? Rabbits groom each other, keeping hard to reach places clean. They also provide each other a warm cushion to lean on, and often one will be the sentry while the other takes a nap. Having said that, it can be difficult to bond two rabbits. Often they fight when they are first introduced until one rabbit is deemed to be the dominant rabbit of the pair. As you can imagine, this can be quite a problem with two headstrong bossy rabbits. Some rabbit owners are lucky as their rabbit is very accepting of a new friend. Its better to get two rabbits from the same litter as they will be less likely to fight. Read about Fuzzy and Thumper to get an idea of how I bonded them together.

Where can I get a rabbit from
Please adopt a rabbit from a shelter or rescue where possible. If you really want a baby rabbit, you can most likely adopt one, as many litters are surrendered/dumped at shelters. Buying rabbits from pet shops encourages people to breed rabbits. There are far too many rabbits being dumped to warrant more being bred. Also some pet shops end up making cat or dog food out of rabbits that don't sell. Often you can see a rabbits true personality at a shelter, where it may have been handled daily, and is socialising with other rabbits. Some shelters also spay and vaccinate rabbits before allowing them to be adopted, which will save money and time.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The History of the Angora Rabbit

There is much controversy regarding the story of the Angora rabbit, however according to generally accepted theory, angoras date back to the early 18th century, around 1723. As the story goes, there were some sightseeing sailors who pulled into a Turkish port called Angora, now known as Ankara . It was in this town where they saw native women wearing very beautiful shawls that were like no other that they had seen. The fineness and silkiness quite surpassed the shawls in their country of France . They inquired about the fine wool in the shawls and much to their surprise found it to be from the Angora rabbit. Thus the sailors secured some of the rabbits to take back to France .

Some French authorities dispute the claim of Turkish origin of the Angora rabbit, claiming they were the first to record Angora rabbits. The French point to the Encyclopedia of 1765 for substantiating data to this effect. The French believe the Angora rabbit had been concurrently produced in various rabbit breeding countries, France among them. The French insisted the long, silky coats due to the proper conditions for growth. This theory seems to be born out by M├ęgnin’s report on asses kept in the coal mines of France without ever seeing daylight. It was in the coal mines where these animals grew very long, silky coats in the sultry darkness. With this in mind, it is interesting why animals working in a hot atmosphere should develop a long coat. Does nature provide them as insulation against heat as it does against cold? At any rate, the French without a doubt are given credit for seeing the commercial possibilities of the Angora wool into yarn. France was not the only country to visualize the possibilities of this excellent fiber. England very shortly followed suit. England probably did the most transporting of the Angoras to other countries including Germany, Spain, Japan , and various European countries.

It was probably not until around 1900 that there were any Angora rabbits in the United States and those were by fanciers or people interested in showing the animals. Records regarding commercialization in the United States dates around 1925 or 1930. While there are very few commercial wool industries in the United States, many individuals maintain small herds of Angoras for wool production and exhibition. However, as yet there is no substitute for Angora —the fiber known as the Aristocrat of wools.

Housing Your Angora Rabbit

When starting with Angoras, the first thing for the beginner to decide is approximately how many angoras one wishes to raise. Are you going to have one or two angoras for pets? Do you plan on doing any breeding? How many does do you plan to breed in a year? What is the maximum number of angoras the space you have will permit you to raise?

Every breeder will have their own idea as to the style and design of the perfect rabbit hutch or cage system. All of this will depend upon the amount of space you have for the cages and if the rabbits are going to be housed inside or outside. Regardless of what you decide, it is important to keep in mind the hutches or cages must be dry, well lit, have good ventilation but free from drafts, as well as the temperature where the rabbits will be housed. Several people have asked if a barn, chicken coup, garage or other unused building could be adapted for housing Angoras. All of these buildings can be suitable so long as you consider the factors listed above.

There are many different types of hutches and cages that can be used. Some are made of wood and wire while others are all wire. If you are going to have several Angoras in a small area, I would suggest purchasing or making the wire cages so you can stack them on top of each other. Of course, when you stack the cages you will also have dropping pans that will need to be cleaned frequently to keep your rabbitry sanitary. When deciding what type of hutch or cage you want to use you need to consider the following: comfort of the rabbit, ease of cleaning and handling of stock, ease of dismantling for thorough disinfecting, resistance to vermin and the escape of the rabbits, and economy.

The comfort of the Angora in the cage is very important. I prefer to use cages that are at least 24" x 30" that are 18" high The cages are made of 1" x 2" wire on the sides and top with 1" x 1/2" wire on the floor. I have larger cages I use for does when the babies come out of the nestbox to give the doe more room. Some people use cages that have baby saver wire, however, I have found the urine guards and putting window screening around the cage when a doe kindles works well. The window screening is cut so it is approximately a foot tall and goes completely around the cage. I simply use twist ties to fasten the window screening to the cage, plus this gives me easy access to open the door of the cage.

Whether you are purchasing a cage or the wire to make the cage yourself, I would suggest you check the prices with various dealers to obtain the best price as cages purchased in pet stores are usually very expensive!