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Choosing a Dutch Rabbit

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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The Dutch rabbit, easily identifiable by his characteristic color pattern, was once the most popular of all rabbit breeds. Unfortunately, after dwarf rabbits were developed, the popularity of the small rabbit dwindled. However, he still remains in the top 10 and a favorite of rabbit lovers worldwide.

It is thought that the Dutch rabbit was first developed in the lowlands of the United Kingdom with ancestors from Holland and Belgium. In the beginning of the 19th century, the Dutch rabbit was imported into England where it continued to thrive as a meat breed.

For rabbit breeders, the Dutch may be best known for her extraordinary fostering abilities and some rabbit breeders always have a few Dutch does around in case another mother just isn't doing the job.

Appearance

The Dutch rabbit is a fairly small breed, weighing between 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 pounds. Despite its popularity, the Dutch rabbit has not changed much over the years. The most striking aspect of the breed is the marking pattern and is available in eight different colors and a few unique multi-colored versions.

The front of the face, front part of the body, and rear paws are white. The cheeks, ears and belly are colored. The saddle line to the tail and down the back legs are also colored. This pattern of white and colored fur is very important and must be maintained in order for the rabbit to be considered a true Dutch.

The fur of this breed is dense, short and lustrous. The ears are erect and well furred. The colored fur of this rabbit can be black, blue, chocolate, tortoiseshell, pale gray, brown gray, steel gray or yellow. Of these choices, the black/white and blue/white are the most popular.

In the 1960s a tricolor Dutch rabbit was developed and thought by some to be a cross between the Harlequin rabbit breed and the Dutch rabbit. Later, a harlequin color version of the Dutch rabbit was developed, thought to be produced from the tortoiseshell Dutch.

Feeding

Commercial rabbit pellets are recommended. Feed 1/4 cup of pellets per 5 pounds of body weight every day. For rabbits under 8 months of age, feed unlimited plain alfalfa pellets. Fresh rinsed greens, vegetables, and fruit, as well as grains and hay, can then be given as supplements. Free choice hay, such as timothy, should always be available and changed daily. Alfalfa hay should not be offered free choice to rabbits over 8 months of age because it is too rich in calcium.

Housing

Many rabbits do very well in the home. They can be litter box trained and are quite fastidious groomers. Be aware that rabbits love to chew so make sure all wires are safely hidden or in protective plastic covers and understand that some of your furniture may be nibbled. If you choose to cage your rabbit, make sure the cage is at least 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet. If the cage has a wire bottom make certain you give the rabbit a plank or sea grass mats to stand on so his feet won't get damaged from being on the wire all the time. Provide a hide box or shelter and plenty of straw for bedding.

Common Diseases and Disorders

As with other rabbits, Dutch rabbits do not do well in high or low temperatures. They are prone to hairball obstructions and matted coats if not cared for properly. Rabbits need daily grooming to remove loose hair. Other health concerns include earmites, Pasteurella, respiratory disease, dental problems, urinary bladder stones and fractured backs. Be quick to notice any changes in diet or litter box habits and contact a rabbit veterinarian immediately.

The average life span of a breeding Dutch rabbit is 5 to 6 years. By spaying or neutering early in life, you can increase their life expectancy to around 10 years!

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