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Choosing a Netherland Dwarf Rabbit

By: Betty Chu

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Netherland dwarf rabbits are often called gems of the rabbit world – small, round creatures with big personalities. They are the second most popular breed among the 45 pure breed rabbits recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). They are also the smallest breed of all pure breed rabbits. A mature Netherland dwarf has an ideal weight of 2 pounds, and a maximum allowed weight of 2 1/2 pounds.

History and Origin

It is generally accepted that the Netherland dwarf is an accidental breed crossing between a Polish rabbit and a small wild rabbit in the Netherlands sometime before the 1940s. Around 1948, British rabbit fanciers brought them to England. In 1969, the ARBA accepted the Netherland dwarf as a recognized pure breed by adapting the British standard. This is quite different from other breeds' acceptance, which usually must go through official presentations for a minimum of three years. The Netherland dwarf was accepted "as is" using the British standards directly, omitting the requirement of ARBA presentations over 3 years.

Appearance

The ideal look of a Netherland dwarf can be summarized in one word: round. The rabbit should have a head that is round in all directions with short ears, a very short neck, and round, smooth body.

A Netherland dwarf has the most classified color varieties, a total of 32, among the 45 recognized breeds. If you are interested in breeding and showing Netherland dwarf rabbits, it is important to study color genetics to avoid making mistakes.

Netherland dwarf rabbits carry the "dwarf gene." This can make breeding complicated. To get a rabbit within the 2 1/2 pound limit, the rabbit has to carry one copy of the dwarf gene. If two copies of the dwarf gene are inherited from the parents, the resulting baby is a "peanut" who will eventually perish due to the lack of ability to develop. If no dwarf gene is inherited, the resulting offspring will grow to a normal-sized rabbit that exceeds the 2 1/2 pound weight limit. Therefore Netherland dwarf breeding usually results in smaller number of viable bunnies.

Housing and Care

Due to the small size, the Netherland dwarf needs less space in cage and barn facilities and takes up less space in apartment living for pet owners. As with other small breed rabbits, Netherland dwarfs tends to be higher strung than their larger counterparts. They are also not ideal pets for small children as they are easily dropped, injured, and stepped on. Their high-strung nature makes them more suited for a mature, rabbit-loving, adult home.

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, but alfalfa hay should not be offered free choice to rabbits over 8 months of age. It is too rich.

Common Diseases and Disorders

As with other rabbits, Netherland dwarfs 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 Netherland dwarf 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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