Choosing a Polish Rabbit
Dr. Dawn Ruben
The Polish rabbit is a compact breed with the reputation for being high-strung. His attitude is understandable, however; the breed was developed in Belgium as food. As time progressed, however, this breed became more popular as a pet.
History and Origin
Despite the name, the Polish rabbit is thought to have originated in Belgium and has been exhibited in England since 1884. Many believe that they were developed from Dutch and Himalayan rabbits in the 1860s. The Polish rabbit was originally developed as a meat breed and was larger than the contemporary Polish. In the 1900s, the Polish rabbit was one of the most popular meat breeds in Europe, especially Belgium.
Today, the Polish rabbit is now considered more of a pet and is classified as a fancy breed. They are small rabbits with short ears that touch each other all the way to the tips. Due to their small size, the Polish rabbit is often confused with the Netherland dwarf, although the Polish is a little larger and the head is not rounded. The Polish rabbit weighs about 3 to 4 pounds.
Until the 1950s, most Polish rabbits were white with either red eyes or blue eyes. The red-eyed white is a true albino. The blue-eyed white has the Vienna white gene and is not a true albino. Since the 1950s, colored Polish breeds have been recognized by rabbit clubs. In 1957, the American Rabbit Breeder's Association approved the black and chocolate Polish. In 1982, the blue variety was approved and in 1998 the broken variety was allowed.
Housing and Care
Because of their small size, Polish rabbits need less space in cage and barn facilities, and take up less space in apartments than some of the larger bunnies. As with other small breed rabbits, they tend 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.
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, which is too rich in calcium, should not be offered free choice to rabbits over 8 months of age.
As with other rabbits, Polish 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 Polish rabbit is 5 to 6 years. By spaying or neutering your Polish early in life, you can increase their life expectancy to around 10 years.