Lop eared rabbits, easily recognized by long ears flopping down alongside the head, may be the oldest breed of domestic rabbits. Though the exact origin is a mystery, these adorable bunnies can be traced as far back as 1700.
Originally, the lop eared rabbit was developed as a meat-producing breed but eventually was used for exhibit and some become popular pets. All lop eared rabbits are compact and muscled and their ear growth is usually complete by four months of age.
Though common in England, France and Holland, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the lops were imported to the United States. After their arrival, however, they quickly became very popular.
There are currently at least eight different breeds of lop-eared rabbits, all arising from the English lop. As the oldest of all lop eared breeds, the English lop has been on exhibit longer than any other.
The English lop is the original lop eared rabbit and has been called the “King of the Fancy.” This breed has the longest ears of any rabbit and the ears drag the ground. Typically, the ears are measured from tip to tip and should be at least 21 inches or more. The English lop weighs at least nine pounds.
From the original English lop, all other lops were developed.
Around 1850, the first French lop was developed when the English lop was crossed with European giant breeds by a Frenchman named Condenier. The French lop has shorter ears that extend 1 ½ inches or more past the jaw. The French lop tends to weigh more than the English lop, around 12 pounds (5.5 kg).
The German lop was developed from the French lop by crossing with other breeds. The ears are similar to the French lop but the rabbit is an overall smaller size, weighing around seven pounds (3.2 kg).
The least known lop eared rabbit may be the Meissner lop. Developed from crossing lops with silvered breed in the late 1920s in Germany, this breed typically weighs around six to eight pounds.
The dwarf lop is one of the most popular pets, second only to the Netherland dwarf. This breed was first developed in Holland in the 1950s from the French lop. Weighing around four pounds (2kg), the dwarf lop is not the smallest lop. From the dwarf lop, the cashmere lop and miniature lop were developed.
Despite the name, the miniature lop is not the smallest lop either. Weighing around four to six pounds, the miniature lop was developed from the dwarf lop in the early 1990s in Holland.
In the early 1980s, a longhaired variety of dwarf lop was developed in the United States and was originally shunned by breeders. By the mid 1980s, the hair coat of future breeds became silkier and the breed was eventually recognized as the Cashmere lop. From here, the giant cashmere lop was developed and has yet to be officially recognized.
The Holland lop has the distinction of being the smallest of all lop eared rabbits. Weighing under four pounds, the Holland lop has ears that do not fall to the ground and should not extend more than one inch below the jaw line.
Commercial rabbit pellets are recommended. Feed 1/4 cup of pellets per five pounds of body weight every day. For rabbits under eight 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 eight months of age because it is too rich.
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 two feet by two feet by four 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, lops 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 lop rabbit is five to six years. By spaying or neutering early in life, you can increase their life expectancy to around 10 years.