Rabbits make wonderful pets with some requiring more grooming and care than others require. They also need special housing, socialization, exercise, and a proper diet. Generally, domestic rabbits have a lifespan of between five to ten years with some living slightly longer.
Unlike commercial rabbits reared for their meat, pet rabbit breeds often weigh less than meat rabbits. The approximate size of a pet rabbit is 6 pounds. If you prefer one of the bigger ones, the choice is yours. The question is, are you ready to carry a 10-pound rabbit everywhere you go or feed and care for a giant rabbit?
If you have kids, you also do not want a pet that is too big for them. Pet rabbit breeds have different personality traits and characteristics. For instance, some rabbits will hop away as fast as they can if you try to cuddle them while some will revel in your embrace.
Choosing The Best Pet Rabbit
The choice here is wide and varied and depends on why you want a pet rabbit. Do you only want a companion or are you keen on entering your bunny for shows. While the ARBA recognizes and allows nearly all breeds on our list to participate in shows, some have varieties that the association does not recognize as show rabbits.
After you identify the rabbit breed that most interests you, head out to breeders and get yourself one. You can also opt to adopt one from a rabbit rescue or local shelter. Whichever route you take, make a point of inspecting your rabbit for signs of ill health.
Before you bring your pet rabbit home, check out some of the resources at the end of this post. In the resources, experts cover the A-Z of pet rabbit care and rearing including health care, feeding, grooming, and housing.
Below we look at some of the best pet rabbit breeds
1. Mini Rex
The mini Rex pet rabbit breeds have a history going back to the 1900s in France with the discovery of the Rex Fur gene. However, back then, Rex Rabbit weighed up to 9 pounds. The Mini Rex was first bred in Texas by crossbreeding an undersized Lynx Red doe and a black Dwarf Rex.
While they are small, they are big in beauty. They boast a physique that is well-proportioned, have a plush coat, and are a charming breed. Their diminutive size makes them more appealing to people who want to raise pet rabbit breeds.
They weigh up to 4.5 pounds, which is approximately half the size of their ancestor. The does are bigger than the does with the distinctive features of the Mini Rex including rounded backs and finely developed midsection, shoulders, and hindquarters. Their short necks, thick upright ears, and full-body give them a compact appearance.
Mini Rex breeds have short fur with a velvety texture that is smooth and springy to touch. They have a dense coat of straight and upright fur that does not need too much maintenance. In fact, for the Mini Rex, brushing their fur too often changes its natural texture. They come in a variety of colors with some sporting multiple colors.
The history of the Himalayan goes so far back in time that no one really knows its origin. Although Himalayan pet rabbit breeds are among the oldest breeds, their introduction to America only dates back to the 1900s.
Because of their patience and gentleness, Himalayan rabbits are some of the best rabbit breeds for pets. The Himalayan features a cylindrical body shape with straight lines from front to back and no taper in between.
This rabbit breed has short and soft flyback fur that requires minimal maintenance. They have a standard body color with white being the predominant shade. However, they sport markings in a variety of other colors including boot-like shades on their feet, nose, ear, and tail markings. These additional markings appear in colors including blue, chocolate, black, and lilac.
Himalayan rabbits weigh up to 5 pounds making them ideal pet rabbit breeds for homes with children. They are also great for first-time owners as they need little maintenance and with a lifespan of up to 8 years, they will grow on you as a family member with time. Himalayans have a gentle, docile, and calm temperament making them a great house pet.
The Lionhead gets its name from its distinctive flyaway fur around its head giving the rabbit a lion-like mane. These rabbits sport unruly fur around their rear and head and weigh in at less than 4 pounds as adults. Lionhead best rabbit breeds originate from Belgium and are a result of crossbreeding a Netherland dwarf and a Swiss Fox.
This rabbit breed is energetic, affectionate, and playful making Lionhead’s one of the best rabbit breeds to keep as pets. With their amenable nature, they are great with kids, as they do not mind being picked up. However, because of their unique fur, they need more care than many of the other best rabbit breeds.
The history of the Lionhead is not clear with different sources claiming different crosses. Some claim this breed was the result of a cross between a Swiss Fox and Belgian Dwarf whose litter was then crossbred with the Dwarf Angora.
Other quarters claim the mutation that gives the Lionhead its distinct mane appeared in a litter of Dwarf Angoras. The thought is that the Lionhead gene ultimately spread out with subsequent Dwarf Angora rabbits across Europe.
The breed is one of the youngest on the list of ARBA recognized rabbit breeds as it was only recognized in 2014. To cement the Lionhead’s place as an ideal pet and show rabbit, it won its First ARBA Convention Best in Show title in 2018 with a max weight of 3.75 pounds.
Lionhead rabbits are one of the longest living pet rabbits with a lifespan of between 7 to 10 years.
4. Jersey Wooly
Appropriately named as the Jersey Wooly, this dwarf pet rabbit breed is a cross between the wooly French Angora and Netherland Dwarf. A breeder from Jersey named Bonnie Seeley crossed the two rabbits with the breeds’ introduction to the American Rabbit Breeders Association dating back to 1984.
The recognition by the ARBA came soon after in 1988.
Because of its unique appearance and its popularity, the Jersey Wooly is a common sight with most rabbit pet owners. It is also one of the most popular show rabbit breeds with widespread exhibition at shows across the United States.
With its compact body size and weight that tops out at only 3 pounds, this dwarf rabbit breed is ideal for households with small kids. Their ears are small and erect and their head is square and bold – features that have earned it the name “Mug Head”.
As a descendant of the French Angola, the Jersey Wooly has a coat that needs regular maintenance. To keep its fur in the best condition and free from dirt and tangling, experts recommend brushing it at least once a week. They need more brushing in spring when they start to shed.
However, unlike the Angora that requires trimming and clipping to maintain their wool, the Jersey Wooly does not need it. As for colors, the ARBA recognizes these best rabbit breeds in six color groups:
- Agouti – chestnut, chinchilla, opal, and squirrel colors
- Broken – White in conjunction with any other recognized variety
- Self – red-eyed and blue-eyed white, black, chocolate, lilac, and blue
- Shaded – seal, smoke pearl, Siamese sable, sable point, tortoiseshell, and blue tortoiseshell
- Tan Pattern – (lilac, chocolate, black, and blue) silver martens, sable marten, and smoke pearl marten
- Any other variety (AOV) – pointed white blue and pointed white black varieties
Harlequins also get a place on our list of best rabbit breeds for pet parents thanks to their curious and playful nature. One of the most distinctive features of the Harlequin rabbit is its color patterns. Its fur boasts color markings in one of two patterns – bands or bars.
If you thought that was all, think again!
Other than the Harlequin rabbit’s dual-color pattern appear most sport a two-colored coat. Some popular color combinations include black and white/gray, black and brown, and partly white and orange.
Harlequin rabbits are a breed whose basis rotates around their color patterns and not fur or body type like most rabbit breeds. According to reports, the Harlequin came about because of crossing the mildly wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbit with wild rabbits. While there are people who do not agree with the Harlequin’s classification as a breed, it is recognized as one by the ARBA.
There are two varieties of this rabbit breed namely the Japanese and Magpie with the difference being the color scheme. Japanese Harlequin’s feature an orange color and either lilac, chocolate, blue, or black. On the other hand, Magpie’s sport white rather than orange and either chocolate, blue, black, or lilac.
This rabbit breed has French roots and a lifespan of 5-8 years.
Alternatively known as Brabender or Hollander, the Dutch rabbit once held the title of most popular rabbit breed. That was until the introduction of dwarf rabbits, which took over as the best pet rabbit breeds. Because the Dutch is not a dwarf although it is small, it is no longer as popular as before.
Still, the Dutch rabbit is one of the most preferred pet rabbit breeds in the world. It is also a popular show rabbit thanks to the recognition by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. With unique characteristics and color pattern, it is easy to identify the Dutch rabbit. Their bodies are well rounded just like their heads and they have short, stocky, and amply furred ears.
They have short and soft fur that is easy to maintain, only requiring you to spot clean or brush occasionally and as needed. Their distinct color pattern features a predominantly white coat with shades of other colors on the head and the rear end of the body. Their most popular colors along with the white include black, chinchilla, gray, steel, chocolate, tortoise, and blue.
Some also sport yellow and brown, steel, or pale grays. Depending on the variety, the Dutch rabbit has different eye and under colors.
7. Netherland Dwarf
The Netherland Dwarf lives up to its name with its approximately 2.5-pound max weight, extremely small size, and its uncharacteristically short and small ears. While these tiny rabbits are shy and edgy, they are friendly and are a great pet breed, but only in quiet and calm surroundings. Netherland Dwarf rabbits are also the smallest pet rabbit breeds in size.
The breed’s features include a compact body with a short neck. They have a broad head and a round face. Their coat is soft and short and their ears are small and erect with rounded tips. Given their body size, they have uncharacteristically big eyes and head.
If you intend to rear Netherland Dwarf pet rabbit breeds for a show, you need to choose wisely. While they come in a large variety of colors, most that have patterns are restricted from shows.
Their jumpy nature means they are not comfortable around small children. Still, for a quiet household, Netherland Dwarfs are an excellent pet rabbit breed as their small size translates to low maintenance. However, if you do not feed them a holistic diet with a lot of fiber, they are prone to a malocclusion.
Even with their susceptibility to one particular rabbit health complications, they have a long life span of up to 12 years!
8. Holland Lop
If you fancy rabbit shows, you can participate in one if you own a Holland Lop. Holland Lop rabbits are one of the cutest and among the most popular show breeds. The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognized this Native of the Netherlands in 1979.
Their fur typically has a solid or broken color scheme and they are available in a variety of different colors. By nature, Holland Lop rabbits are excitable, energetic, friendly and fun to play with but they are stubborn when it comes to picking them up or cuddling them. Females can especially be grumpy and snippy.
They weigh up to 4 pounds and with another of their iconic features being their large, floppy ears.
In summer, these mini rabbits require more care as they shed a lot and their energy warrants them being let out to run around as much as possible. These beautiful rabbits have a lifespan of between 7 and 14 years.
To keep their fur slick, glossy, and shiny, experts recommend bi-weekly grooming and once a week during the molting season. As they are social rabbits, keeping them in pairs or groups will make them happier and more comfortable.
9. Mini Lop
At approximately 6 pounds when fully grown, Mini Lop rabbits are medium-sized and qualify for the best rabbit breeds for pets. Their solid build with a round body, large head, and long, thick ears make the Mini Lop a cuddly little bunny fit for any pet parent.
With a cuddly personality and the rabbits’ fondness for human contact, the Mini Lop is one of the best rabbit breeds for petting. They need as minimal care, but you will need to rabbit proof your house if you intend to let them run free often – which they need to, anyway. The Mini Lop is also great with kids as they are cuddly and easygoing.
Mini Lop rabbits are among the most popular pet and show rabbits as their cheerful and playful nature makes them easy to train. With a variety of toys, a calm home, and some TLC, your Mini Lop rabbit will be comfortable and happy. Mini Lop rabbits live up to an approximate age of 10 years.
Of all the rabbits above, most rarely have any health complications other than the usual and general rabbit health concerns. While this list has some of the most popular in each category, you can also find out the recognized breeds from the ARBA. This is especially crucial if you intend to enroll your rabbit in any shows in the future.
The question now remains, how do I know the ins and outs of raising rabbits for meat or as pets? The good news is that there are numerous resources you can leverage to be a pro breeder. Below, we look at some resources available.
10. Flemish Giant
The Flemish Giants are easily one of the best rabbit breeds in existence today. They are also a favorite among pet rabbit breeders around the world. Their size has seen them named the gentle giants, as they are domicile and extremely calm given their size and build.
Although it is not certain, they are thought to be descendants of a number of earlier best rabbit breeds including the Patagonian rabbit (extinct), the Stone rabbit, and the Belgian hare among others. The Flemish Giant’s other name is the Universal rabbit as it is widely popular for multiple purposes.
Feature-wise, the Flemish Giants has the longest bodies and widest backs of any rabbits. Their hindquarters are solid and well-rounded with strong and muscular legs. Despite their size, their legs length is approximately the same as those of other large rabbit breeds but stronger. Their large ears form a V shape on their head with bucks boating broader and more imposing heads.
Their undercoat is dense and their fur sports a glossy sheen and medium length. According to the ARBA, the Flemish giants feature seven predominant colors namely black, fawn, sandy, white, light gray, blue, and black. Flemish giants can weigh up to 22 pounds. For show rabbits, the standard minimum weight for Flemish Giant rabbit bucks and does is 14 and 13 pounds respectively.
Their calm persona makes Flemish Giants one of the best rabbit breeds to have. Although, while they are an excellent choice amongst other rabbit breeds, they are too heavy for most small children to carry and this should be taken into consideration if purchasing a rabbit for a child.
Guides For Raising Rabbits
Storey’s Guide To Raising Rabbits
Wherever your rabbit-raising interest lies, this Storey’s guide has it covered from raising commercial or pet rabbits. In this comprehensive guide, Bob Bennett covers a host of rabbit raising best practices.
The book features professional advice on selecting the best breeds, routine medical care, handling rabbits humanely, feeding routines, and housing structures and plans for whichever purpose. The book also covers diseases that affect rabbits and how you can deal with them.
Whether you are looking to get into rabbit farming as a commercial venture or as a hobby, this book is feature-packed with tidbits of useful information to help you along your rabbit-breeding journey.
However, the book will not please everyone as the chapters that focus on raising rabbits commercially might come off as cruel to these beautiful and cuddly mammals. There is a newer version of the book, but this 4rth edition has everything you need at a lower price. The little updates of the fifth addition were not enough to warrant a higher price.
Offering expert advice on breed selection, housing, feeding, humane handling, routine medical care, and dealing with diseases.
The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver
Another excellent resource, if you are just starting your rabbit rearing Journey, is Karen Patry’s the rabbit raising problem solver. The author who is also a rabbit expert is aware of the most nagging questions for first-time pet rabbit owners and veteran commercial livestock farmers alike.
In the book, Karen Patry answers these questions in an FAQ format covering a wide range of topics while at it. The book covers questions regarding rabbit housing, care at every stage, as well as feeding. It also covers breeding and choosing the best rabbit breeds among other rabbit-raising dilemmas.
As the owner of a rabbit ranch named Aurora Rex Rabbit Ranch and a dedicated rabbit website, Karen Patry has been there and done that. Moreover, the author is a member of both the National Rex Rabbit Club and ARBA.
Karen Patry expertly addresses every aspect of rabbit care, including housing, feeding, breeding, kindling, health, and behavior.
The Everything Rabbit Pet Handbook
For pure pet rabbit parents to be, this is easily one of the best guidebooks out there. The title itself sums up what the book is about with perfection – a handbook for raising pet rabbits. The fact-filled handbook by Sarah Martin covers everything a rabbit pet parent should know in detail.
Before getting a pet rabbit, you need to know the dos and don’ts to ensure you and your rabbit are happy. This book helps you do that by covering bunny basics equipment to use, what to feed your pet rabbit, and whether a pet rabbit is even a good idea in the first place.
Other topics covered in this book including finding the perfect pet rabbit, living with your bunny, health, wellness, and training. Simply put, this book has everything you need to know to be the perfect pet rabbit owner.
The Everything Pet Rabbit Handbook covers all your rabbit-knowledge needs in an easy to understand format with color photos and helpful information that you can put to use immediately! Information is presented for both USA and the UK.
The Bunny Lover’s Complete Guide To House Rabbits
An aptly named author, The Bunny Guy (Stephan Flores), brings you another book that is tailored for pet rabbit parents, which could explain the reason it has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon. The Bunny Guy must know his bunnies!
Whether you are a veteran rabbit breeder or you are looking to adopt your first pet rabbit, this guide covers everything you need to know for house rabbit raising. It features easy-to-understand insights garnered from the author’s personal experience. The book comes complete with photos and systematic instructions on housing, socializing, and litter-box training.
This book will tell you how to select the appropriate rabbit vet for your bunny, know what—and what not—to feed your bunny (hint: carrots aren’t it!) and understand why rabbits should always live indoors.