The Dutch Rabbit is a small, friendly pet rabbit breed.
Despite their name, they originated in England, not the Netherlands!
Dutch Rabbits are easily recognized by their short, shiny fur, and the distinctive white saddle marking across their shoulders.
Their average lifespan is 5 – 8 years. The secrets to a long and rewarding lifetime with a Dutch Rabbit include the right diet and lots of interaction.
Your Dutch Rabbit
Welcome to our guide all about the Dutch Rabbit.
If you’ve been thinking of adding a rabbit to your family, the Dutch Rabbit may well be on your list of potential breeds to consider.
In this article we’ll take a look at the history of this breed, their appearance, and health.
We’ll also consider if they make good family pets. If you do decide this breed it right for you, we’ll look at the best places to start your search for your new rabbit.
Where Does The Dutch Rabbit Come From?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this breed must come from Holland.
But, contrary to what the name might suggest, the history of this rabbit actually starts in England.
In the 17th Century, rabbits were imported from Belgium to meat markets in England.
Some of these rabbits were the breed Petit Brabancon, and it’s from this breed that the Dutch Rabbit draws its origins.
Fun Facts About The Dutch Rabbit
The Dutch Rabbit is one of the ten most popular rabbit breeds around the world.
The Petit Brabancon, from which the Dutch Rabbit descended, shows up in paintings from the fifteenth century. The markings of this breed tend to be very similar to the Dutch Rabbit.
Dutch Rabbit Appearance
When fully grown, a Dutch Rabbit should weigh between 3.5 – 5.5 pounds.
They have a compact, rounded body. The shape of their heads is softly round, with short ears that are well covered in fur.
Their coats are short, with shiny flyback fur.
Dutch Rabbit Markings
The markings of this breed are distinctive, with a broad stripe of white, the “saddle,” covering the shoulders and around the belly. The saddle is connected under the rabbit’s body by a marking called the undercut. This should sit close behind the forelegs, but not touching them.
Their faces have a blaze of white extending from under the mouth, over the nose and up between the eyes, before tapering out over the forehead.
The neck marking of a Dutch Rabbit refers to the white collar behind their ears. This should have a wedge shape. In show rabbits, it’s desirable to have the blaze extending all the way between the ears to connect with the neck marking.
Lastly, the hind feet of this breed should have what are known as stop markings.
These white toe caps should extend to around one-third of the length of their foot.
While black and white is a very common color combinations for these rabbits, there are 6 colors which are recognized for showing purposes:
- Gray (also known as brown grey in the UK)
The full descriptions of markings and colors can be found on the website of the American Dutch Rabbit Club.
Dutch Rabbit Temperament
Dutch Rabbits are sociable, with friendly natures.
They can be very energetic and enjoy having enough space to run off steam.
Many owners enjoy training their rabbits, and this can be an excellent bonding exercise.
Rabbits can be taught to come when called, complete small obstacle courses, and more!
As with all rabbits, they can be easily startled, and care should be taken when handling your rabbit.
Dutch Rabbit Health
As a general rule, this bunny is a healthy breed, and shouldn’t suffer from too many health concerns.
With that being said, it’s important to become familiar with what is normal for your rabbit.
Take note of their regular daily habits, including how much they drink, eat, and sleep. Make sure to give your rabbit a once-over every day, checking their condition, if they have any lumps or bumps, and if their eyes look bright.
As small prey animals, rabbits are masters at hiding their illnesses.
But by paying close attention to their disposition, you should be able to pick up if your rabbit is feeling a little off color.
Any domestic rabbit can be susceptible to the following health problems:
- Flystrike (if obese)
- Head tilt
- Uterine tumors
- Ear mites
One issue that can affect all bunnies, not just this breed, is dental problems. As their teeth grow continuously, they can have issues if their diet doesn’t include enough food designed to help wear down excess growth.
Malocclusion is where the rabbit’s teeth don’t line up correctly. This can cause the teeth to become overgrown, and painful. Your veterinarian can help by trimming your bunny’s teeth regularly.
Overgrown teeth can cause cuts, or abscesses. These can be painful, as well as discouraging your rabbit from eating.
Ask your veterinarian to check your rabbit’s teeth annually. If your rabbit seems to have lost weight, or is not eating their rations as normal, their teeth may be in need of attention.
Vaccinations And Veterinarians
In the UK, annual vaccinations available for rabbits include those for myxomatosis, and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease.
Before you bring your new bunny home, be sure to find a veterinarian who specializes in rabbits.
As they’re considered an exotic pet, they have a few specialized requirements.
Rabbits are especially sensitive to anesthesia, as well as having varying degrees of sensitivity, which makes it hard to predict the correct dose of anesthetic.
Specialized exotic pet veterinarians will have the level of knowledge needed to deal with this.
Dutch Rabbit Lifespan
You can expect your Dutch Rabbit to live around 5 – 8 years. Neutered animals tend to live longer.
The maximum reported age of this breed is 15 years.
Grooming And Feeding
The short coat of the Dutch Rabbit only requires brushing once or twice a week during the majority of the year.
When they molt, daily brushing can help remove excess fur, which will reduce the risk of your rabbit swallowing this during grooming, and developing hairballs. Check your bunny’s nails once a month, and trim if necessary.
Feeding your rabbit is a very important part of maintaining their overall health.
It’s important to try and align your pet rabbit’s diet to one they would eat in the wild. You want to feed a diet that’s high in fiber, and low in fat. Combining hay with grazing on fresh grass, if possible, is the best place to start.
You should also feed a good quality pellet or mix which is specifically designed for rabbits. You may also choose to supply a selection of green leafy plants.
Rabbits are prone to overeating, and may become obese if fed too much. Of course, fresh, clean drinking water should always be available.
The food preferences of most rabbits are determined during weaning. As a result, you may find it difficult to persuade your rabbit to eat a different brand of food when you decide to change!
You can read more about the specific dietary requirements of rabbits in this article by veterinarian Anna Meredith.
Do Dutch Rabbits Make Good Family Pets?
Dutch Rabbits are known for their gentle nature and kind disposition. This makes them well suited to being kept as a family pet.
With that being said, care should always be taken to make sure any children in the family know how to handle and care for their pet rabbit.
While rabbits look cuddly, some really don’t enjoy being picked up, and may panic if picked up by someone who doesn’t know how to handle them properly. If dropped, this can cause damage to your rabbit’s fragile bones.
Many families choose to create a large outdoor run for their rabbits, where family members can interact with rabbits without picking them up. Other families allow their rabbits free run of the house.
Rescuing A Dutch Rabbit
You may decide that rather than purchase a baby Dutch Rabbit, you’d like to rescue a rabbit of this breed instead.
You may even find a pair in need of a home together.
In the US, Petfinder currently has 4,500 rescue rabbits looking for homes. One of them may be the perfect addition to your family!
Animal Rescue and Care rehomes rescue rabbits in the UK. They have conditions for adoption, including that they will not rehome single rabbits to live on their own.
Finding A Baby Dutch Rabbit
Once you’ve decided that this breed is the right one for you and your family, you may choose to get a baby rabbit, rather than rescue an adult.
So, how do you go about finding a baby Dutch Rabbit?
Our recommendation would always be to buy your rabbit from a reputable breeder.
The American Dutch Rabbit Club has a directory of breeders, including details if they specialize in certain colors.
It’s an excellent idea to try and visit breeders in your area. They should be happy to show you any kits they have for sale, as well as answering any speed specific questions you may have.
The British Rabbit Council has a similar directory for the UK, covering all breeds.
Keeping Multiple Rabbits
Rabbits are social animals, and enjoy the safety and security of living in large groups in the wild.
Domestic rabbits can benefit greatly from living with at least one other bunny companion.
The PDSA recommend keeping rabbits in pairs, such as a neutered female being paired with a neutered male.
If it’s the striking color of the classic black and white Dutch Rabbit that appeals, but you’d like a smaller rabbit, then the Dwarf Hotot is an excellent choice.
The Rex Rabbit has a playful personality similar to the Dutch Rabbit but is a little larger.
Is A Dutch Rabbit Right For Me?
If you like the sound of living with a sociable, fun-loving and intelligent bunny, then the Dutch Rabbit may be the perfect companion for you!
As it is an energetic breed, be sure that you have enough room in both your house and backyard to allow this rabbit enough room to run off steam.
Dutch Rabbits are relatively low maintenance. A good quality diet, plenty of space to roam, and regular veterinary checks should all keep them in excellent health.
You and your family might enjoy training your rabbit to come when called. But remember, rabbits are fragile and can startle when picked up incorrectly.
Make sure visitors, and young children, know how to treat your rabbit with the care and respect it deserves.
If you have a Dutch Rabbit, or any tips about the best way to keep this breed, please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
References and Resources
- American Dutch Rabbit Club.
- PDSA. Dutch Breed Information.
- Borkowski and Karas. (1999). Sedation and anethesia of pet rabbits. Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice.
- Harcourt-Brown et al. (2007). The progressive syndrome of acquired dental disease in rabbits. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine.
- Common Rabbit Diseases. Vetwest Animal Hospitals.
- Meredith. The Importance of Diet in Rabbits. The British Rabbit Council.