The Lionhead rabbit is so majestic and extraordinary, she can barely be believed. This dashing bunny actually has a mane! Not only beautiful, this bunny is this friendly and very fluffy. The Lionhead bunny adapts well to family life.
Lionhead Rabbit FAQs
Our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about the Lionhead Rabbit.
- How long does a Lionhead Rabbit live?
- Do Lionhead Rabbits need haircuts?
- How much does a Lionhead Rabbit cost?
- Do Lionhead Rabbits like to cuddle?
- Do Lionhead Rabbits bite?
- What is the Lionhead Rabbit size?
What’s in this guide to the Lionhead Rabbit
- Where does the Lionhead Rabbit come from
- Lionhead Rabbit appearance
- Lionhead Rabbit temperament
- Lionhead Rabbit health and care
- Lionhead Rabbit Lifespan
- Lionhead Rabbit care
- Similar breeds to the Lionhead Rabbit
- Is a Lionhead Rabbit right for me?
What is a Lionhead Rabbit
Lionhead rabbits are one of our less commonly-kept rabbit breeds.
A small straw poll of people buying rabbits in the UK in 2016 found that only 2.5% of the bunnies being bought were Lionheads.
Their name, unsurprisingly, comes from the long thick ruff of fur which circles their neck, just like a lion’s mane.
Sometimes they’re also referred to as a Lion rabbit, Lion Haired rabbit, or Lion’s Mane rabbit.
The most hirsute lionhead bunnies have a skirt of long fur around their middle as well.
Where does the Lionhead Rabbit come from
There are some competing stories about the parentage of the first baby Lionhead bunny.
All we know for sure is that at some point in Europe, two rabbit breeds were crossed (possibly a Swiss Fox and a Belgian Dwarf, but we may never know for sure) and a surprising genetic mutation was thrown up: the kittens had short coats, with long manes around their necks.
The mutation was named the Mane mutation, and the new look rabbits were an instant hit.
The first Lionhead rabbits in America arrived in Minnesota in 2000, and became part of a breeding program to found the breed on this side of the pond.
In 2013 the Lionhead was recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), and today the National American Lionhead Rabbit Club (NALRC) is still campaigning to gain more recognition for their beloved breed.
Lionhead Rabbit appearance
Though they are most distinguished by the mane, let’s look at some of the other physical traits of this breed.
Lionhead Rabbit size
Lionhead rabbits are a diminutive breed, growing only 8-10 inches tall.
The breed standard adopted by the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association places a maximum weight on show bunnies. The maximum allowed Lionhead rabbit size is three and three quarter pounds.
Compare that the popular American and Chinchilla breeds, which reach between 9lb and 12lb, and you’re really looking at a rather small bunny!
Lionhead Rabbit colors
There are six recognized colors for pedigree lionhead bunnies, with exotic names like “siamese sable” and “smoke pearl”.
They are pretty much all shades of gray and brown!
That doesn’t mean other colors aren’t available.
Non-pedigree lionhead bunnies come in all kinds of hues, including rich yellow shades which are highly evocative of their big cat namesakes!
“Points” are also a popular feature on lionheads – when the tips of the ears and nose are a darker color than the rest of the coat.
Lionhead Rabbit Coat
How do Lionhead bunnies get their amazing coats?
Either by inheriting one or two copies of the Mane genetic mutation (from one parent or both parents respectively).
A baby Lionhead bunny who only inherits one copy of the Mane mutation will have a wispier mane, which may disappear altogether by the time she reaches adulthood.
A baby Lionhead bunny with two copies of the mutated gene possess a thick, full mane for life, and often a skirt too.
When you meet a Lionhead bunny breeder, they should already know how many copies of the Mane gene each parent bunny has, and what proportion of their kittens are likely to inherit two copies of the Mane mutation.
Lionhead Rabbit Facts
So, we know that the lovely mane is the result of a genetic mutation.
It turns out this is a rare, dominant expressing mutation.
This is why the bunnies with only one copy of the gene still have a mane, just a bit less so than those with two copies.
Lionhead Rabbit temperament
Lionhead rabbit fans boast that a Lionhead bunny personality is friendly, laid back and well-mannered.
They enjoy human company and form affectionate bonds with their owners.
They thrive in the company of at least one other rabbit, though it can take time for a new pair to bond.
And they are certainly intelligent and capable of learning simple commands with a bit of patience and training.
They also have a great reputation with kids, and some even have successful careers as Animal-Assisted Therapy animals!
Like any intelligent and sociable animal, a lion bunny will get bored and frustrated without space, toys, and companionship.
Do Lionhead Rabbits bite?
Despite their overall friendly nature, if overstimulated or intimidated, they may bite. Being a prey animal, rough handling by children may stimulate a fear response and defensive biting. It is very important in a household with young children to supervise and train the kids in how to handle a bunny.
Most of the time, this can be prevented by proper socialization and training of those handling the rabbit.
Ensuring the bunny is well-cared-for, properly exercised, and socialized (and neutered) will also help prevent the development of aggressive behaviors.
The easiest combo may be a neutered male and a spayed female. Two males are more likely to fight over dominance, though not always.
Taming Lionhead Rabbits
Dwarf Lionhead rabbits, as they are a prey animal, may be fearful if they have grown up without taming.
Taming a rabbit is not so hard, but it helps so much to understand their body language.
As a prey animal, your body language needs to be different than when interacting with predator animals, such as cats and dogs. If you keep this in mind, it will go a long way to a happy rabbit and a happy connection.
One technique is to let your rabbit run around free in a safe space while ignoring them.
As they get comfortable, they may come up to you and start exploring. Don’t aggressively pet them or look at them. But feel free to have treats in your hand or around you to share.
Also, you want to keep their space a safe and private haven. Avoid reaching in, which may scare them.
Also, pay attention to if your rabbit likes to be pet or not and let them come to you. Again, as a prey animal, being picked up can send many rabbits into a fear response. Listening to the body language of your rabbit will help you to interact in a way that works for you both.
Lionhead Rabbit health
Before you bring home any new pet, it’s good to know which health issues and diseases they might be prone to.
Being clued-up in advance means you can recognize the symptoms early on, and get your pet on the road to recovery quickly.
It is also important to keep in mind that as prey animals, rabbits are really good at hiding when they feel under the weather. Thus, if you think your bunny is not acting quite right, it is important to take him to the vet.
Here’s a rundown of the health conditions to which dwarf Lionhead rabbits are most prone.
Malocclusion of Teeth
A rabbit’s teeth grow throughout their life, being maintained at a proper length only by chewing.
It is thought that a misalignment of the teeth that occurs when a rabbit is young is a heritable condition, but it is not exactly clear how it is passed down.
In many cases, a malocclusion that occurs in a young rabbit will self-correct as the rate of growth of the upper and lower jaws catch up to each other.
If a severe malocclusion persists, it can cause the teeth to overgrow, causing severe issues for the rabbit.
Rabbits dedicate hours every day to personal and social grooming, so of course it’s inevitable that some hair ends up passing through their digestive system too.
Occasionally this hair can build up in lumps called trichobezoars.
These masses of hair in the gut – also described as a wool block – cause your bunny to stop eating and drinking, lose weight, and become dehydrated.
They are a more common problem in long-haired rabbit breeds like Lionhead rabbits, simply because these breeds have a greater volume of fur.
If your Lionhead rabbit loses their appetite or loses weight suddenly and rapidly, hairballs could be the cause – take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Gastrointestinal stasis is an urgent health condition that can occur in pet rabbits.
The most common signs of it are that a rabbit has stopped eating and is passing small or no feces.
A rabbit may stop eating for a variety of unrelated reasons — from being stressed or in pain to dental or kidney problems.
When this occurs, the environment in the digestive tract undergoes changes in ph. Different (gas-producing) bacteria flourish in the altered GI tract environment, and the bunny experiences discomfort and further decreased appetite.
Where it becomes dangerous is that the newly proliferating bacteria may start producing toxins which can damage the rabbit’s organs.
It is very important for a rabbit who is not eating to see a vet asap.
Prevention involves eating a high fiber diet and keeping a watch on other health concerns that might contribute to a lack of appetite.
Hock pododermatitis is common in pet rabbits. It is a chronic swelling of the hock area. It is commonly just called “sore hocks.”
One study of pet rabbits in the UK showed that this affected 100% of neutered female pet rabbits in the UK.
This condition can be both uncomfortable and also dangerous as the hocks can become infected with a potentially fatal staph infection. If left untreated, it can spread into the bones and deeper connective tissue. This can lead to bone death.
Severity can range from mild hair loss on the rear feet to bone destruction from infection.
Providing soft surfaces for resting may help to prevent or reduce the severity of this condition.
Keeping bedding dry and litter clean to prevent softening of skin from moisture is also important.
Lastly, as obese rabbits will put more pressure on the same surface area when sitting and are more likely to be inactive, helping your rabbit maintain an active life and healthy weight also play a significant role in prevention.
Myxomatosis is a miserable viral infection which spreads rapidly through wild rabbit populations.
It is also transmitted by mosquitoes and fleas, so if your Lionhead rabbit enjoys the outdoor life they can pick it up even if they never meet another infected rabbit.
The first symptoms are puffy eyelids and discharge from the eyes.
Later symptoms include lethargy and breathing difficulties.
If your rabbit shows any symptoms, separate them from other rabbits and contact your vet immediately.
Sadly, there is no treatment for myxomatosis, and it is invariably fatal.
The House Rabbit Society keeps an up to date list of regions in America where myxomatosis has been reported in domestic rabbits.
If you live in an affected area, make sure your rabbit’s habitat is kept as insect-free as possible, and consider bringing them indoors.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease, also known as viral hemorrhagic disease and rabbit calicivirus is another grisly virus.
It’s highly contagious and very fast-acting.
Unfortunately, it is, again, untreatable and inevitably fatal.
It’s spread by infected insects and birds, and also on surfaces like car tires, shoes, clothes, and human skin.
Your vet can tell you if you live in an area with reported cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, and what precautions to take to protect your bunnies if so.
E. cuniculi is a parasitic infection which attacks rabbits’ nervous systems, eyes, kidneys, and hearts.
Rabbits can carry the infection for long periods of time without showing any symptoms.
In fact, a study in Germany in 2014 found that 18% of a sample of 218 healthy rabbits carried antibodies for E. cuniculi, which means they had encountered the virus at some point previously.
Signs of the infection flaring up most often include weakness in your rabbit’s hindlegs or tilting of their head.
E. cuniculi infections always require veterinary attention.
Flystrike can affect all breeds of rabbits, and it occurs when flies lay their eggs on a rabbit, and the maggots which hatch begin to eat through the rabbit’s skin.
Flies are attracted to the smell of rabbits’ urine and feces, so your Lionhead rabbit is especially at risk if they have more fur than they can keep clean by themselves.
Helping them with grooming every day will offer them a lot of protection.
In the height of summer, check your rabbit’s rear end for signs of flystrike twice a day, and call a vet immediately if you find anything.
Lionhead Rabbit health precautions
To keep your Lionhead rabbit in the best possible health, check them every day for signs of illness.
Pay extra attention to their coat, looking out for mats and fleas, mites or flies.
Examine their bottom carefully, especially in summer, for fly eggs or maggots.
If they go outside, ask your vet about insecticide treatments suitable for rabbits.
If you live in the UK, routine annual vaccinations are available for myxomatosis and VHD, and your vet will arrange these with you.
Lionhead Rabbit Lifespan
With all the right care and a dash of good luck, how long does a dwarf Lionhead bunny live?
Well, they should comfortably reach seven or eight years at least, and it’s not uncommon to hear of them sailing past ten.
Before you bring one home, make sure you’re ready for a decade-long commitment.
Do Lionhead Rabbits smell?
No, Lionhead rabbits do not have a smelly body odor. They do a great job at self-grooming.
That said, rabbit urine can smell very bad due to the hormones (especially in those not yet spayed/neutered).
Rabbits also have scent glands on either side of the anus, which can develop a buildup of scent. When stressed or territorial, they may emit more scent. It is something to check monthly and clean gently if you see a build-up that looks like ear wax.
Of course, the litter boxes can also be a source of smell. You will want to be sure to thoroughly clean it at least weekly and clean to some degree at least every other day.
You will want to get rid of all bedding and clean it with vinegar on each weekly cleaning.
Lionhead Rabbit care
Lionhead bunnies need plenty of space to exercise, company, and a safe spot to call their bed.
Their long fur will need regular brushing to prevent mats and evict parasites.
Besides this, they also need fresh water, quality hay, and healthy meals.
Rabbits should have at least their body size in top-quality hay every day, as well as a portion of rabbit pellets and a handful of fresh veggies.
Rabbits rely on the fiber in hay and vegetables to push food through their gut.
This is especially important for rabbits with long hair in their coat to keep the backend clean.
Keeping Lionhead Rabbits together
All rabbits are very social critters. They live in groups in the wild.
Though obviously your kind attention as a human companion is appreciated by the Lionhead rabbit, it really can’t replace the companionship of another bunny.
Such same-species companionship becomes more important if you also have a busy life away from home.
Bunnies left home alone may be prone to developing depression and loneliness.
Bonding a Pair
Lionheads are friendly, however, it is possible that if they are meeting a new rabbit companion, they may not adapt immediately.
It would be ideal for them to grow up together or to “date” other bunnies at a shelter so they can choose a companion they naturally like.
In the process of bonding to another rabbit, it can help to move a stuffed toy between their two separate cages for a while so they can get used to the other’s smell.
It is also helpful if both bunnies are of a similar size, and if they are both neutered, so you don’t end up with one calm rabbit and one very energized one.
Caring for a baby Lionhead Rabbit
By the time you get your rabbit, she should be already eating food, such as alfalfa hay and pellets.
As she grows, it is especially important to provide high-quality food and fresh water.
A baby Lionhead will need regular grooming in addition to general care to prevent mats forming in the mane. This grooming time can be an opportunity to bond with your rabbit.
Showing your Lionhead Rabbit
As you bond with your rabbit, it may be fun to show her in a rabbit show.
In the US, the American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes a few specific colors of the Lionhead rabbit. These are tortoise and ruby-eyed white.
Purchasing a Lionhead rabbit
Good news: if you’re ready to share your life with an amazing lion rabbit, there are some brilliant resources to help you on your way!
The NALRC keeps a long list of lionhead rabbit breeders organized by state.
They also run a huge annual national Lionhead Rabbit Convention, and keep details of upcoming local shows where you can meet Lionhead rabbit breeders and owners near you.
The cost of a Lionhead Rabbit will depend on the number of breeders operating in your area, whether they have show-quality or even show-winning ancestry, and if you have your heart set on a particular color.
That’s a lot of variables, so plan for anything from $30 to $150.
Bear in mind that even an expensive rabbit only costs a fraction of the total lifetime costs for their upkeep!
Rescuing a Lionhead Rabbit
In many cases, rescuing a rabbit can be an even better experience than buying one from a breeder. You can let someone else take care of the early socialization.
It’s also a good moral move — giving a home to an animal who would otherwise not have one.
Rabbits often end up in local animal shelters, so this would be the first place to look.
If you like the dwarf Lionhead bunny you may be looking for a smaller, friendly rabbit with a fluffy coat.
Here are some other rabbit breeds that share some of their traits.
Comparing the Lionhead Rabbit with other pets
Let’s compare the Lionhead rabbit with the…
Netherland Dwarf Rabbit vs. lionhead rabbit — The Netherland Dwarf rabbit is a bit smaller then the lionhead and obviously does not have the special mane. It is, however, a very popular breed for keeping as an indoor pet. At one time they had a reputation for having unfriendly tendencies, but through selective breeding, modern Netherland Dwarf rabbits are generally friendly.
Holland Lop Rabbit — The Holland lop is a cute small rabbit with lopped ears. It is about the same size as a Lionhead. This is another very affectionate rabbit breed. And can you resist the cute floppy ears?
Lionhead Rabbit Products and Accessories
Need some guidance on getting set up for your new bunny? Check out some of our reviews on items you will need.
Is a Lionhead Rabbit right for me
Lionhead bunnies are a small, flamboyant looking breed.
They have a great reputation for bonding with their human owners and getting on well with careful children.
They need a little more help with grooming than their short-haired cousins, but their chilled out disposition should make this a daily pleasure, not a chore!
If you think a Lionhead rabbit is the right pet for you, you have found not only your perfect pet-match but also a close-knit and enthusiastic community of fellow Lionhead lovers to share the experience!
Do you have a Lionhead Rabbit
Do you have a Lionhead Rabbit living at home with you?
What’s their name and what are they like?
Do you agree that they’re more affectionate and laid back than other breeds?
Tell us in the comments section below!
For more interesting pet guides, take a look at the Spider Ball Python!
References And Resources
- Cousquer G, Veterinary care of rabbits with myiasis, In Practice 2006;28:342-349.
- Huynh, M., Vilmouth, S., Gonzalez, MS., Calvo Carrasco, D., Di Girolamo, N., Forbes, NA.(2014) Retrospective cohort study of gastrointestinal stasis in pet rabbits
Veterinary Record 175, 225.
- Keeble, EJ., Shaw, DJ.(2006), Seroprevalence of antibodies to Encephalitozoon cuniculi in domestic rabbits in the United Kingdom, Veterinary Record 158, 539-544.
- Mancinelli, E., Keeble, E., Richardson, J., Hedley, J.(2014), Husbandry risk factors associated with hock pododermatitis in UK pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Veterinary Record 174, 429.
- V F Ohlinger, B Haas, G Meyers, F Weiland, H J Thiel,
Identification and characterization of the virus causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease,
Journal of Virology Jul 1990, 64 (7) 3331-3336; DOI: