Welcome to our complete guide to rabbit colors!
Are you thinking about getting a pet rabbit? You might be interested to know what bunny colors are out there.
Perhaps you are a fan of rabbits with splotches and patches of color, or maybe you like a more classic looking bunny, one that is white all over, for instance.
Whatever your preferences are, let’s have a closer look at rabbit colors – including some information about the genetics behind different rabbit coat colors.
What Color are Rabbits?
Rabbits come in a huge variety of colors. You may have seen wild rabbits before, which have a flecked, fawn colored coat. This color variety is known as “agouti.”
This color laid the foundation for developing many fascinating color variations.
Over the years, not only have rabbit breeders been able to create many different color variations, but they have also bred bunnies with different hair lengths and textures.
From black and white to steely blue colored bunnies, from velvety soft Rex rabbits to scruffy Lionheads, let’s take a moment to have a look at some of the different rabbit colors you can choose from when selecting a pet.
As a guide, here are some common terms that relate to rabbit colors, and what they mean.
- Chinchilla – This coloring is lighter toward the base of the hair and darker at the tips. This creates an interesting effect when the hair passes over bulges, such as at the shoulders of the rabbit, making the bunny look textured.
- Broken – This refers to a rabbit with patches of color on its coat.
- Tortoise – This refers to a mixture of orange or fawn and black in the coat.
- Points – The “points” on the rabbit refer to the extremities, such as the ear tips, nose and feet. If your rabbit’s color is described as having “points,” these tips will be darker than the fur on the rest of the body, like a Siamese cat.
- Himalayan – This refers to rabbits with color at the points only. The rest of the rabbit is white.
- REW (Red Eyed White) – These rabbits are sometimes referred to as “albino.” No color pigment at all can be found in their fur. They are white all over and have red/pink eyes.
- BEW (Blue Eyed White) – Similar to the bunnies mentioned above, these rabbits are all white, but they have blue eyes.
Sometimes breeders will talk about the “ring color” of the rabbit. This is the color or colors you see when you part the fur. The name given to the ring color depends on how many color bands there are down the shaft of the hair, and the patterns these bands follow.
Genetics and Color Markings
To understand how there has come to be such a wide variety of rabbit colors, we need to understand a little bit about genetics.
We don’t need to get too complicated, however. Just a quick overview is all we need.
The combination of genes any organism carries is known as its “genotype.” The genotype determines the characteristics your bunny will display.
What you actually see, or the appearance of your rabbit, is called the “phenotype.”
While certain phenotypes suggest an underlying genotype, the only way to really know the genotype of your bunny is to have it tested. For the average rabbit owner, having your bunny genetically tested is probably a little over the top, unless you plan to breed with a very specific result in mind.
In this article we will also refer to alleles. These are variations of a gene.
The combination of alleles that your bunny has is responsible for the colors that you see in your rabbit.
If both alleles for a gene are the same, the organism (in this case, the rabbit) is said to be “homozygous” for that gene. If each gene in the pair is different, it is said to be “heterozygous.”
In many cases, whether an organism is homozygous or heterozygous will only affect its physical characteristics, like hair length or eye color. If, however, these genes carry defects or diseases, some combinations can lead to serious diseases and can even be fatal in some cases.
Breeders of any animal, including rabbits, must think carefully about these genetic factors when choosing which parents to breed from. While certain physical characteristics might be desirable to the eye, if breeding animals with these features is harmful to the offspring, then good breeders will stop the practice.
Rabbit Color Genetics
There are five main groups of genes, or alleles, which dictate the colors and markings of rabbits. The combinations of these genetic groups in your bunny will determine what their coat looks like.
This group dictates how color appears on your rabbit’s hair strands. The color on the shaft can appear in up to five bands.
This allele determines if the rabbit will have all five bands of color, if the color will be the same all the way down the shaft of the hair to the skin, or some combination between the two.
There are two alleles in this group, and they determine how intense the color of the rabbit’s coat will be. The variations are black and brown.
Black results in a more intense color, while brown is a little softer.
The name given to this group is a little confusing, as it could be just as easily understood to mean color. These alleles control the amount of pigment in the hair.
The only two pigments are black or yellow (actually aeddish-brown color). Surprisingly, these two pigments alone are at the root of all rabbit colors.
This controls how intense the color is. A dilute black will look blue, and a dilute brown is referred to as lilac.
This dilution also affects the eyes and skin of the rabbit.
The amount of extension refers to how far down the shaft of the hair the color on the tip will reach.
The combination of genes in this group can result in a lack of extension, meaning no color on the tips at all, colored tips in patches, or colored tips all over the rabbit’s fur.
Rabbit Colors – By Breed
As is the case with purebred dogs and cats, there are certain breed standards for rabbits.
This only matters if you are planning to breed or show your bunny. But you might be interested to know what color variations are common or accepted, according to breed standards.
If you would like to see more rabbit colors with pictures, visit the website of the breed club for the type of rabbit you hope to get. The club sites usually have great pictures of the colors, and sometimes more information about what makes these markings desirable for showing and breeding.
Of course, you may just be curious to see what colors are possible!
Rex Rabbit Colors
The Rex is sometimes called the “King of Rabbits” because of its luxurious, velveteen fur. This is due to a genetic mutation which makes the guard hairs, or outercoat, the same length as the undercoat.
As a result, the outercoat does not flatten the undercoat, resulting in fur with the appearance and feel of velvet.
The Rex comes in 16 recognized colors: Amber, black, blue, broken, Californian, castor, chinchilla, chocolate, lilac, lynx, opal, otter, red, sable, seal, and white rex.
The otter rex has four varieties within the category: black, blue, chocolate and violet. The distinctive feature of the otter rex is the pale coloring on the underside of the rabbit, which covers the belly, underside of the chin and the tail.
This lighter color is also present around the rim of the eye and the nostrils, as well as the triangle of the nose. The color gradually fades back to the color of the rabbit’s body around the neck.
Dutch Rabbit Colors
Originally from the Netherlands, the Dutch rabbit’s distinctive appearance was refined in England where it became a popular breed.
The Dutch rabbit has a large patch of color that encircles both ears and eyes symmetrically, leaving a white blaze down the middle of the face.
The same color that appears on the ears and eyes is then also present on the rear of the bunny. The rabbit’s rear paws become white again halfway down the limb.
Colors accepted by the American Dutch Rabbit Club are black, blue, chinchilla, chocolate, grey, steel and tortoise.
Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Colors
These tiny rabbits weigh under two and a half pounds and had their beginnings in the Netherlands. Later in their history, there was some British and Polish input into the development of the breed.
This rabbit is also known as the European Pole or the German Hermelin.
These rabbits are compact, with a shortened face, small erect ears and large eyes.
The American Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Club recognizes 25 colors. They are black, blue, BEW, broken, chestnut, chinchilla, chocolate, fawn, Himalayan, lilac, lynx, opal, orange, otter, REW, sable marten, sable point, Siamese sable, Siamese smoke pearl, silver marten, smoke pearl marten, squirrel, seal, tan, and tortoise shell.
Lionhead Rabbit Colors
These little fellas have a distinctive scruffy mane, which makes the Lionhead rabbit look a little different from the get-go. You can find a Lionhead rabbit in just about any color variation.
Lionhead breed standards accept all colors.
But most commonly, you will see the following variations: Sable point, black, pointed white, blue-eyed white, ruby eyed white, chocolate, chestnut, tort, lilac, vienna, broken and blue.
Mini Rex Rabbit Colors
The Mini Rex sprang from the Dwarf Rex along with input from the Netherland Dwarf. In the late 1980s, the breed started to gain recognition.
These days you can find this small, velvety bunny in a wide variety of colors thanks to the input from the crossbreeding that helped start the breed.
The Mini Rex Rabbit Club recognizes colors including black, castor, blue, chinchilla, opal, tortoise, chocolate, lynx, seal, white, lilac, red, Himalayan, broken, blue eyed white, otter, sable point, and the newly recognized smoke pearl.
Enjoy Your Colorful Bunny!
We hope you have found this information about rabbit colors helpful.
As with any pet, it is important to make sure that you are ready with the right lifestyle and environment to care for your new rabbit.
If this is the first time you have had a bunny, you might have some more questions about how to care for it. You can learn more about how to care for a new rabbit here.
Do have a pet rabbit? What is your favorite bunny color? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below.
References and Further Reading
- Becker, K. An illustrated guide to rabbit coat colour genetics. Mink Hollow Farms.
- Fontanesi, L., et al (2006). Mutations in the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene are associated with coat colours in the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) Animal Genetics.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, What’s the difference between a gene and an allele?
- Fletcher A.L. (2013). Lionhead rabbits – The complete owners guide to lionhead bunnies. EKL Publishing.
- Warren, D.M. (2016). Small animal care and management. Cengage Learning.
- American Dutch Rabbit Club, About the breed.
- National Rex Rabbit Club, Varieties.
- Gendron, K. (2000).The rabbit handbook. Barron.
- The National Mini Rex Club, Some mini rex colors prior to 2008…
- American Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Club, ANDRC archives conventions shows.
- Brown, M. andRichardson, V. (2000). Rabbitlopaedia: A complete guide to rabbit care. Ringpress Books.
- Thompson, E.. Genotypes and phenotypes. The University of Washington Department of Statistics
- Patry, K. Rabbit Coat Color Genetics. Raising-Rabbits.com.