Do small bunny breeds make good pets? And why do so many people want one?
Rabbits have never been more popular as pets, and now small bunny breeds are widely regarded as the cutest!
In fact, small bunny breeds are becoming really sought after as house rabbits, rather than living outside in hutches.
But what’s so great about small bunnies?
What’s so good about small bunny breeds?
Rabbits make great pets! And there are lots of different breeds to choose from. So, why consider a small rabbit breed?
Well, for one thing, bunnies that stay small retain their baby-face looks and cuteness factor, even when they’re fully-grown.
And their lifespan is much the same as their larger cousins too. A well-cared for small fluffy bunny can live for anywhere up to 10 years – that’s some commitment!
Taking care of a small bunny requires no less effort and attention than you would lavish on a larger breed.
However, small pet bunnies tend to be easier to handle and make less mess than larger ones. Also, they eat less and need a little less space.
There are a few drawbacks to keeping small bunny rabbits as pets. Small breeds tend to be more delicate than larger rabbits, and handling must be gentler.
Dwarf rabbits versus small bunny breeds
So what’s the difference between a dwarf rabbit and a small breed bunny?
If you just intend to keep a small rabbit as a pet, you probably don’t need to know the difference between small bunny breeds and dwarf breeds.
However, if you’re intending to breed from your rabbits, knowing the difference is essential.
Rabbits take one gene that determines their size from each parent bunny.
Unfortunately inheriting two dwarf genes (one from each parent) is a lethal combination – these rabbits are known as peanuts and die before or soon after birth.
A bunny that has one dwarf gene and one normal gene is classed as a true dwarf – they have all the dwarf characteristics you expect, wrapped up in a pint-sized package.
What do you call a dwarf bunny with no dwarf genes?
If a rabbit takes two normal genes from his parents, he’s called a “false dwarf.”
These rabbits have all the other breed characteristics, but they grow larger, they have longer ears and a less round-shaped head.
So, basically, a false dwarf will look like a genuine dwarf, but he’ll be slightly bigger.
So, you can see why people who breed rabbits pay close attention to the likely genetic status of their breeding rabbits – to avoid peanuts, and breed healthy litters.
Small bunny health
Just like with all breeds of rabbits, several common disease and problems are seen in small bunny breeds.
A sick rabbit would be easy prey in nature, so they hide signs of illness until they are feeling very poorly.
For this reason, it’s very important that you keep a close watch on your rabbit for any signs that could indicate he’s feeling under the weather.
And if your bunny isn’t eating or pooping, you need to get him to a vet immediately. This could be a sign of gastrointestinal tract stasis, which may be fatal if not treated quickly.
Bunnies’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives.
Rabbits need to grind their teeth down constantly to prevent them from becoming overgrown.
They do this by eating fiber and gnawing on hard objects such as wooden toys that are provided by their owners for cage enrichment.
If the rabbit’s molar teeth become overgrown, they form sharp spikes that cut into the bunny’s tongue and cheeks.
Overgrown incisor teeth can curl back on themselves, preventing the poor bunny from eating at all!
Small bunny breeds, especially those with dwarf genes, can be prone to suffering dental issues.
Dwarf rabbits have a head size that is disproportionately large compared to their body size.
Although this may look cute, having such a small, round head makes dwarf bunnies prone to malocclusion.
Malocclusion is a condition where the rabbit’s upper and lower teeth don’t align properly, leading to overgrowth.
Your vet can treat the problem by manually grinding down the teeth with a burr grinder.
Snuffles is a disease of the respiratory system that’s caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida.
The bacteria causes reddening of and discharge from the eyes, and/or sneezing and nasal discharge. Sometimes the disease affects the rabbit’s ears, causing head tilting.
Abscesses can form on the body and uterine infections can result in female rabbits.
Snuffles is easily spread through contact, and overcrowding is often a cause.
Overcrowding puts the rabbit’s immune system under stress, potentially triggering an outbreak.
Your vet can treat snuffles with a course of antibiotics.
Rabbits are serial groomers!
During the process of grooming themselves (and each other), a small amount of hair is ingested.
In some cases, hair fails to pass through during the normal digestive process and remains in the gut where it causes an obstruction.
You can prevent hairballs forming by feeding your rabbit plenty of fiber to encourage the proper function of the gut.
Your vet can treat hairballs by giving your bunny a mild laxative, but sometimes surgery is the only viable treatment option.
Female rabbits can develop uterine cancer, which unfortunately is usually fatal.
Spaying female rabbits at four to six months of age is the best way of preventing the condition.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHD) is spread by mosquitoes, flies, or through contact with an infected rabbit.
An infected rabbit will develop a fever and become lethargic.
The disease causes severe liver damage and consequent blood clotting abnormalities.
Sadly, there is no cure for RHD. Your vet will probably advise you have your bunny put to sleep, in order to protect your bunny’s cagemates.
Vaccination for RHD is available in the UK, Australia, and Europe. As yet, there is no vaccine for RHD in the US or Canada.
You can protect your bunnies from contracting RHD by maintaining good hutch hygiene and by keeping your rabbits well away from wild rabbits.
Small bunny breeds
Now, let’s have a look at some of the gorgeously cute small bunnies you could choose for your next floppy-eared pet!
#1 Netherland Dwarf
This cute bunny breed is a result of breeding Polish rabbits with small wild rabbits in the 20th century. They weigh up to 2.5 lbs.
They come in a wide range of colors. Their heads and eyes are large in proportion with their bodies.
However, perhaps because of their wild ancestors, these energetic and nervous bunnies are more suitable pets for adults than kids.
In recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of Netherland Dwarf rabbits with very flat faces.
This can have profound health implications for them, which you can read about in more details in our complete Netherland Dwarf rabbit guide.
#2 Polish rabbit
Polish rabbits are slightly heavier than Netherland Dwarf rabbits, weighing a maximum of 3.5 pounds.
The Polish rabbit is a genuine small bunny breed, thought to have originated from the English hutch rabbit.
The Polish breed was carefully and selectively bred down until it became much smaller.
If you’re looking for a cute, small white bunny, the Polish could be exactly what you’re looking for!
However, Polish bunnies also come in black, chocolate, and broken colors.
You can even get a small white bunny with red or blue eyes!
#3 Britannia Petite
The Britannia Petite rabbit appeared in the UK in the mid-1800s.
Although its ancestry is English, the breed is also referred to as the Polish breed in the U.K.
When the breed was first imported to the U.S., there was already a Polish breed in residence, so the incomers were renamed as the Britannia petite.
These tiny bunnies weigh a maximum of 2.5 pounds.
If you’re thinking of buying one of these super-cute little dudes, you should know that they can be somewhat ornery in temperament.
Check with a few breeders to make sure you get a pet that’s easy to handle.
#4 Holland Lop
The Holland Lop is a delightful small bunny breed!
The Holland lop comes in pretty much every rabbit color possible and is undoubtedly one of the cutest small bunnies with its lop ears, winning personality, and sturdy physique.
Holland lops look larger than they actually are, weighing in at a maximum of just 4 pounds.
#5 Jersey Wooly
The Jersey Wooly is a very unusual small bunny breed, weighing up to a maximum of 3.5 pounds.
It has wool, rather than regular rabbit fur!
Jersey Woolies were originally developed to create a tiny pet rabbit that had easy-to-care-for wool.
The Jersey Wooly comes in over 26 recognized colors for showing.
If you have your heart set on a super-cute bunny with small ears, look no further!
#6 Lionhead rabbit
The Lionhead rabbit grows to a maximum weight of 3.75 pounds and comes in a wide range of colors, including white, black, brown, and broken or tortoiseshell.
The Lionhead rabbit is the result of a genetic mutation that causes long wool to grow around the rabbit’s neck and shoulders only.
This gives him the appearance of a mini-lion, hence the breed’s name!
The rest of the rabbit’s fur is the same as regular bunny fur.
#7 Mini Rex
The Mini Rex is another of the small bunny breeds that was created through cross-breeding with the Netherland dwarf.
Mini Rex rabbits are essentially scaled-down versions of their larger cousin, the Rex rabbit.
The Mini Rex grows to a maximum weight of 4.5 pounds.
These bunnies come in a wide range of colors. You can get a small black bunny, or white, blue, brown, and broken colors.
Rex rabbits are particularly known for their lush fur and this is one of the reasons why the breed has become so popular as pets.
Getting a small bunny house
Now, even though your small breed bunny is tiny, he’ll still need plenty of room to move around his hutch or cage.
In the wild, rabbits spend almost all their time running, playing, or simply foraging.
Even though your small bunnies will live in a hutch or cage, they’ll still need space to engage in their natural behaviors.
Make sure that your bunnies have a cage that’s large enough for your rabbits to manage at least four hops in any direction.
Rabbits are curious creatures too, so their cage should allow them enough space to stand upright at full stretch. Dimensions of the cage should be at least 6’ long x 2’ high x 2’ wide.
If you have plenty of outdoor space, your rabbits will love to be able to play outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
The safest way of providing your pets with this opportunity is by giving them access to an outdoor run. The run should measure at least 8’L x 6’W x 3’H.
Small bunny breeds – A summary
Rabbits make great pets, and small bunny breeds are surely among the cutest you can find!
Small breeds come in many different colors, coat types, and personalities, so you’re bound to find the perfect pet!
Just like standard-size rabbits, small bunny breeds need lots of care and attention.
In particular, be sure to provide your rabbits with plenty of hay and suitable toys that they can gnaw on. This is very important to prevent their teeth from becoming overgrown.
Remember that, even though your bunnies are smaller than average, they still need plenty of space to roam and play.
Be sure to provide a cage that’s plenty big enough to accommodate your tribe and, if possible, set up an outdoor run too.
Do you have a small bunny breed as a pet? We’d love to know!
Tell us about your small breed bunnies in the comments section below!
References and further reading
Godfrey, R., Godfrey, D. (2011). Netherland Dwarf Dental Malocclusion. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
Vet West Animal Hospitals, Common Rabbit Diseases.