Dwarf rabbits have a small, compact body a short neck and a rounded face. They can vary in size and weight but a dwarf bunny usually weighs between 1.5 to 3.5 lbs.
Any rabbit breed with a maximum accepted weight of 4 pounds (1.81 kg) or less can be considered a dwarf rabbit.
There are several different breeds of dwarf rabbits including Britannia, Petite and the Dwarf Hotot but the most popular breed is the Netherland.
Most dwarfed rabbit breeds have a significant Netherland Dwarf influence in their genetic background.
'Nethies', as they are sometimes known, are thought to have originated in Europe. They have become a popular choice worldwide because not only do they look adorable but they are easier to maintain and raise.
However, raising dwarf rabbits doesn't always run smoothly. If you breed dwarf rabbits there are a few issues that you may wish to research a little more...
The dwarf gene has a few terms and explanations that go hand in hand with understanding some of the things that occur when breeding rabbits with certain gene dynamics...
Rabbit genes can be quite complex but if you want to go in to more detail you can find more information here...
The dwarf gene is relatively easy to explain.
Each rabbit has two size genes, one dominant and one recessive.
When a male and female rabbit reproduce, each parent will pass one size gene to each of their offspring.
The dwarf gene is a dominant gene so one dwarfing gene will create a dwarf rabbit.
However, if the rabbit baby gets two dwarf genes, one from each parent, it will die.
If this happens it is commonly called a 'Peanut' - a dwarf rabbit with two dominant dwarf genes.
There needs to be one normal size gene as a recessive backup for a dwarf rabbit.
The beautiful Dwarf Hotot
Dwarf rabbits are completely in proportion, they are just a lot smaller. There are several breeds of rabbit that carry the dwarf gene.
The following is very small but does not carry the dwarfing gene:
The Polish Rabbit (Britannia Petite in US), shouldn't technically be included as a dwarf rabbit although it often is due to it's tiny size, however it is not an official dwarf.
These rabbits have been selectively bred for their tiny size. Unfortunately their bloodlines in the USA have been ‘corrupted’ with genes from Netherland Dwarfs in order to obtain a desired colour gene.
The dwarf gene works as a simple dominant gene. This means that just one dwarfing gene will produce a dwarf rabbit.
The dwarf gene is represented by the capital letter 'D' as it is the dominant gene.
The recessive gene is represented by the lower case letter 'd'.
All dwarf rabbits will inherit one dwarf gene (either D or d) from each parent.
Possible pairings can therefore be Dd, dd or DD:
If you breed a True Dwarf with a True Dwarf on average you will produce 50% true dwarf's, 25% normals and 25% peanuts.
If you breed a True Dwarf with a Normal on average you will produce 50% true dwarfs and 50% normals.
True Dwarfs (Dd) get one normal gene and one dwarf gene. These are the animals you want in your litters. True dwarfs match the standard of perfection for their dwarf breeds.
The Netherland Dwarf is a True Dwarf rabbit, it is round, short, and compact. The ears are short, and the feet are correct.
True Dwarf Rabbits often do well on the show table. They tend to be truer to type, shorter, with shorter ears and back feet, more balanced and more likely to weigh between two to four pounds, the allowable weight for the show table.
False Dwarfs (dd) or Normals are born with two recessive dwarf genes. They can be slightly larger in size, usually over 3 lbs. These are the Dwarf offspring that inherited 2 copies of normal size genes. They are also known as 'Big Uglies'.
False dwarf bucks are sometimes called 'Big Ugly Bucks' or BUBs and despite good bloodlines they can't compete on the show table as they are larger than 2 and a half pounds, their ears may also be too long and their proportions will not be correct. BUBs usually end up well-loved as pet rabbits.
False dwarf does are sometimes called 'Big Ugly Does' or BUDs and can actually be an asset to your breeding program. She can't be shown, but her slightly larger size may enable her to carry and deliver a bigger litter. She'll probably lactate well and will pass a normal size gene to all her offspring, which when paired with a single dwarf gene from a True Dwarf buck, may create show-stopping true dwarf bunnies.
Peanuts (DD) are born with two dominant dwarf genes. Although sometimes born alive, peanuts will not survive due to a compromised digestive system and brain complications.
Peanuts are excessively tiny and they have unusual cone-shaped heads which appear much too large for the body. They also have small deformed limbs. The ears are considerably smaller than the other kits in the litter with the difference being very noticeable.
If not stillborn, they usually last only 1-3 days past birth, but a few have lasted up to 3 weeks and a tiny percentage up to 4 weeks.
Sometimes peanuts can look normal and will last up to around 6 weeks before they die. This is proceeded by a lack of eating or drinking and the rabbit will stop growing for the last 4 or 5 days before they die.
Some breeders prefer to cull their peanuts at birth because of their probable suffering or some let them die on their own. It can be heartbreaking, but peanuts are part and parcel of breeding dwarf rabbits.
You can avoid producing lethal peanuts by using ‘big
uglies’ (false dwarfs) in your breeding program. They have no dwarf gene to
pass onto to their offspring.
Back in the 1980's a group of breeders went through the complete process of documenting the animals that carried the Max Factor gene and followed the normal ratio procedure and proved the existence of the gene.
The name "Max Factor" was given to this gene after finding that an imported Dwarf buck named Max appeared to be the original carrier.
Max Factor acts like a normal recessive gene. This means both parents MUST carry the gene for it to show in the litter.
Max Factor kits (sometimes called 'frogs') are very odd looking. They are born with their eyes open and feet all twisted inward. The eyes will usually be infected due to exposure in the birth canal. Many times the front feet will be just "flippers" with no toes and sometimes you will get one with extra toes. The hind feet usually are turned "upside down" or turned inward. The double Max animals will have a different type fur as well. Their fur almost feels like human hair rather than fur.
Most Max factor kits die shortly after birth but if they do survive they take an awful lot of dedication and care. Most rabbits with the defects listed above will need constant cleaning as they urinate on themselves and can't clean themselves properly. They also have severe eye problems which can be very costly and time-consuming.
If you have a Max factor rabbit we'd love to hear from you. You truly are a dedicated rabbit owner! Send us your story and some lovely photos of your unique little friend.
This is a genetic defect in Dwarf rabbits that is thought to be either related to the dwarf gene, or it is possibly another expression of excessive dwarfism.
Hippo kits are usually born dead. They are small, short, and stubby, albeit very wide for their length. They have only a nub for a tail.
This is a defect thought to be associated either with the dwarf gene or perhaps with a digestive syndrome such as enterotoxemia.
Faders seem to not adjust to solid food. Instead, they don’t eat or drink; they hunch in a corner and grind their teeth.
Death usually occurs quite soon after birth.
Onset of fading, also called wasting, is around 4 weeks, but could also be as late as 6-12 weeks.
Some Dwarf breeders believe there is at least a component of inheritance associated with faders.
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It's In The Genes!
Do you have interesting insights from your experiences with rabbit breeding? What about the genes? Do you know anything about dwarf rabbits, Max factor kits, peanuts, faders, hippos etc?
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