Enderby Island Rabbit

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The Enderby is not recognised by the BRC (British Rabbit Council) or the ARBA, (American Rabbit Breeders Association).

It is also known as Enderby rabbit or Enderby and is a rare breed.

Breed Name
of Origin
Enderby Island

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History of the Enderby Island Rabbit

Early Origins
Shipwrecks were abundant in the rough and dangerous waters around the  volcanic islands of the sub-antarctic Auckland Islands. Castaways would attempt to survive for weeks and months, in hopes of a rescue ship finding them.

Back in Australia, the Acclimatization Society of Victoria was formed in 1861, with the aim of introducing exotic plants and animals to suitable parts of the colony and to procure animals from Great Britain and other countries.

English Origins
Shortly after the organization was founded, a gift of 4 silver-grey rabbits was presented to the Society in 1864. In a letter dated 3 October, 1865 Jas. G. Francis, Commissioner of Trade and Customs advised Commander William Henry Norman, of the H.M.C.S. VICTORIA I to search the Auckland Islands for possible persons in distress and...

                 "With the view of making provisions,
                 to a certain extent, for any persons who
                 may hereafter be wrecked or in distress
                 upon these islands, the Acclimatization
                 Society have put on board a number of
                 animals, which will be good enough to let
                 loose on the island."

There would be 12 rabbits on board ship that set sail Wednesday, October 4, 1865.

So Enderby Island rabbits are descendants of English Silver Greys, (not the Champagne de Argente as previously reported in various papers and scientific journals). They were released on to the sub-antarctic Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands in early October 1865 for the purpose of food for shipwreck survivors.

These rabbits lived there completely isolated for nearly 130 years and became a very distinctive rabbit from their own progressive natural selection.

Sadly and unimaginably, all the rabbits on the Island were exterminated for wildlife management reasons in the early 1990s, but a breeding group of 49 rabbits, (originally 50 but one died of a back injury during the rescue), were taken from the Island in September 1992 by the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand.

For details of this amazing rescue operation see Enderby Rabbit Rescue Project.

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I suppose you could say there are two varieties of Enderby Island. They come mainly in the silver-grey but a very small percentage are born cream or beige-coloured – a shade produced by a recessive gene. See more on colours.

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Size, Weight, Shape & Ears

Enderby Island rabbits are of a small to medium size.

Although decended from the Silver Greys which weighed between 8 and 9 lbs the Enderby island rabbit has eveolved to be a little smaller with the average weight ranging from 3 to 4 lbs.

They are quite fine in bone, narrow in the body with very bold eyes. Their head is a perfect 'V" laid on its side and the head appears quite small for the body.

Their ears are fine and carried in an upright 'V' with darker fur and lighter silvering than the rest of the body.

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Most Enderby Island rabbits are a distinctive silver-grey in colour with an undercoat of dark slate blue. Their heads, ears and tails are much darker – often being black.

As well as the silver-grey rabbits, a very small percentage are born cream or beige-coloured – a shade produced by a recessive gene.

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Fur Type / Coat

The body is rather heavily silvered in most animals, with about 80% silvering. The extremities, i.e., the head ears, feet and tail are much darker and only lightly silvered, with a pronounced butterfly marking on the nose.

The coat is unlike the Silver breed, being more open, longer and soft in texture. The youngsters can be rather slow to silver and may require 6 to 8 months to complete the cycle. Adults become more silvered over the years.

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They can be quite skittish and nervous and on the look out for predators all the time. This makes them want to naturally burrow and hide.

However, with plenty of treats, attention and grooming, they can learn to trust and love their caregiver and will show this affection with kisses, licks and binkys when they are happy and content.

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The Enderby Island naturally evolved from English Silver Greys for the sole purpose of providing food for any ship wrecked sailors or passengers in the Southern most islands of New Zealand.

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Breed Status

Enderby Island rabbits are one of the world's rarest breed of rabbit, with less than 300 animals in existence. Most are black, but there are 7 known cream colored ones and even fewer blues.

Until the last two years all animals remained the property of the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand with breeding programs being undertaken by individual caregivers.

Some animals are now available for purchase by private enthusiasts. Some have been exported to North America.

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Rabbit Care & Handling

These rabbits can be very affectionate, especially when a treat or food is on offer. They are very neat and tidy rabbits too and you will usually find, especially does have a tendency to keep their next area in ship-shape condition.

They do love being outside and have not really been adapted for indoor environments, the breed being evolved from a very cold, sub-antartic island.

Their diet is the same for any other rabbit but just be careful not to overfeed as they can be a little greedy and do not carry excess weight well as they will be unable to groom themselves properly.

Here is a list of resources to help you care for your rabbits…

  • The Ultimate New Rabbit Checklist - The best place to start if you are thinking about raising any breed of rabbit.
  • How to Raise Rabbits – information and resources on the subject of raising pet rabbits.
  • Breeding Rabbits – more about how to successfully breed rabbits for fun, showing, or profit.
  • Rabbit Supplies – find rabbit supplies and equipment at astounding value.
  • Rabbit Health – up to date information & resources for ensuring your rabbit is in the best health.
  • Rabbits Diet - Extensive info about hay, water, safe foods, treats, weight management & FAQs on diet.

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Breeders, Clubs & Organizations

Enderby Island Rabbit Breeders – locate Enderby Island breeders using the online rabbit breeders directory, search or submit your own rabbitry.

The following names and contact details are in New Zealand and are all Enderby Island specialized breeders:

  • Elaine & Chris Gilberd, Warwickzfarm, Main South Road, Dunsandel, R D 2., LEESTON 8151. (Canterbury)   Phone: (03) 325 4116.   Fax: (03) 325 4539.   E-mail: warwickzfarm (at) warwickzfarm.com
  • Ava Hunt, 182 Drummond Oreti Road, R D 3, WINTON 9783.   Phone: (027) 275 4713.   E-mail: ava.hunt (at) xtra.co.nz
  • Lorne and Pamela Kuehn, Waitangi Estate, Kaituna, R. D. 2, CHRISTCHURCH 8021   Phone/ Fax (03) 329 0822   E-mail lpkuehn (at) cyberxpress.co.nz
  • Suzanne Shillito, Perrymans Road, R D 2, CHRISTCHURCH. Phone/Fax: (03) 325 3380, E-mail shillito (at) xtra.co.nz
  • Chris & Sitereh Schouten.   Phone: (03) 327 4211   E-mail cands.schouten (at) clear.net.nz   For details see Natures Pace.
  • Wee Dram Farm, 492 Oxford Road, Fernside, R D 1, RANGIORA.   Phone: (03) 310 6443   E-mail: weedram (at) iconz.co.nz

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