Rabbit breed profile: Lionheads
Tiny, cute, and extra fuzzy - Lionhead rabbits are one of the newest breeds of domestic rabbits in the United States. They are, however, already one of the most popular rabbit breeds among pet rabbit owners. If you have already decided that a rabbit is the right pet for you and are now faced with choosing a breed, already have a Lionhead and want to learn more about them, or are just curious about the breed, this article is for you! Lionheads are adorable and can make amazing pets, but please make sure to do plenty of research before adding one to your home.
Although the Lionhead is one of the newest US rabbit breeds, it's exact history is unknown. One belief is that Lionheads where first produced in Belgium as a cross between a Swiss Fox and a Belgian Dwarf. Other breeds, possibly the Jersey Wooly and/or Dwarf Angora, where then thought to have been added to the mix to help produce the Lionhead's signature wooly mane.
Another theory is that Lionheads where produced in England by Dwarf Angora breeders. It is thought that the reduced mane present on today's Lionheads could have been a random mutation that reduced the amount of wool produced by Dwarf Angora rabbits.
However they where first produced, the Lionhead breed grew in popularity amongst pet owners and eventually also with rabbit breeders and showers. The British Rabbit Council first recognized the breed in 2002. They where first introduced in the United States in 1999 and American breeders worked to refine the breed into what it is today. Other breeds such as the Netherland Dwarf, Holland Lop, Florida Whites, Britannia Petite, Polish, Jersey Wooly, Mini Rex, Dutch, American Fuzzy Lops, and New Zealands where reportedly used early on to help improve genetic diversity as well as too help shape the appearance and temperament of the breed.
Lionhead rabbits, are a small (normally only around 3 - 4 pounds) erect eared rabbit. They come in a wide verity of colors, including otter, orange, chocolate, agouti, blue, black, red, red eyed white, sable point, seal, sable marten, siamese sable, smoke pearl, pointed white, and tortoise. Pet Lionheads can also come in broken patterns, meaning that they are mostly white with spots of other colors.
Probably the Lionhead's most unique physical feature is the long wooly mane that gives the breed it's name. Because of the way the dominate mane gene works, Lionheads can be born with no mane at all, a double mane gene, or a single mane gene. For Lionhead's that have the mane gene, they should have long wooly fur growing around their head, similar to the mane of a lion. Lionhead's may also develop wool down around their flanks as well. This is most common with double maned (carries of the double mane gene) animals. Wool may grow in other areas such as on the face, ears, stomach, back, or other areas of the body, however this is not considered a desirable trait for show rabbits (but they can still make adorable pets).
The wool around a Lionhead's face should be noticeably different than normal rabbit fur. It is normally longer, and has a different texture than a rabbit's regular fur. The wool on a Lionhead is similar to the wool found on other breeds such as Angora rabbits.
Lionhead's, on average, are thought of as easy going rabbits. They are often times described as having level, easy going temperaments. If cared for properly, many of them will be friendly and seem to enjoy interactions with humans. Remember that all animals are individuals, so they will all have their own personalities.
If cared for properly, Lionhead rabbits are a generally healthy breed. Domestic rabbits, in general, normally live on average between 7 - 12 years. Lionhead's usually follow this trend, and being a small breed rabbit have a higher change of making it to the higher end of that estimate. It's not that unusual for small breed rabbits to surpass the 12 year mark and survive well into their teens.
Being small doesn't mean all good things though, as smaller dwarf breed rabbits are often times more prone to dental issues. Because of their long wooly fur, it's also important to keep your Lionhead well groomed so that they do not ingest too much fur. Check their hair regularly for mats or tangles. Feeding these rabbits a proper, high fiber, diet is important as eating the proper foods can help to both keep the teeth healthy and to also keep the digestive system in good working order. Pet rabbits should be spayed or neutered to make the best companions possible, and also to eliminate some potentially deadly health problems.
Rabbit's, Lionheads included, can make amazing pets for the right people. It's important to remember that these sometimes small pets are not disposable. If you are thinking of taking one into your home, keep in mind that they often times live 10 years or more. Just like any other type of pet, rabbits require individual specialized care to live a long, happy, and healthy life. Make sure you do plenty of research into their care and find a rabbit experienced vet before getting your new pet. If you take the time to make sure you are properly providing for your rabbit, you will be rewarded with an engaging, social, adorable friend.