March 23, 2023

New Zealand Rabbit


New Zealand Rabbi Breed History/Origin

There are a few theories regarding the origin of the New Zealand Rabbit, one of which describes them as being imported wild from New Zealand, however this is most likely a myth. A much more popular theory is that a Flemish Giant was mated to a Belgian Hare, and the New Zealand red rabbit made an appearance around 1910. New Zealand white rabbits were eventually developed independently by William Preshaw of Rippon, California, in 1919. Preshaw bred Angoras with white American rabbits as well as with Flemish Giants to develop a large white rabbit that could be used for fur and meat. The white New Zealand rabbit was accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1920.

New Zealand Rabbits are large, muscular animals that have a beautiful coat.

Overall Description

The New Zealand has a rather well-rounded commercial body shape, which is slender yet muscular. They have round cheeks and long ears that stand straight up. They also have long back feet and small, short front pectoral muscles.


New Zealand rabbits enjoy being handled and are rather easy-going.New Zealand rabbits have short, soft flyback fur that is set tightly in the pelt. Their coat does not need much grooming (as rabbits are generally clean animals), however, should you keep your New Zealand as a pet, you may find grooming them from time to time will reduce the amount of hairballs in your home. Grooming them once every week or biweekly with a bristled brush should do the trick. Always remember that rabbits should not be bathed, as this causes them great stress and may cause cardiac problems. Instead, spot-clean any dirty areas with a damp cloth.


The New Zealand rabbit has four colors that is recognized by the ARBA. These are red, white, black and broken, the latter being any color mixed with white. They do not have any particular markings that distinguishes this breed from any other rabbit breed.

New Zealand rabbits enjoy being handled and are rather easy-going.

Care Requirements

Like all rabbits, New Zealands need an adequate enclosure to eat, sleep, etc. Outdoor enclosures should be raised and have enough space for the rabbit to stretch their legs comfortably (considering this rabbit’s size, it needs to be rather large). Indoor rabbit enclosures should be made of wire all around, have a plastic or metal bottom and be large enough for the New Zealand rabbit to stretch out, just like outdoor enclosures.  The bottom of their cages should be covered in rabbit-safe bedding, and it needs to be spot-cleaned every day and completely replaced at the end of every week.

A New Zealand rabbit’s diet is no different than any other rabbit diet in that it should consist mainly of high-quality hay. Most rabbit owners agree that timothy hay is the best bang for your buck, but orchard hay is also acceptable and the occasional alfalfa grass is also beneficial. The rest of the diet should be a good balance of fruits, leafy greens, vegetables, and pellets. Like hay, there are plenty types of pellets available on the market, some with higher protein content than others.  Be aware of what kind of fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables you have in your home as some are rabbit-safe and others are not. In fact, most leafy greens are unsafe as they can cause digestive issues, especially if you feed your rabbit a large amount of it. Feed your rabbit greens that are high in fiber and nutrients, such as romaine lettuce, and be aware of what kind of fruits you’re feeding (apples are a wonderful choice).

New Zealand rabbits are mostly bred for their pelt and meat, as they are large, muscular animals that have a beautiful coat. However, they can also be kept as pets who will enjoy plenty of outdoor playtime with their human families. Should you keep your rabbit indoors, remember to bunny-proof the room so nothing that can hurt them is visible (electrical cords, for example). Give your rabbit some toys they can happily gnaw so they are not bored. Should you wish to provide your rabbit with some outdoor fun, remember to place them in a fenced portion of your yard and always have an adult present to supervise and shield your rabbit from any dangers (such as racoons, dogs, etc).


New Zealand rabbits are great as pets - they are generally good with children and other pets.Thankfully, the New Zealand rabbit is not susceptible to any particular disease or health problems, however there are some things potential rabbit owners need to watch out for. Overgrown teeth, for example, is a common problem in pet rabbits which is mostly diet-related. Rabbits must have a diet high in hay, as the hay is responsible for keeping their teeth at a manageable length (unlike cats and dogs, a rabbit’s teeth never stops growing throughout its life). Should your rabbit’s teeth overgrow, they may grow into their jaw and face, causing immense pain. Make sure to take a peek inside your bunny’s mouth about once every week or so to make sure this is not a problem.

De-worming paste is also a must for indoor or outdoor rabbits to keep them worm-free. A pea-sized amount twice a year should be sufficient. Indoor/outdoor New Zealand rabbit owners should also check its ears weekly, as ear mites can develop. There is a also painful condition called flystrike that can occur (mostly with outdoor rabbits) that happens when flies lay their eggs in soiled fur (mostly around their bottoms). Once the eggs hatch, their main source of nutrition is your rabbit’s insides and this causes them excruciating pain.  Should you suspect your rabbit is suffering from flystrike, take them to your local veterinarian immediately to get treated.

Finally, many pet owners find that spaying/neutering their rabbit makes them less aggressive, however New Zealand rabbits are generally docile so the only benefit of fixing them is one is that you won’t have a litter of kits. Bucks can be neutered as young as three and a half months old while does should wait until they are six months old to be spayed.

The New Zealand rabbit is great as a pet – it is generally good with children and other pets.


Because the New Zealand rabbit was developed to be meat/fur producers, they are generally docile and easy to handle. However, should you decide to keep a New Zealand as a pet, they are generally good with children and other pets so long as they are given time to properly socialize at a young age. They enjoy being handled and are rather easy-going, which makes them a great family pet for couples who have younger or older children. They are also calm and friendly, making them great starter pets as well for singles, couples or seniors who are looking for a furry companion to keep them company. This breed of rabbit is not known to bite, kick or be overall aggressive and loves to be picked up or held on laps while they are petted and loved – they are even sometimes called “rag dolls” because they flop like a actual rag doll wherever you set them down.

While they are not known to bite, all rabbits should be given a few toys they can happily chew, nibble and gnaw in order to reduce boredom and possible keep their teeth nice and short. Depending on your rabbit’s personality, this can be as simple as an empty rule of kitchen paper towels to as complex as a mental stimulation pet toy from your local pet store.

While not the easiest indoor pet to train, it is indeed possible to litter train a rabbit. Many owners find having several litter boxes spread across the home is a necessary evil in order for their indoor rabbit not to leave their droppings all over their home. They also find that if their rabbit is prone to doing the deed in one particular corner, they place a litter box in that corner so the rabbit can make the connection and understand that they should be doing their business in the box. With lots of time, patience and a few treats, litter training should be successful within a few months.

Photo credit: Shafiqul Islam/Flickr; Kalulu/Bigstock