Domestic rabbit

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Domestic rabbits Greater Chinchilla
Rabbit breeder in the 1950s with a stable and the White Viennese breed typical of the time

The domestic rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus forma domestica) is the domesticated form of the wild rabbit . It is kept both as a livestock for meat and fur production and as a pet . Colloquially, the term "stable bunny" is also used.

The commercial rabbit fattening is done today in free range, floor or cage housing.


The first reports about wild rabbits probably come from the Phoenicians , who found animals on the Iberian Peninsula that reminded them of hyrax ( Procavia capensis ). Therefore they named the land i-shephanim , coast or island of the rock hyrax (compare Hebrew shaphan ). This name was later adopted by the Romans as " Hispania " in Latin . The wild rabbit is definitely mentioned for the first time by Polybios . He quotes from a late work by the Greek philosopher Plato about the fauna of Corsica, written around 360 BC, and also the differences between rabbits and hares and their subterranean way of life. This is probably why he gave the animal the Greek name kuniklos , the Graecized cuniculus . The Romans called mines or underground tunnels as cuniculi .

Varro calls in the 1st century BC BC Spain as the home of rabbits and recommends keeping them in leporaria - walled rabbit enclosures . He reports on the fertility of the animals and that the females are often pregnant again while they are still looking after a litter. Furthermore, he already describes the form of fattening: “It is a common practice to take animals that are to be fattened out of the rabbit enclosure and keep them in a separate stall.” Strabo, in turn, left a description of the damage in his work Geographica who served rabbits in Spain at the time. The plague affected all of Spain as far as Massila and the surrounding islands. In the Balearic Islands, it was probably triggered by a single pair of rabbits that were brought to the islands. Pliny also reports in his 8th book of the history of nature of a plague of rabbits in Spain and that their settlement in Italy did not succeed. He also describes the custom of the Spaniards to eat unborn fetuses or newborn young animals, the so-called laurices .

Rabbits were a popular hunting object and, thanks to their comfortable keeping and the enormous rate of reproduction, they served as a supply of fresh meat. From the Spaniards, the Romans adopted the custom of eating rabbits' fetuses and newborn babies. Since this was allowed as a fasting food, rabbits were later continued by monasteries. In Germany, rabbits are still hunted game today . In Judaism, they are subject to a food taboo.

Reports about the transition from the enclosure to the cage or stable keeping date from around 550. In Germany rabbits were first mentioned in 1149: the abbot of Corvey an der Weser, Wibald , asks two pairs from his official brother Gerald, abbot of the monastery Solignac in France.

In the Middle Ages rabbits were in Lapinieren or Garenne , as they were called in medieval vulgar Latin or in rabbits gardens maintained. Other forms of husbandry consisted of the exploitation of natural conditions, such as islands. The first rabbits were released in Great Britain in 1235, and a few years later the first complaints about damage caused were reported. In what is now Germany, rabbits were probably released for the first time on the island of Amrum , where rabbits have been around since 1231. Also known is the island of Rabbitwerder in Lake Schwerin , which is mentioned as Kaninekenwerder in 1407. A repeated attempt to establish rabbits on this island several centuries ago was unsuccessful. In Hesse it was probably introduced in the 16th century, on Heligoland in 1597 and in the early 17th century in Warnemünde, where it also became a nuisance a short time later. In the painting "Madonna with the Rabbit" by Titian from around 1530 a white rabbit can be seen.

Scene: Mary with the Christ child, St. Catherine and St. John the Baptist; Titian around 1530

In 1606 Gesner wrote about different fur colors of the little boys and that they like to eat grass and clover. In Great Universallexicon of Zedler from 1733 the coat colors are white, black, gray and spotted described and that it is domesticated in Germany, but would be the fact no wild rabbits. He writes about keeping rabbit gardens and enclosures. In the translation of the natural history of the four-footed animals by Buffon from 1755, there is also an account of the rabbit gardens - as well as of the so-called Angorian rabbit with long fur. In 1785 Krünitz wrote about the predominant colors of white, black, bluish and gray in domesticated animals. Keeping in enclosures was practiced in England until after the Second World War.

The breeding of the breeds as they are known today began in France around 1800. In Germany rabbit breeding took off after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. In France, German soldiers had become acquainted with the modern form of keeping rabbits, especially keeping them in typical rabbit stalls, which allowed them to control and manage their reproduction. In Germany at that time rabbits were mostly kept free-range in large cattle stalls - hence the name cow hares . Here they lived on the fodder that was given to the cattle and on kitchen waste. The onset of industrialization also favored rabbit husbandry, since the rabbit was often the only animal species that could be kept in confined spaces for self-sufficiency. As a result, industrial areas in particular developed into strongholds of pedigree rabbit breeding ( Saxony , Ruhr area ).

basic needs

  • Social contact with conspecifics (rabbits need at least one partner of the same species)
  • Movement, gnawing, digging, hiding places / shelters
  • overview
  • Variety, breaks
  • Varied food (hay always available, herbs, vegetables and fruit)


Rabbits are herbivores (herbivores) and among them are counted among the leaf eaters (folivores). The diet consists mainly of the leafy components of green land plants such as grasses and herbs. This proportion is about 3/5 of the diet and can consist of up to 50% plants, which humans call medicinal and poisonous plants. Especially in winter this is supplemented by buds, shoot tips, bark and roots. The rabbit is also known as a culture follower due to the damage it causes to plants such as grapevines, grain, alfalfa and beans. In the specialist literature there is also speculation about possible meat consumption. This is derived from the fact that rabbits in captivity eat meat without being forced to eat, although there is sufficient vegetarian food available. Gaffrey, for example, reports specifically on the consumption of pork and beef scraps by wild rabbits .

The majority of natural food is characterized by a high water content of 70–90%, a raw fiber content of approx. 2–6% and a raw protein content (protein) of around 1–5% and is easily digestible. The feed intake is determined by the taste and need and is adapted to the energy requirement. Coarsely structured and less valuable food components pass through the digestive tract very quickly and are excreted after about 4–6 hours, 80% of the food within about 5 days, the last food components after 10 days. Food that is difficult to digest is fermented in the appendix by the intestinal flora . The resulting nutrients are excreted and reabsorbed. This process is cecotrope , the excrement produced by its source Blinddarmkot called (Coecotrophie). Due to its content, it is also known as vitamin dung or, due to its consistency, as soft dung. The resulting better use of the food helps the rabbit, especially in times of scarcity. The appendix contains bacterial protein, fatty acids and vitamins of the B series as well as vitamin K. If there is a lack of energy, the entire appendix is ​​absorbed. The lower the protein and higher the crude fiber content in the feed, the greater the amount of appendix feces ingested. The bacterial protein in appendix faeces can not cover the daily requirement of a rabbit for essential amino acids , the fatty acids contained only correspond to about 10–12% of the daily energy requirement. According to various sources, rabbits swallow it whole straight from the anus, while other sources report that it is occasionally chewed. Through this appendix, the rabbit is able to digest a certain part of the carbohydrates , namely certain fractions of the crude fiber. The crude fiber consists essentially of hemicelluloses , cellulose and lignin and is determined by means of the feed analysis according to van Soest (also extended Weender analysis). The total crude fiber content is called NDF (Neutral Detergent Fiber), ADF (Acid Detergent Fiber) comprises cellulose and lignin and is a measure of the poorly digestible cell wall fraction. The level of ADF has a significant impact on the amount of food a rabbit can eat. Finally, ADL (Acid Detergent Lignin) denotes the proportion of indigestible lignin that increases with the age of the plant and limits feed consumption. Overall, however, the rabbit can only digest the crude fiber poorly. The recovery is well below that of ruminants and horses .

In rabbits, the calcium requirement is not covered according to need, but according to the amount of the mineral in the food. Due to the high amounts of water in natural food, excess calcium is excreted via the kidneys with the urine . The pH of the urine is basic and is 8, which promotes the precipitation of calcium crystals. In young animals it is possible that all of the calcium ingested is used for bone growth, which is why the urine is clear, but this can also indicate a calcium deficiency. Rabbits have serum calcium levels (12–13 mg / dL) that are higher than other mammals. This is why many assume that additional calcium in the feed is harmful. However, this assumption is unlikely to be true for healthy rabbits. Hollmann stated that there was a move away from species-appropriate feeding as a possible cause of " bladder sludge ".

Starch in the feed is broken down into glucose by amylase . The enzymes come from the feed, bacteria from the appendix or the saliva Young animals are able to break down starch from around the 8th week of life.

There are two main forms of rabbit feeding:

  1. the welfare that the model, which wild rabbits , oriented
  2. Alternatives consisting of roughage such as hay and straw, silage, vegetables, kitchen scraps, bark, dry fodder, etc. a. can put together
Grasses, herbs, wildflowers, etc .: appropriate food

Rabbits up to a weight of around 2.5 kg can easily be fed in a species-appropriate manner; for larger breeds, the feed must be supplemented, as the digestive organs' capacity is lower than that of wild rabbits.

The proportion of structured (undestroyed) crude fiber in the natural diet of rabbits is less than 10%, so that no digestive problems can arise with species-appropriate feeding. With higher proportions in the total ration, the digestibility and intake of the feed decrease.

There are various alternatives to a species-appropriate form of nutrition. They essentially consist of the components or the combination of these such as hay, vegetables and dry fodder, whereby a distinction must be made between pellets and structured dry fodder with coarsely chopped components. In addition, the pet shop offers a variety of foods, some of which are very imaginative in shape and color, but usually without a declaration.

Hay (roughage): Hay is the dried form of fresh grass and herbs. The energy losses in hay through drying green fodder are, depending on the drying process, sometimes considerable. They are 30–100% for floor drying, 25–35% Reuter drying, 20–25% for under-roof drying and 5% for artificial drying. They arise primarily from mechanically caused losses of the leafy components during harvesting and swathing as well as fermentation processes during storage. More or less all nutrients are affected by the loss. So z. B. the β-carotene content in fresh plants at approx. 250 mg / kg dry matter, in hay only at approx. 20 mg / kg dry matter. β-carotene is the precursor for vitamin A and, among other things, an important component for the immune system. A major disadvantage of hay compared to natural food is the low water content of only 10–15%. Various studies show that additional amounts of water consumed and / or water-rich vegetables are apparently not sufficient to compensate for this loss. The very high crude fiber content of 20–35% reduces the intake and digestibility of the entire feed ration. Ultimately, the largely unknown composition and the degree of contamination are reasons not to use hay as staple or basic feed for rabbits, but rather to offer it as a supplement to prevent intestinal diseases. Tooth abrasion is also guaranteed by the soft lining, as the hardness of the lining is not the decisive factor, but the length of time spent with it. The intake times for one gram of dry matter from hay are between 4.72 and 12.2 minutes (depending on the time of cutting), for grass 6.84 minutes.

Pellets - their disadvantage is the finely ground components.
Structured dry food - without any ground components
Water is an important nutrient and must always be available.

Vegetables in rabbits' diets can replace some of the water that is missing when fed with hay and / or dry food. However, the nutrient contents are significantly lower than in natural food, especially with regard to the amino acid and vitamin content, only the carrot has a high, comparable β-carotene content. The raw fiber content in vegetables is 1–2%. The energy content of carrots is approx. 109  kJ (= 26  kcal ) per 100 g fresh substance, in comparison to that of dandelion approx. 230 kJ (55 kcal) per 100 g fresh substance.

Dry food can be divided into three basic categories:

  1. in structured dry food with declaration,
  2. Dry food in pelletized form with declaration as well
  3. Dry food in different shapes, sizes and colors without declaration.

In principle, however, even a declaration of commercial feed in zoo stores does not provide any certainty about the actual composition. Within these categories, a distinction is made between complete feed and complementary feed. Complete feed should completely cover the nutritional needs and therefore contain all the necessary nutrients. The recommendations for the respective dose of the ingredients come from numerous tests with different nutrients, which were usually carried out on laboratory rabbits. Fekete's recommendations from various sources have been summarized especially for pelleted feed. These recommendations also originate, for example, the 14-16% crude fiber content that is applied to every feed today, although it was originally postulated for pellets with a fiber length of not less than 0.1-0.2 mm and rabbits under intensive housing conditions. The high content of the destroyed crude fiber should compensate for the missing structure and prevent intestinal diseases. However, it is explicitly pointed out that a higher crude fiber content of> 22% can cause blockages ( coprostasis ). The ground components of pellets can lead to digestive problems because they do not correspond to the typical food structure. As a concentrate, pellets contain small, highly digestible food particles that pass through the intestinal tract only slowly. Since the conditions in the appendix are similar to those in a fermentation chamber, the long residence time can lead to fermentation processes that can lead to the multiplication of pathogenic germs and, for example, diseases such as coccidiosis . These fermentation processes cause the normally slightly acidic pH value of the appendix to rise from approx. 6 to the basic range to 8. Bacteria such as clostridia , which are inactive in an acidic environment, are a good breeding ground for reproduction. Structured dry fodder does not have the disadvantage of ground crude fiber, as it usually consists of dried, natural components that are only roughly chopped up. As with all dry fodder (hay is also dry fodder), there is the fundamental disadvantage of the lack of water.


The form of fattening rabbits in separate stalls has been known since ancient times. With the original keeping in enclosures, there was the disadvantage that targeted breeding was not possible. Today efforts are being made to meet the minimum needs of the animals through minimum requirements for keeping conditions. Various organizations have guidelines for this. One example are guidelines that the Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft e. V. (DLG) together with the German group of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA). Further recommendations are those of the Veterinary Association for Animal Protection. V. (TVT) for conventional and intensive husbandry as well as the leaflet for pet owners - rabbits (as of February 2004).

Rabbits running freely
Rabbits in free-range in winter
Posture WRSA-DLG committee TVT
breed 3000 cm² (0.3 m²) > 5000 cm² (> 0.5 m²)
plus. 2nd level 1000 cm² = total 4000 cm² (0.4 m²) plus. 2nd level 1800 cm² = total> 6800 cm² (> 0.68 m²)
Indoor keeping, (cage) - 9000 cm² (0.9 m²) + daily run
Outdoor housing, (enclosure) - 20,000–30,000 cm² (2–3 m²)

Rabbits are now kept in apartments, stalls, enclosures and open spaces, similar to the earlier rabbit gardens. In every form of keeping and breeding, the animals should have sufficient space for appropriate movement (hopping, stretching, standing) as well as space to rest (stretched out). Depending on the season, shade or enough litter should be provided (the optimal ambient temperature for rabbits is around 15 ° C). Furthermore, food and water must be freely available as well as gnawing material for occupation.

Two domestic rabbits kept free

The keeping of rabbits, just like feeding, should be based on the animals' natural behavioral patterns. Rabbits live in larger groups in the wild and show a pronounced social hierarchy and territorial behavior; self-dug caves serve as a retreat. Alternatively, clay pots half-buried in the earth can serve as caves, and great tunnel labyrinths can be built from commercially available drainage pipes. Keeping a single rabbit without proper occupation is in some opinion contrary to animal welfare. This statement also applies to the common way of keeping a rabbit and a guinea pig (→ rabbits and other animals ).

The pleasure of nibbling is typical for rabbits. This is why domestic rabbits are unsuitable for unattended free run around the home, especially if electrical cables are accessible to the animals. If it is not possible to lay the cables out of the reach of the rabbit, it must always be supervised when it is out. If the freedom of movement is predominantly restricted, for example in cage and barn housing, the rabbits' claws must be cut regularly.

Social needs

Rabbits are very social.

A species-appropriate keeping of rabbits requires the joint accommodation of at least two of these animals. Due to their pronounced territorial behavior , the integration of a new animal can lead to battles of rank , which can be alleviated by various measures such as reunification in neutral territory or complete redesign of the previous habitat. The integration of a new animal into a group can take up to a month, in extreme cases up to half a year, but sometimes it can also fail. Even with successful socialization, later (e.g. when one of the rabbits was young and grew up after a few months) there may be aggression towards one another, so that separation remains the only way out.

Often there is massive cruelty to animals due to ignorance, as keepers give rabbits unfamiliar to other animals in a stable without preparation. If you put a strange rabbit in another rabbit's stall, this usually leads to a bitter fight, in which in the end an animal is bitten to death and dies in agony. First of all, a professional and species-appropriate socialization is required.

Other behavior patterns that can often be observed are sexually motivated aggression , which can be discharged especially among male, uncastrated rabbits and can be associated with serious injuries. This behavior can sometimes be remedied by castration , since general social behavior has nothing to do with hormonally controlled sexual behavior. Aggressive behavior in rabbits, on the other hand, is determined by character or comes from negative experiences. Socialization can still be successful through careful partner choice.

Basically, rank fights are normal and should only be stopped if one of the animals is seriously impaired. The least problematic is often the keeping of a female rabbit in combination with a castrated rammers who are about the same age or a pair of siblings.

Rabbits and other animals

Guinea pigs and rabbits are not suitable partners. They differ both in their daily rhythm and in their body language. A guinea pig perceives the friendly approach of a rabbit with bowed head and big ears as aggression, which is why keeping them together is generally not recommended. However, keeping them in the same room and running under supervision usually works without problems.

Dogs and cats should also only be allowed near rabbits under supervision, as rabbits belong in the range of prey of these predators.


Rabbits communicate with each other through scents, sounds and visually through body language. In contrast to humans, rabbits do not have three, but only two different types of light sensory cells for color recognition. So they are " red- green blind ", more precisely, they do not perceive red and green as different colors. In addition, like many escape animals, they are farsighted.


Rabbits can usually be recognized by their smell. Both urine and fecal markings are used to mark the territory. Dominant bums, sometimes very dominant females, literally spray their urine around by urinating and throwing their buttocks around at the same time. Individual "scent balls" are deposited, both to mark the territory and to z. B. to show a female that you are there. Both forms of odor markings can be perceived by humans. Another form is the "kin gland rubbing". A substance that is imperceptible to humans is excreted from the scent glands on the animals' chin. If the rabbit rubs its chin on various objects, it declares them to be its "possession" or territory.

Spoken language

Rabbits can make different sounds. Most of them are extremely quiet and can only be heard up close against the background of normal ambient noise.

  • Rhythmic hum

Rammers in a state of sexual arousal may give off very soft, rhythmic humming sounds.

  • Chattering or crunching of teeth

By lightly rubbing the teeth together, very quiet noises are generated that sound like teeth chattering or crackling. This is how the rabbit expresses its comfort (for example when it is petted and likes it). In addition, the rubbing of the teeth together at rest ensures normal tooth wear and thus a physiological tooth length and position.

  • Grinding teeth

The expression of well-being (see above) must not be confused with the noisy grinding of teeth. If a rabbit grinds its teeth louder, it is in pain. The crunch caused by pain is often associated with other behaviors that indicate the rabbit is unwell (such as apathy ).

  • Growls and hisses

The somewhat louder growling or hissing of rabbits serves as a threatening gesture and signals an increased state of aggression. It often occurs immediately before an argument.

  • Beat

By quickly stamping on the ground with the hind legs, loud, audible knocking noises can be generated. Depending on the situation, the rabbit signals anger, discomfort, excitement or fear, for example. By knocking, group members are warned and potential area intruders or opponents are deterred.

  • Scream

The loudest sound a rabbit can make is a very loud, high-pitched scream. This is expelled in a state of extreme fear, for example in fear of death.

Utterance of a domestic rabbit

Body language

The rabbit's body language is extremely diverse; the whole body is used for communication.

Rabbits usually sniff each other when they meet. The smell reveals who the other person is and, above all, whether they belong to the group. This is followed by a friendly nudge with the nose as a greeting. As a rule, both ears are erected and placed forward. Tender licking also means affection, even if it is often misinterpreted as "salt appetite". The level of rank within the group is shown by the steep pitching of the tail. The dominant animal, or one that doubts the rank of its group mate, puts its tail straight up and shows the white underside of the tail.


Four young rabbits, around two weeks old

Small breed rabbits reach sexual maturity at three to five months, medium sized ones at four to eight months, and large breeds at seven to twelve months. The references to this vary considerably. Sexual maturity is not to be equated with the beginning of breeding maturity, which is reached for small breeds at around seven and medium-sized breeds at eight months, while large breeds are considered to be breeding ready at nine months.

After a gestation period of 31 days, the female rabbit usually throws between four and twelve young, dwarf rabbits often have smaller litters. If the typical characteristics of a pregnant rabbit do not appear 17 days after mating, they can be mated again at this point in time. Two mechanisms enable high reproductive performance: On the one hand, copulation-induced ovulation ensures that ovulation occurs at the same time as mating , which makes mating very effective. Another facility is the uterus duplex , with which the animals have, as it were, two mutually independent reproductive organs . This means that it is possible to mate a female rabbit about a week before a litter is born.

Homozygous dwarf from the mating of two dwarf rabbits (not viable)

When two dwarf rabbits are mated , there are statistically 25% non-viable offspring that die shortly after birth. The reason for this is the dwarf factor (dw), which leads to dwarfism in its heterozygous form, but is fatal in its homozygous form ( lethal factor ). For the inheritance of short stature in dwarf rabbits, see also the genetics of domestic rabbits .


Infectious diseases

Two viral diseases are more common in domestic rabbits. The China epidemic ( rabbit hemorrhagic disease , RHD or rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease , RVHD) is highly contagious. Signs of the disease are increasing restlessness, later drowsiness, breathing difficulties, bleeding from the nostrils and finally rapid death combined with spasms of suffocation. If an outbreak occurs, a whole group can die within a few days. The disease is almost invariably fatal. A vaccine is possible. The myxomatosis is triggered smallpox pathogen viral disease. The disease is manifested by swelling of the eyelids, purulent discharge, swelling of the head and genitals, the formation of lumps all over the body. In 40% to 60% of the infected animals, death by exhaustion occurs at the end of the course of the disease. Vaccination is possible.

The most common bacterial diseases are rabbit syphilis and contagious rabbit cold. The rabbit syphilis (spirochetosis) is transmitted through the mating condition in which bubbles and crusts on the outer genitals occur or at the head. She is being treated with penicillins . The contagious rabbit cold is an infectious disease of the respiratory tract that is fatal and can cause considerable losses, especially in larger herds. Treatment is with broad spectrum antibiotics.

Diseases caused by protozoa are encephalitozoonosis, coccidiosis and Giardose. The Encephalitozoonose is now the most common infectious disease in rabbits. Serious neurological disorders, such as head tilt and balance disorders, as well as kidney dysfunction are typical . Treatment is with fenbendazole and antibiotics. The coccidiosis caused an intestinal disease with diarrhea or damage to the liver. High losses occur especially in young animals. Toltrazuril is used for treatment , and rigid disinfection measures are also necessary. Infections with Giardia intestinalis (Giardose) are very rare in rabbits and show up as slimy-yellowish diarrhea.

The most common parasitic nematode is the pinworm Passalurus ambiguus . It can cause diarrhea, gas, and itching of the anus. In addition, various strongilids occur in rabbits. Fenbendazole is suitable for combating this. Tapeworms , especially Anoplocephalidae , and flukes are only very rarely found in rabbits.

Digestive tract diseases

  • Pike bite associated with shortening of the upper jaw , which leads to excessive tooth growth
  • Drum addiction, a bloating of the stomach in rabbits

Misaligned teeth

The teeth are worn down by the normal chewing movements during feed intake, provided that the teeth are not misaligned ( pike bite ). If such a misalignment is present, the animal's teeth must be shortened or ground down at regular intervals in order to ensure trouble-free feeding. Tooth misalignments can be recognized by increased salivation, reluctance to eat, slow food intake and even refusal. In addition, conjunctivitis as well as watery eyes and abscesses on the jaw can occur later if the misalignment is left untreated. Such animals may not be used for breeding in order to avoid inheritance.

Tooth misalignment (already bite - standing of the incisor teeth) leads to exclusion from the evaluation of pedigree rabbits at exhibitions (predicate “not satisfactory”).

Life expectancy

Domestic rabbits usually live to be 7 to 11 years old, and under ideal circumstances they can also live to be older.


Breeding rabbits in Germany

In Germany there are currently around 149,000 rabbit breeders who are organized in around 6,800 associations. At the top is the President of the ZDRK ( Central Association of German Breed Rabbit Breeders ). These are followed by the 20 regional associations, which are made up of around 500 district associations. Lower Saxony is divided into two regional associations: Landesverband Hannover , Landesverband Weser-Ems. It is similar in Hessen : Hessen-Nassau and Kurhessen . In the regional associations there are in turn district associations and below that the local associations . There is also the BDK ( Association of German Rabbit Breeders eV from 1892), which in the post-war period mainly concentrated on the Lower Saxony area, but is now again represented nationwide. The BDK is the world's oldest rabbit breeding association.

Technical terms in rabbit breeding

There are a few technical terms used in rabbits and rabbit breeding. Instead of the tail it has a “flower”, instead of the ears “spoon” and instead of the feet “legs”. The " butterfly " refers to a dark spot on the nose formed in this way. The so-called “glasses” are colored badges around the eyes. The Russian rabbit has a "mask", an elongated, oval-shaped spot on the tip of the nose. The Dutch rabbit has "cuffs" and "cheeks". In these, the dark markings on both sides of the head are understood as "cheeks", while the "cuffs" denote the white coloration of the hind feet. The “eel line”, known in the fur industry as “ Grotzen ”, is the narrow, dark stripe that runs down the middle of the back. The peeled fur of the rabbit is called hide. The hair is the "wool". A “beard” is a line with noticeably longer hair that runs from the anus to the hind legs.

Identification of the animals

Rabbits are usually tattooed for identification : numbers and letters are pressed into their ears with pliers, then the ears are rubbed with ink. The ink then sticks to the embossed numbers and grows into the ear. According to the guidelines of the ZDRK, this marking looks like this :

  • left ear: month of birth / last digit year of birth / consecutive number of this breed and color according to the club's stud book. Example: 4.6.50 (4 = April, 6 = 2006 or 2016, 50 = 50th animal).
  • right ear: regional association / club number. Example: F 523 (F = Hanover regional association, 523 = Gnarrenburg local association).

With the tattoo in the left ear, the first number indicates the month of birth, the second the last digit of the year of birth and the last the serial number of the breed . In the right ear, the letter stands for the respective regional association, the number for the local association.

In the BDK, for example, the right ear is tattooed as follows: 9 D 2 (9 = NRW, D = Germany, 2 = local association). With the BDK, the breeding year is the same as the calendar year, so the numbers 1–12 correspond to the months of birth January – December.

The breeding year in the ZDRK runs from November 1st to October 31st, so that a rabbit born in November or December 2009 receives 0.0.7 as a tattoo in the left ear if it is the seventh animal of its breed and color in the respective club's studbook .


The annual highlight for a breeder is, in addition to the many vital young animals in the nests, the rabbit exhibitions, which usually take place in autumn, where you compete with others. These usually begin with the clubs' local shows , followed by the district, district and state shows as well as the biennial federal show alternating annually with the federal ramming show (only male animals may be presented here). With over 30,000 rabbits (Karlsruhe 2009), the federal show taking place in Germany is the largest rabbit show in the world. Here the title of German Master is awarded. In the BDK there is the Federal Performance Show (BLS) every year on the premises of the Hanover Fair in cooperation with the poultry farmers.


Dalmatian Rex

Breeds approved in Germany

Probably the largest rabbit breeding association in Germany and worldwide is the Central Association of German Race Rabbit Breeders . V. (hereinafter referred to as ZDRK) with around 149,000 organized members. (See also: Rabbit Breeding in Germany ). The Association of German Rabbit Breeders is a smaller association with currently around 250 members and its own breed standard . V. of 1892 (hereinafter referred to as BDK).

The ZDRK has recognized 88 breeds in 370 different colors in Germany, which are arranged in 7 departments.

Department I.
Large normal-hair breeds [weight over 5.5 kg]: German giants , gray or different colors - German giants , white - German giant chicks - German rams (rams = rabbits with lop ears)
Department II
Medium Normal Hair breeds [weight to 5.5 kg]: Meissner rabbits - Light Large Silver - United Chinchilla - Mecklenburg piebald - English Aries - German wholesale silver - Burgundy - Blue Vienna - Blue Gray Vienna - Black Vienna - White Vienna - Graue Wiener - Blanc de Hotot - New Zealand red rabbit - New Zealand White - Great American Sable rabbit - Californians - Japanese - Rheinische Pinto - Thuringia - Weißgrannen - hare rabbit (physique resembles the hare ) - Alaska - Havana
Department III
Small Normal Hair breeds [weight to 3.75 kg]: Small Check - separator - German Klein Widder - Small Chinchilla - deilenaar - Marburger Feh - Saxony Gold - Rhoen rabbit - Luxkaninchen - Perlfeh - small silver - English Spot - Dutch - tan rabbit - American Sable Rabbit - Siamese - Schwarzgrannen - Russians - Maroon Lorrainers (Brun marron de Lorrain)
Dwarf ram, Thuringian-colored
Department IV
Normal hair dwarf breeds [weight up to 2 kg]: ( Aries dwarfs ) - dwarf piebalds - ermine - colored dwarfs
Department V
Hair structure races [shiny fur and weight up to 4 kg]: Satin-Ivory - Satin-Black - Satin-Blue - Satin-Havana - Satin-Red - Satin-Feh - Satin-Californians - Satin-Rabbit-colored - Satin-Thuringian - Satin Chinchilla - Satin Siamese - Satin Castor - Satin Lux
Department VI
Short-haired breeds ( Rex rabbits ) [hair length less than 20 mm]: Chin reindeer - Blue reindeer - White reindeer - Tricolor piebald reindeer - Dalmatian reindeer - Yellow reindeer - Castor reindeer - Black reindeer - Havana Rexe - Blue-gray Rexe - Rhön Rexe - Japanese Rexe - Feh Rexe - Lux-Rexe - Loh Rexe - Marder Rexe - Russian Rexe - Dwarf Rexe (Rex dwarfs)
Department VII
Long-haired breeds [hair length more than 40 mm]: Angora , white (are shorn regularly) - Angora , colored (are shorn regularly) - Fox rabbits , colored - Fox rabbits, white - Jamora - Dwarf fox rabbits, colored (fox dwarfs, colored) - Dwarf fox rabbits , white ( Fox dwarfs, white)

Main article: Genetics of the domestic rabbit

In addition, the BDK is particularly concerned with the endangered Belgian bearded rabbit , which is already recognized by this association. The BDK has its own standard, according to which, in particular, the breeding of the different colors is handled much more generously, as is the recognition process for new or foreign breeds. In the BDK, the breeds are currently being bred or re-bred: Little Rex, lion and teddy dwarfs, lion and teddy rams.

Breeds of the European Union

The breed standards of other countries lead to other breeds that are bred there. The European standard of the umbrella organization EE - Entente Europeenne applies to European shows .

The following breeds were admitted to the 25th European Show of the European Association for Poultry, Pigeon, Bird, Rabbit and Cavia Breeding ( Entente Européenne d'Aviculture et de Cuniculture ) 2006 in Leipzig :

Big races
Giant - Giant, white - White Bouscat - Giant Check - Moravian Blue Rabbit - Aries - Blue from St. Niklaas - Blue from Hamm
Medium races
White from Dendermonde - Champagne - Silver (Switzerland) - Champagne silver (France) - Belgian silver - Large silver (light) - Large silver (other colors) - Large chinchilla - Mecklenburg piebald - Meissen ram - White New Zealander - Zempliner Rabbits - English rams - White country rabbits (Orestad) - Blue Viennese - Black Viennese - Gray Viennese - Gray Burbonnais - Original reddish Burgundy - Burgundy - Hotot - Great Russians - Czech Albino Rabbit - Californian - Viennese, white - Great Marten - Red New Zealanders - van Beveren - Normans - White Vendee - Japanese - Three colors Check - rabbit - White rabbit - Loh hare - goat rabbit - Thuringia - Weißgrannen - Medium Chuinchilla - Czech Pinto - Moravian White brown-eyed rabbit - Blesser of Liptov - Alaska - Trønder - Swedish fur rabbit - Havana - Sallander - Sussex
Small breeds
Sable des Vosges - Small Aries - Gouwenaar - Beige ( separator ) - deilenaar - Marburger Feh - Marder - Blue Holíč - Siberian - Saxony Gold - Golden Glavcot - Orange - Schwarzgrannen - Siamese - Rhoen rabbit - Perlfeh - English Spot - Lux - Small silver - Dutch - Small chinchilla - Squirrel - Loh - stone rabbit - Thrianta - Hulslander - Russians - Pergraue of Halle - Maroon Lorraine
Dwarf breeds
Dwarf Lop - Dwarf Lop Rex - Dwarf piebald - dwarf rabbits - ermine - Lutter Bacher Hermelin - color Dwarves
Hair structure breeds
Rex - Possum - Angora - Satin - Fuchs - Jamora - Rexzwerge - Fox Dwarves

Economical meaning

"Creole style" rabbit dish
In times of need

Pedigree rabbits were a more important economic factor in the past than they are today. In addition to the use of meat, the skins also played an important role in Germany. In addition to the natural processing, rabbit skins were dyed and / or sheared to imitate noble furs . Nowadays, rabbit clothing from China also comes onto the local market in quite a significant amount, especially small parts such as scarves (see also rabbit fur ). Some of these are re-exported Rex rabbit fur from Europe, especially from Spain. Rabbit hair was used in hat production. The production and processing of angora wool also played a role. Especially in times of war and emergency, the importance of keeping rabbits rose sharply and was then subsidized by the state in various countries. Today rabbits, especially dwarf rabbits , are often kept as pets .


  • Monika Bartha: Studies on the influence of crude fiber on the health of growing rabbits. Göttingen 1985, DNB 860010376 . ( Dissertation University of Göttingen 1985)
  • Friedrich Karl Dorn, Günther March: breed rabbit breeding. 7th edition. Neumann, Leipzig / Radebeul 1989, ISBN 3-7402-0071-5 .
  • Barbara Felde: The animal welfare rabbit book: rabbit-friendly keeping in the apartment and varied enclosure design in the garden. Geier, Biebertal 2015, ISBN 978-3-944484-06-8 .
  • Anne McBride: Understand rabbits. A manual for animal welfare (original title: Why does my rabbit ...? Translated by Anja Schmidtke). 2nd edition, Pala, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-89566-188-0 .
  • Ruth Morgenegg: Appropriate husbandry, a basic right also for (dwarf) rabbits. 3. Edition. tbv Tierbücherverlag, Obfelden 2003, ISBN 3-9522661-1-6 .
  • Wolfgang Rudolph, Tassino Kalinowski: The house rabbit (= New Brehm library. Volume 555). Westarp-Wissenschaftsverlag-Gesellschaft, Hohenwarsleben 2007, ISBN 978-3-89432-857-3 .
  • Wolfgang Schlohlaut, Klaus Lange: The big book of the rabbit. 2nd Edition. DLG , Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-7690-0554-6 .
  • Johannes Schneider: Beneficial rabbit breeding . Leipzig 1918. (digitized version)

Web links

Commons : Domestic Rabbits  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: House rabbits  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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