Other name(s): Japanese Harlequin Rabbit; Magpie Harlequin Rabbit
Named for the extravagant pattern and color of the coat, the Harlequin is certainly one of the most eye-catching rabbits. Unlike most breeds, the preference when developing the Harlequin has been on color, and not body type or fur. This has allowed for strict standardization for coloration and patterning, but very little standardization for how the rabbit should look otherwise. This has led some fanciers to protest that Harlequin is a coat color, and not a breed, but the Harlequin continues to be recognized by both the British Rabbit Council and the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association.
Rabbits have unique and dynamic personalities and can form close, loving bonds with their owners. Many can be trained to use a litterbox, will come when you call their name, and may even enjoy learning a couple of tricks. Coupled with the fact that they’re quiet, require relatively little space, and are very low odor, it’s not hard to see why rabbits have become the third most popular pet in the United States and Great Britain.
There are a few important things to consider before choosing a rabbit as a pet. Rabbits will require your time and attention. They’re very social, curious, and playful animals and will live a sad life if kept confined to a cage with little interaction. They will need space and opportunity to exercise and explore, and you’ll need to make sure the space has been rabbit-proofed against nibbling and gnawing. A rabbit is a long-term commitment with many living more than 10 years – sadly, with their popularity on the rise, the number of rabbits abandoned to shelters and rescues has also risen.
Rabbits are a poor choice as a pet for young children. Rabbits are easily stressed and frightened and can easily be injured.
Appearance / health:
The Harlequin Rabbit is a medium-sized breed weighing between 6 ½ and 8 pounds. The physical standards for the Harlequin are not strict, but in general this breed has a long body, a broad head, up upright medium-length ears.
The Harlequin’s distinguishing feature is its elaborate coat color, which can be described by two types. The traditional Harlequin bears a “magpie” coloration, in which the rabbit is part black, blue, chocolate, or lilac, and part white or orange. The colors usually appear in an equal ratio on the body, and it’s preferred if the face is marked with half-and-half coloration. The second variety is the Japanese Harlequin. This variety lacks the white of the “magpie”, and is instead marked with orange and a secondary color of black, blue, chocolate, or lilac. The Japanese Harlequin is preferred to have ears of opposite colors, with head and face opposite of ear color. The feet are generally alternate colors as well.
Like other small mammals, the Harlequin Rabbit can be susceptible to colds and viral infections. Exposure to draft, sudden changes in temperature and stress can lower the rabbit’s resistance to sickness. Rabbits are also vulnerable to conjunctivitis (a bacterial infection of the eyelids caused by smoke, dust, and fumes) and ear mites. Intestinal ailments like coccidiosis (parasites propagated by unsanitary conditions), bloat, and hairball obstructions are also common in rabbits.
Behavior / temperament:
The Harlequin is a mild-mannered breed that possesses a calm playfulness and curiosity. They tend to be intelligent rabbits, and may enjoy more elaborate forms of play, including learning tricks or navigating tunnels and boxes in their play area. They’re friendly and thrive on attention and interaction.
Rabbits are social animals, and are happiest when kept in pairs or trios. Rabbits may bond very closely to one another, forming a near-inseparable “bonded pair”. Non-bonded rabbits should have their own cage and should be carefully supervised until they get to know one another. A rabbit kept singly will need lots of time and attention from their human caretaker, though human companionship can never fully substitute for the interaction they have with each other. Ideally a single rabbit will be allowed plenty of free access to its owner, whether that’s cuddling on the couch or following them around the kitchen.
Rabbits are generally playful and curious and you may find that a free-roaming bunny will greet your guests at the door. They tend to get along well with other household pets, though some cats and dogs have a high prey instinct and may act aggressively towards the rabbit. Some rabbits are quite intelligent and enjoy learning tricks, and many rabbits can be trained to use a litter box. Rabbits also love to chew and dig, and it’s especially important for their dental health that they have something appropriate to gnaw on. It’s also important that anything they shouldn’t gnaw on be kept from their reach!
Rabbits may spray to mark their territory, though this behavior can be significantly reduced or eliminated by spaying or neutering. Spaying or neutering can also result in a calmer temperament and fewer behavioral issues.
Harlequin Rabbits are best kept indoors to protect them from extreme temperatures, predators, and other outdoor dangers. They should be allowed to roam and exercise, preferably where they can get sunlight and fresh air. Extension hutches, exercise pens or lawn enclosures are recommended for safe outdoor exposure.
If kept in a cage, the enclosure should be at least five times the size of the rabbit with plenty of room to stretch and stand upright. Wire mesh flooring should be avoided because it can cause pain and injury to a rabbit’s feet. A hide-away box or sleeping quarters should be provided as a quiet place for a rabbit to retreat to feel safe and for sleep. Baby toys and interesting items should also be available for entertainment. Another option is housing your rabbit in a play-pen or puppy-pen.
Many rabbits can be trained to use a litter box. The best litters are non-toxic (rabbits may try to nibble on their litter) and dust free. Recycled paper litters or pellets, citrus-based litters, compressed wood pellets, aspen shavings, newspaper (ensure the ink is non-toxic), and hay are all appropriate. Avoid clumping litters as they can clump inside the digestive tract if eaten, and never use wood shavings from pine or cedar.
Rabbits may also be allowed to roam inside the house as long as the areas where they are free to explore are “rabbit-proofed” for safety. Rabbits allowed to roam at all times should still have a hutch to which they can return for sleeping and a feeling of safety.
Harlequin Rabbits are herbivorous and their diet will mainly consist of hay, pellets, and vegetables. Hay is very important for both digestive health and dental health. Grass hays such as timothy, orchard, and oat hay can be fed in unlimited quantities, but alfalfa is high in calories and should only be provided occasionally. Fresh pellets should also be made available daily – choose a pellet high in fiber and avoid mixes that include other foods like corn, seeds, or dried fruit.
Fresh foods are also an important part of your rabbit’s diet. Dark, leafy greens like kale, romaine lettuce, spring greens, and some spinach should make up approximately 75% of the fresh food given to your rabbit daily, with vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, and summer squash making up the other 25%. Fruits and starchy vegetables should be limited in the diet, but make great treats! Make sure that all fresh foods are washed thoroughly, and uneaten fresh foods should be removed at the end of the day.
Fresh water should always be available, either from a sipper bottle or in a stable water bowl.
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"I have always had a love of rabbits, so when I was in college with my own room and felt I was responsible enough, I decided to get a rabbit. I found a little brown and white bunny online that was born in a small litter only a couple of hours away. He was described as a dwarf-dutch mix, which led me to believe he was small. I also saw several pictures of him posed next to pears and apples for size reference, and he was about as small as them. So, I went on a little road trip with some friends to go pick up my little angel, and I brought a kennel to hold him in for the ride home. When I arrived and after much anticipation, I discovered not only was Button, as I came to name him, far bigger than "advertised", he also had a friend. His sister, a black rabbit named Lily, had apparently grown terribly attached to him. If you are unaware, it is good to know that rabbits form very strong, personal bonds, and separating them can lead to depression, causing lack of appetite, activity, and other severe mental health problems. It was then that the people who had had the rabbits offered both of them together for the price of one, seeing as that no one wanted them to be torn apart. I somewhat reluctantly accepted. Although both were very sweet and cute, there was suddenly a far bigger burden on my shoulders. They were both four months old at the time, and the owners had to give us new kennels to compensate for the rabbits' size.<br>After a few months, the rabbits got even bigger as they aged, finally reaching the size of overweight house cats. I lived in a house with roommates at the time, so my poor big rabbits were confined to my room, and most of the time their enclosure. I built one out of metal squares and zip ties, but it proved impossible to keep the rabbits inside as they would burrow under it or jump over it. They also chewed on absolutely everything: my wooden bed-frame, my remote control, school books and papers, my carpet (which I had to replace) and would have chewed up my cords had I not protected them. I also emptied their litter box every other day, but even then the smell was overwhelming and I had to constantly use air fresheners. In the end, they ended up being far to big and destructive for my small room, and so I decided to give them away. I found a family who had owned big rabbits before and had a large outside enclosure. It was one of the daughters' 11th birthday, and their last rabbit had passed of old age a few month before, so we all agreed that the two would be a lovely gift that the whole family could enjoy and be able to care for. I would advise that you research breeds and potential hazards and complications before getting any kind of rabbit. Also keep in mind how you are going to properly keep him or her, protect your belongings and the rabbit from chewing, and know how much more of a responsibility multiple rabbits can be.."
From Hayhayjane May 7 2015 8:18PM
"My younger rabbit has dental problems, so he's in need of chewing down on his teeth more than other rabbits. Meadow hay gives him nutrients and it doesn't have many calories-so he's not overeating and becoming overweight. Between meals he chewable on this and since I rescued him (3 months ago) it's helped his oral health a lot.."
From h-lancley 46 days ago