With their little manes and perky expressions, lionhead rabbits score high on cuteness. Of course, they are not the cuddly toys they resemble, and they need as much care as any other rabbit. As with other breeds, lionhead rabbits should not be entrusted to a child's sole care, although they can make good family pets if you have the time.
This is a relatively small breed, not supposed to exceed 3 pounds 12 ounces. The ears are neat and short for a rabbit -- usually less than three inches long -- and the coat is thick but not all that long. The defining characteristic is, of course, the mane of longer hair framing the face. This breed comes in a range of colors, ranging from orange to white. One of the most striking color patterns is the Himalayan -- white bunnies with chocolate noses and ears. At the time of writing, the breed was recognized by the British Rabbit Council but not as yet by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
Where to Get Lionheads
Thousands of rabbits end up in animal sanctuaries after being bought on impulse, often with no consideration as to how much care rabbits actually need. This applies to the main breeds as well as crossbred rabbits, and small cute breeds are as likely to be abandoned as any others. If your heart is set on adopting a lionhead rabbit, you can almost certainly find a rescued one, although you might need to wait or travel to get this breed. Adoption from a sanctuary is by far the best option. The second best is to acquire your rabbit from a reputable breeder.
Do not buy rabbits of any breed from pet stores. You won't know the medical history of the rabbits, how much they have been handled or the conditions they were bred in -- you could inadvertently be encouraging cruel breeding practices.
Being quite small, lionheads should be fine in standard rabbit cages. Note that outdoor housing requires a large, secure run as well as a hutch. Indoor rabbits require access to at least one rabbit-proofed room, which means you need to housetrain your bunnies. Hutches and cages are for sleeping and resting -- not for the rabbit to actually live in all the time.
As well as the general care required for any rabbit, lionheads need regular grooming because of their longish, thick coats. Rabbits cannot hawk up hairballs like a cat, so grooming is essential to remove loose fur. If too much is swallowed, the rabbit could develop dangerous intestinal blockages. Use grooming tools designed for long-haired cats and groom your bunny at least once a week. Increase the frequency to daily when he’s shedding.
Get your lionhead spayed or neutered to prevent health and behavioural problems as well as the possibility of unwanted babies -- he can have a companion of the opposite sex provided they are both fixed. Rabbits are highly social so, unless you spend most of your time at home, get your bunny a friend of the same species. Because lionheads are quite small, adopt a second rabbit of about the same size rather than one of the giant varieties, although the new arrival doesn’t have to be the same breed. This helps avoid the possibility of the bigger rabbit bullying the smaller.
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Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.