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Polish rabbits -- which you may mistakenly call Polish dwarfs due to their tiny size -- and Netherland dwarfs are two of the smallest rabbit breeds in the world. Although sometimes confused for one another, they're distinct breeds with separate traits. Despite having some similarities, they're different from each other in several ways.
Contrary to their name, Polish rabbits are thought to have been developed in Belgium in the 1600s. They were originally a meat breed, first shown in the United Kingdom in 1844. They're not a true dwarf breed, as they're naturally small rather than possess a dwarfing gene. Netherland dwarfs were developed much more recently -- during the 20th century -- by crossing Polish rabbits with wild rabbits. They were recognized in the United Kingdom in 1948 and in the United States in the late 1960s.
Show-quality Netherland dwarfs should not exceed 2 1/2 pounds -- although closer to 2 pounds is better -- making them the world's smallest breed of rabbit. Polish rabbits are slightly heavier, not to exceed 3.8 pounds, and are the second smallest breed. Some pet specimens of both species are slightly larger but would not qualify for showing.
Netherland dwarfs have a much wider range of acceptable coat colors than Polish rabbits. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, including blue, black, white, brown, sable, shaded, lilac, Siamese, seal point, agouti, orange, fawn and steel. Polish rabbits, on the other hand, have a limited and distinct range of coat colors. They can be black, blue, chocolate, broken or white with either ruby or blue eyes.
Netherland dwarf rabbits are characterized by their rounded and compact bodies. They have short necks, full chests and broad, rounded faces. Like their Dutch cousins, Polish rabbits have compact bodies, but they're slightly more slender and racy. Rather than having rounded faces, they have muzzles that taper more narrowly. They still have full cheeks. They have clear tapers down from their hips to their shoulders.
- Bethany Clarke/Getty Images News/Getty Images