New Zealand Rabbit
What do New Zealand rabbits look like?
New Zealand rabbits are round, cuddly creatures, and are great favorites as family pets. They are very social and outgoing, and don’t bite. In fact, they love being cuddled, held in your lap, or even flung across your shoulders like a rag doll.
Here is some useful New Zealand rabbit information. New Zealand rabbits are slightly larger than other rabbits, with broad and muscular bodies. A male (buck) weighs around 8 to 10 pounds, while females (doe) are slightly larger at about 9 to 12 pounds. Females also have a small flap of skin under their chin, called a ‘dewlap’. By pulling it down, they use it as a nesting box for their newborns.
New Zealand rabbits have muscular but slender faces with rounded cheeks. Their front feet are small and short, while the back feet are large and long. They have thick snowy fur. Their ears are long and perforated, and stand upright. The fur of the ears is shorter, allowing their delicate pale pink skin to show through. One of the most noticeable and attractive characteristics of the New Zealand rabbits are their bright eyes, which range from a bright ruby or brick red to a pale pink.
They have a genetic deviation called albinism. This is caused by lack of the pigment melanin in the skin. As a result, New Zealand rabbits are usually snowy white in color, which makes them even more endearing.
Origin of the New Zealand Rabbit:
Despite its name, the New Zealand rabbit first originated in America, around 1912, probably by crossing several breeds such as Angoras, Belgian hares, American Whites and Flemish. W S Preshaw is generally credited with breeding the first litter of New Zealand whites, with an eye on the fur and meat trade.
There is also a black variety which has been developed by crossing with a Giant Chinchilla.
What do they eat? New Zealand rabbits are hardy creatures and rarely fall sick. They eat all the foods favored by the rabbit family. They also thrive on hay and feed pellets.
New Zealand Rabbit Breeding Habits
A female New Zealand rabbit (doe) can breed all year long, and is fertile almost immediately after birth. The gestation period ranges from 28 to 31 days. If you provide a nesting box, she will line it with fur from her dewlap, hay and other soft materials.
A litter can range from 2 to 12, though 6 is the general number. When the babies (kittens) are born, they are hairless and weigh only about one pound. Their eyes are open only after 10 to 12 days, and fur begins to grow after 5 or 6 days. Their mother weans them off her milk by the third week.
What are they used for? New Zealand rabbits were usually bred for their meat and for their fur which is used to make trimmings and linings for hats, gloves or coats. Sometimes they are also used in laboratory experiments.