A lovable rabbit in a small package, the Lionhead rabbit is a great choice for a family pet. These intelligent rabbits form strong bonds with their owners and are easily trained. The Lionhead's distinctive fur makes them a fluffy, playful, and affectionate ball of fun.
Getting to Know the Lionhead Rabbit
Lionhead rabbits have become an increasingly popular bunny breed over the last few decades. The breed was developed in Belgium through a crossbreeding of the Swiss Fox and Netherland Dwarf. They made their way to the states in the 1990s and the American Rabbit Breeders Association recognized them in 2014.
Characteristics of the Lionhead
Lionhead rabbits are smaller and more energetic than most other breeds of rabbits. Additionally, they have many unique qualities that set them apart.
Most pet rabbit breeds have a life expectancy of between 5 and 8 years. However, Lionhead rabbits typically livve to be 8 to 10 years old. This longevity could be a result of their lineage or small size. With optimal nutrition and care, you can increase the likelihood that your Lionhead will live a long, healthy life.
Size and Appearance
Lionheads are small rabbits weighing between 3 and 3½ pounds and typically reach about 8 to 10 inches long. Their ears are proportional to their heads and are generally 3 inches in length. The most distinctive feature of the Lionhead is their "mane." This refers to the tufts of hair at the top of their head, and the mane led to the breed name. Lionhead rabbits can have two possible mane types depending on their genetics.
- Single mane: Also known as a "light" mane, a single-maned Lionhead possesses only one copy of the gene for a mane. These rabbits have fine, wispy hairs that may or may not resemble a true mane. The single mane can be found above their eyes, by the ears, as well as their chest and chin area.
- Double mane: Double-maned Lionheads have two copies of the gene mane. Therefore, the double mane is much fluffier and larger. These rabbits have thick hair around the ears, chin, and chest, as well as on their flanks, which is known as the "skirt."
Lionhead rabbits are an excellent choice as a family pet, although they may not do well with very young children due to their small size, delicate bodies, and energetic nature. However, they do enjoy cuddling and affection from their owners when exposed to handling early on. Lionheads are also very social and enjoy the company of other rabbits, so getting your rabbit another bunny or even a Guinea pig or another calm species can help keep both pets happy.
These rabbits are friendly and have a reputation for being very playful. In fact, they love toys, including balls and puzzles; you can even use toys made for cats with a Lionhead bunny! This breed is a good choice for clicker training, as they're intelligent and interested in pleasing their people. Many owners successfully teach their Lionhead rabbits to use a litter box.
Caring for Lionhead Rabbits
The care required for a Lionhead is similar to what you'd provide for any rabbit breed. However, due to their small size and luscious mane, they have a few additional care requirements.
These rabbits are best kept inside, although some owners do house them outside with the right enclosure and climate. A Lionhead rabbit will need a cage or hutch designed specifically for rabbits. An enclosure for one rabbit should be a minimum size of 12 square feet, so there is plenty of room for them to move about. Bedding such as paper pulp, straw, or a commercial substrate like Carefresh needs to be added to the floor for comfortable. Rabbits can experience foot problems without something soft on the bottom of their cage.
A rabbit cage will need daily cleanings and you should change their bedding at least once a week. Your Lionhead rabbit will also need some regular time outside the cage for exercise and enrichment. However, well-trained rabbits can usually free roam the house under supervision.
Feeding and Diet
Lionhead rabbits need to eat a diet made up of hay, vegetables, and rabbit pellets. Ensure your bunny has an unlimited supply of hay, which makes up 80 to 90 percent of their diet. Choose a high-quality hay, such as Timothy hay, brome, orchard, or another type.
In addition, they will need pellets designed for rabbits and a variety of fresh, leafy vegetables to supplement their diet. Lionhead rabbits are small, so they shouldn't have as much of these foods as most other rabbit breeds. Aim to give your adult Lionhead about 1 cup of rabbit-safe vegetables and no more than 1/8 cup of pellets.
Lionheads need their beautiful, fluffy manes brushed regularly. Aim to do this at least a few times each week, although daily would be optimal. Always use gentle handling to prevent injury. If your rabbit does develop tangles or mats that you cannot brush out, you can try to carefully shave them out or have your veterinarian address them. Never use scissors on your rabbit.
Lionhead Rabbit Health and Welfare
The average lifespan for this breed is about 8 to 10 years, which is slightly longer than the average rabbit life expectancy. Still, Lionhead rabbits can experience a few health problems:
- Overgrown teeth: Rabbit teeth grow continuously, so overgrowth can occur if the rabbit doesn't have enough hay to wear their teeth down naturally. Misalignment can also lead to overgrown teeth.
- Spinal injury: Improper handling can cause a rabbit to twist their spine and ultimately dislocate or break their back.
- Matted hair: The mane of a Lionhead rabbit can become matted without routine grooming. Rabbits who self-groom excessively can also develop hairballs.
- Mites: Rabbits can get mites from other animals or infected bedding. Encephalitozoon cuniculi is another parasite which can cause mobility, vision, and urination problems.
- Gastrointestinal stasis: GI stasis, or slowing of the digestive tract, can be caused by stress, overheating, poor diet, intestinal parasites, blockage, or bacterial infections.
It's also recommended to spay or neuter your rabbit to prevent breeding as well as reproductive-related diseases like mammary or uterine cancers.
Where to Find a Lionhead Rabbit
Most Lionhead rabbits are found through breeders. The average cost for a Lionhead rabbit is about $50 to $125. Access a list of breeders from the North American Lionhead Rabbit Club or check the American Rabbit Breeders Association website's breeder directory. You could also consider adopting a Lionhead rabbit in need of a home.
Learning More About the Lionhead Bunny
The Lionhead rabbit is a great choice for someone looking for a rabbit that wants to interact with them and enjoy snuggling. They do need more grooming than some other breeds and their size may be better suited for older children, but they're definitely a companion rabbit worth looking into if you want to bring a rabbit into your family.