Long Haired Rabbit Care
Long haired rabbits have slightly different care requirements to short coated breeds such as the Polish. Coat care is the obvious one and if you are wondering what sort of effort it takes to maintain a long coat then read on. Long haired rabbits' accommodation needs careful consideration too and disease wise there is the menace of fly strike to be vigilant for.
Long haired rabbits come in a few different varieties. If you want a rabbit with some long hair, but don't want to have to do much grooming, then the lionhead rabbit is the one for you. Lionheads have a varying amount of longhair around the head and neck with an ordinary short coat everywhere else. The traditional breed, long used commercially for wool production, is the angora. It has the heaviest coat. There are also cashmere lop rabbits whose coats are long but a little finer.
As you can see in the picture below, baby angoras and cashmere rabbits have short hair. Don't be tempted into buying them unless you really are prepared to care for the long coats that they will quickly grow. It's also worth bearing in mind that long haired rabbits can live from 8-12 years, so they are quite a long term pet.
Baby Angora Rabbits
Traditional housing for angora rabbits being kept for wool production is wire bottomed cages with a small board large enough for the rabbits in the pen to sit on. Underneath the cage is a tray to catch the droppings and urine. The aim of this is to prevent the rabbit's wool getting tangled up in bedding or becoming damp from trailing in urine.
If you're keeping a long haired rabbit as a pet you can use an ordinary rabbit hutch or convert a shed in to a pen for them and use straw for bedding. You can use a base of shavings underneath the straw, but shavings do have a habit of getting really entangled in the long hair, so you may want to do without them.
Accommodation for an Angora 'House Rabbit'
You might decide to keep your long haired rabbit as a 'house rabbit', in which case it will need a pen which you can shut it away safely in, but it will get plenty of exercise running around your house for much of the time.
The crucial thing with housing your long haired rabbit, with the exception of some lionheads which don't have much long hair, is that they have good sized indoor accommodation because unless you live in a dry place they won't be able to spend much time outside. Angora and cashmere rabbits don't have waterproof coats so if they get wet they get soaked to the skin and don't dry quickly which isn't good for their health.
They will still enjoy a run outside on a dry day when the ground is dry as well. However if you live somewhere soggy like I do in Lancashire - those sorts of days are few and far between!
Feeding Long Haired Rabbits
Pelleted Food - As rabbits can be selective eaters a pelleted food, which contains all the nutritional balance a rabbit needs in each pellet, is ideal to give your rabbit most of the nutrients it needs.
Hay – In addition to the pellets a good quality hay is essential to keep your rabbit's digestive system working properly. Munching on hay will also help to wear their teeth down.
Greens – most rabbits enjoy eating greens, so a little cabbage or broccoli, some dandelion leaves or chickweed will usually be appreciated.
Fruit and Root Veg – although rabbits are traditionally known to be partial to carrots these should only form a tiny part of your rabbit’s diet and can be omitted altogether. Fruit and root veg are higher in sugar than is ideal for a rabbit, so green veg is a better option for them.
Black Angora Rabbit
I found a comb like this best for grooming my angora rabbit
Grooming your Long Haired Rabbit
Grooming your long haired rabbit once a day is the best way to keep the coat tangle free. You can of course shear the coat off every so often if you want to use the wool for spinning, but you will still need to groom in in between times otherwise you will have an unusable matted lump of hair.
If you do get behind on grooming duties, you will end up with matted fur which usually needs to be cut out. If you try to pull a comb through a thick mat of hair you will most likely end up tearing the hair out by its roots which is painful for your rabbit and will leave it with sore red skin.
I found a comb with quite widely spaced teeth was most effective for grooming Jynx my angora rabbit who is pictured right. I made the job a little easier by trimming some of her undercoat down her flanks, which left her with the appearance of still having all her hair but it was a bit thinner for combing.
Keeping your Long Haired Rabbit Happy
Most rabbits are sociable animals and I found that to be especially true of angora rabbits. My angora girls lived very happily together and with a selection of other rabbit breeds too. A neutered pair should live contentedly together too. The only thing to watch for is that if they are bored or don't have continual access to hay they can start chewing each other's hair.
To keep your long haired rabbits from becoming bored it is worth having a variety of toys for them which you can rotate in and out, so that they are not always faced with the same toys. Some things they are likely to enjoy are tunnels, applewood or willow logs, woven grass play balls and food dispensing balls so they have to work harder to get their food pellets.There is even a sisal digging and chewing station, pictured right, which looks as though it might provide your rabbit with something it can really get its teeth into. With a bit of ingenuity you could probably make something similar.
Long Haired Rabbit Health
If you live in a country where myxomatosis or rabbit hemorrhagic disease is present you may choose to vaccinate your rabbit against these diseases.
Otherwise you should handle your rabbit every day and carry out a health check so that you are consciously taking note of changes in its appearance and weight. A particular thing to watch out for in long haired rabbits is fly strike. Fly strike can happen to any rabbit, but is more likely in long haired ones because droppings can get mixed into their hair or damp patches from urine and these attract flies which lay eggs that will hatch into maggots and literally eat your rabbit alive. A rabbit with fly strike can quickly die of shock.
Earless Rabbit - an Angora Cross
A Rabbit without Ears - Fraud's Story
Although rabbits are very occasionally born without ears, more usually earless rabbits occur when an inexperienced mother rabbit chews her baby's ears off. It's hard to know the psychology behind this, but it may be overenthusiastic grooming on the part of the mother or perhaps she eats the birth sack and then has a nibble at the ears as well. What you end up with is a rabbit with stumps for ears. They can still hear perfectly well though.
Fraud was one such rabbit. His mother was a large crossbreed and his father an angora rabbit. Fraud was a baby from her very first litter which she had reared very well - apart from chewing off some of their ears. I was given him because the mother's owner hadn't been able to sell him without any ears. He proved to be the sweetest natured rabbit I've ever had,very gentle and very affectionate. Although his coat didn't grow as long as that of a pure angora rabbit, it still required regular grooming to keep in good shape.
Rabbits Born Without Ears
- Rabbit Born Without Ears in Fukushima? | Japan Probe
Update: The rabbit was confirmed to be in Fukushima. However, there is no evidence that the birth defect was caused by radiation. In the months since this
- Baby Rabbit Killed by Camerman in German Zoo - SPIEGEL ONLINE
a rabbit born without ears in Germany