Rabbit Buying Guide

Buying a Rabbit

So you want a pet bunny rabbit? There are some things to consider before taking an animals life into your hands.
Do some research, find a breed to like not just because of how it looks, but because of your availability to care for it, as well as the breeds known temperament.

One thing I cannot stress enough, try, try, try to purchase a rabbit from an actual breeder. If the breeder is helpful and willing to take a day with you if need-be to explain everything to you, it is a good breeder. If the breeder is willing to offer a health guarantee, it is a good breeder. If they’re acting like you’re a waste of their time, don’t have answers to any of your questions, and/or their barn is very unclean be wary of the possibility of being sold a rabbit who may be sick or hasn’t been handled and is not tame.

Pet stores are usually more expensive then a breeder will be. They also frequently house sexually mature males with all ages of females. Breeding occurs and I have heard of many horror stories of people finding their new pets dead from having babies too early, or a cage full of dead babies in the morning.

Rabbit Sizes

Rabbits can be small as adults, anywhere from a 2lb Netherland Dwarf, up to a 20+ lb Flemish Giant. If you are the adult and are buying for your young children, a 20lb rabbit may not be the best choice for them to be able to carry around and snuggle with.
The most common small to medium breeds ideal for pets are Netherland Dwarf, Holland/Fuzzy Lop, Mini Lops, Dutch, etc. These all weigh between 2-6lbs as adults, have good temperaments and make excellent pets.

Temperament and Sexing

There are some breeds known to be hard to handle and I would not recommend them for pets. These include Britannia Petite, Checkered Giants, Tans, and others. When faced with purchasing a breed you don’t know much about (which should not happen, please research it before you put your money out on an animal that may not be ideal!) ask the breeder questions.

People most frequently ask me for female pets. They fear bucks may be more aggressive, and spray. While this is not always the case, males make good pets too. They are cheaper to neuter if spraying does occur. (Females can spray too, just not as often as males.)
I also get a lot of people who can’t tell if their bunny is male or female, and the breeder or pet store couldn’t tell them either. This is VERY VERY easy to do.

Most recently I had a woman bring up a big Havana rabbit to my house, she didn’t know if Sam was a boy or girl. As soon as I flipped him over I noticed his huge testicles. Sam was full grown and that was a good indicator. Testicles are not always present though, sometimes they’re shriveled up inside the buck if the weather is hot. Some bucks never have them that grow, or only have one that grows due to genetic defects. The pictures below show a male from female.

Just gently hold the rabbit on its back, grasping the neck and supporting the bottom with your body. Use your free hand to apply pressure to the genitals until either a penis pops up and out, or a vagina appears with a slit.

Finding a breeder!

Lots of people email me from all over the country looking for pets and show stock. My answer to them most of the time is:
“Sure, I’d be happy to sell to you. Are you coming my way anytime soon? Are you interested in showing and could possibly afford airline cargo shipment?”
The answer to these questions are almost certainly, NO. I direct them then to my Breeders Directory which has hundreds of listings worldwide of rabbit breeders.
Shipping rabbits is not cheap. You cannot do it via mail, or a company like UPS or Fedex. The only way as of now is via the airport. I most frequently use a company called Pet Air / Fly Pets. We ship via Delta Airline Cargo. It has always been the cheapest. However while I say “cheapest” it’s still very expensive. The things to consider are (along with prices as of March 2007):

  • Cost of rabbits, which for my show rabbits, they run from $35-200 each.
  • Cost of airline ticket. Varies due to weight, for up to 12lbs (including carrier) is around $169.00
  • Cost of vet health screening. Many airlines require this, some do not. Usually it is $35 per animal
  • Cost of kennel, water bottle, food dish. Usually around $20 for a small to medium sized kennel. When picking one you don’t want it to make you go over your weight limit, or your ticket price may go up. You also want to make sure there is enough room in it for the rabbit(s.) I usually try to ship 3-4 at a time, however they must almost always be juniors. Seniors will fight and/or mate during the transit.

    So as you can see, this is not ideal for the pet owner, or even the small scale breeder or youth breeder. So your best bet is to find a local breeder.

    Why do you want a rabbit? Are you ready to care for it?

    You must want a rabbit because you immediately think it’s going to be a cute cuddly pet. Or maybe you’re interested in spinning wool from an Angora into a nice sweater. Or maybe you just want to raise them for their meat. The breeder in me thinks “That would be a fun and interesting breed to show.”

    I have over 40 rabbits and while I am close to some, none are really my “pets.”

    Rabbits will live between 8-12 years. Sometimes longer life is possible. I don’t know of any rabbit living past 17 years, I think that is the record. All breeds can live these years, none have a shorter or longer lifespan then others.

    Consider why you want a rabbit when it comes to what breeds you narrow it down to.

    Interested in showing your bunnies?

    If you might want to get into showing, buying from a breeder is a must, so you can get information about future shows, as well as obtain the rabbits 3 generation pedigree. Rabbits without pedigrees but are full bred can be shown, but not registered and usually not bred easily. You can’t usually sell show quality rabbits without papers. The rabbit will also need to be tattooed in the left ear for identification purposes in showing. A breeder can tattoo your rabbits for you, until you’re on your way and able to purchase your own tattoo kit.

    Showing rabbits is excellent for children. You may be able to get them involved in a local 4-H rabbit club to help. Shows usually have a lot of youth participants. It’s an excellent way for them to bond and make friends and learn.

    Not to mention how great it feels to know a rabbit you own, or even better bred, has won a BOB(Best of Breed) trophy, or better.