Lionhead rabbits are a fairly new breed. They first arrived in the United States in 1998, although the American Rabbit Breeders Association did not officially recognize the breed until 2014.
Parent breeds of the original crosses are not clearly identified, but lionhead rabbits were a happy accident. Cross breeding resulted in a new gene mutation, now known as the "mane" gene, that gives lionhead rabbits their distinctive woolly manes. Manes encircle the rabbits' faces in a manner reminiscent of their namesake, the male lion.
Lionhead rabbits are intelligent, friendly, and playful. They become very attached to their owners and enjoy frequent attention. Despite their love of attention, lionhead rabbits are a timid breed and are often frightened by strangers. They thrive in quiet, calm environments and need a hut or home they can retreat to.
First time rabbit owners should proceed cautiously. Give your rabbit time to get used to its new home and family. Slowly build a relationship with the rabbit, and let trust develop naturally. Supervise young children until they learn how to handle a rabbit gently and safely.
Lionhead rabbits have double or single manes. Double manes are thicker than a single mane, and some extend along both sides of the body. An abundance of luxurious woolly fur can make these rabbits appear deceptively large. In reality, they're usually only 7 to 10 inches long and weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. Lionhead rabbits are born with many coat colors and patterns. Coat patterns are categorized as agouti, self, shaded, wideband, tan, and marked color groups. Agouti, self, and tan coats are solid or a uniform mix of similar colors in soft gradients. Colors include shades of gray, orange, black, fawn, white and pearl.
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Tolerance for loneliness varies among individual lionhead rabbits, but they are typically sociable creatures. If possible, at least two rabbits should live together. You can keep multiple breeds, although it is best to have rabbits of similar size.
If you choose to have only one lionhead rabbit, it is important to spend a lot of time with your pet. Play on the floor or hold the rabbit on your lap. Keep a supply of favorite treats around to encourage good behavior and help the rabbit associate you with positive experiences.
Although lionhead rabbits are small animals, they need plenty of room. They are very energetic and need a hutch with at least 12 square feet of open space. Keeping your rabbit indoors and sheltered from weather conditions is ideal, plus it gives you and your sociable rabbit friend more opportunities to interact and play together.
All animals need a clean, comfortable environment to thrive. Inspect rabbit runs for holes or gaps every day and pick up droppings or debris. Clean small messes, such as piles of droppings or urine soaked bedding, in the hutch or shelter.
Deep clean the hutch or enclosure and change bedding weekly. Wash and dry any fabric bedding, and wipe down shelter walls and other structures. Use a water and vinegar solution, especially for wooden structures that can absorb chemical cleaners or disinfectants.
As with all long-haired breeds, grooming lionhead rabbits is essential. Groom your rabbit two or three times per week using a brush with short, stiff bristles to remove dirt and loose hair, anda deshedding comb with rounded or coated tips on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Brush gently and avoid scraping the rabbit's delicate skin. Pay special attention to areas under the legs where dirt can accumulate. Trim your rabbit's nails every 6 to 8 weeks.
Fresh timothy hay should make up the majority of a lionhead rabbit's diet, but ost adult lionhead rabbits also eat approximately 1 cup of high quality rabbit pellets per day. Supplement their diet with alfalfa and leafy vegetables, such as celery or lettuce. Add a small amount of berries and seeds to the pellet bowl a few times each week as a treat.
Lionhead rabbits are excellent indoor pets due to their friendly nature and intelligence. Most rabbits use litter boxes without prompting, but they may also leave droppings in other areas. Move the animal to a litter box if an accident occurs and reward good behavior with treats.
Chewing and digging are natural behaviors but can be problematic with indoor rabbits. Keep electrical wires off the floor and out of reach. Watch for inappropriate chewing and redirect your rabbit to a toy or treat. Provide digging boxes in two or three places to give your rabbit acceptable outlets for digging.
Rabbits don't meow or bark, but they pay attention to their surroundings and love to play. Help your lionhead rabbits live happy, active lives by providing lots of stimulation. Bored rabbits can develop unhealthy behaviors. Create mazes and hiding places out of large PVC pipes or pet condos meant for cats. You can also make balls and toys from undyed denim and natural fabrics.
Flat-faced rabbit breeds, including the lionhead rabbit, are prone to numerous health issues. A flat face reduces space inside a rabbit's mouth, and crowded teeth can lead to abscesse. Rabbits' teeth grow throughout their lives, and this can lead to inflamed sinuses and respiratory problems.
A rabbit's eyes clean themselves through constant tearing. An extremely flat facial shape traps tears around the eyes instead of letting them flow away. Prevent or reduce eye infections with meticulous hygiene. Make sure your rabbit lives in a clean environment and follow a grooming schedule.
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