The Netherland Dwarf Rabbit is the smallest of the recognised rabbit breeds.
The Netherland Dwarf is a very small rabbit, weighing on average between 0.7 - 1.2 kgs.
The Netherland Dwarf comes in all the recognised rabbit colours, and additionally the breed is available in the distinctive ‘otter’ colour.
The Netherland Dwarf was developed in Holland in the early 20th century for showing purposes and as a companion pet. It was considered too small for meat or fur. The Netherland Dwarf has very large eyes (a result of the dwarfism gene) and small upright ears. The compact, rounded body makes the rabbit look like a ‘baby’ even in adulthood.
Netherland Dwarfs are obtained by breeding a buck and doe each of a true dwarf breed. Of the resultant litter, about a quarter of the babies will die while still young seemingly owing to the underdevelopment of vital organs. Half will be healthy dwarf rabbits and a further quarter will not carry the dwarf gene.
This diminutive rabbit still needs plenty of space to move around and exercise and each day it should have time to have a good run and explore in a safe place outside.
Not surprisingly the Netherland Dwarf does not need much food, but as with all rabbits it needs to be fed with care. Feed a standard rabbit diet to ensure good digestion, avoid obesity and give proper wear on the rabbit’s continually growing teeth, (see our article on feeding your rabbit).
Please note that, despite their ‘cute’ appearance rabbits are not ideal for very small children to handle unless they are closely supervised together. Rabbits should be socialised young to human company and young people should be told how to hold a rabbit properly, so that the animal feels secure. If any rabbit becomes frightened, the animal’s desire to escape means that its powerful back legs can injure the human handler and can cause the rabbit to be dropped and injure itself.
Not recommended for children under 10 owing to the tiny size and delicacy of this rabbit. Also be aware of some personality problems in some strains of the breed, bred for its tiny size alone rather than anything else. In the past it was very timid and sometimes aggressive, and although this characteristic has gradually been bred out, it is still easily stressed and highly strung. This is not a docile rabbit in spite of its cuddly baby like appearance.
All rabbits will chew electric cable so remember that these very small rabbits can fit into very tiny spaces, so you must ensure that, if they are allowed to roam in your house, for example, they cannot get access to any electric cables.
Always keep your rabbits safe from dogs and cats who may harm them. Even where pets ‘get on’, they should be supervised when together and you must ensure that your rabbit is not stressed by being exposed to other animals or people.
The short coat needs a weekly groom with a soft brush and more during moulting.
Additionally, as rabbits’ teeth keep growing throughout their lives, eating the right food will help to keep the teeth properly ground down, but you do need to check, on a frequent basis that this is happening properly, or your pet may need to have its teeth ground down by the vet.
Teeth problems (malocclusion or misalignment) are common in this unnaturally small breed and this should be discussed thoroughly with the person you obtain the rabbit from.
Regularly check its rear end is clean of any debris and is kept dry to avoid the danger of flystrike. Keep your rabbit at the correct weight so that it can move easily to groom itself. Just because this is a small rabbit does not mean that it doesn’t need lots of space to roam, explore and get its exercise
Teeth and also toe nails should be checked frequently to ensure they are not growing too long.
Female rabbits should be neutered if you do not intend to breed from them to avoid cancers in later life. Males will become less aggressive if neutered too.
As with all pedigree pets, it is very important to obtain a young rabbit or rabbit kit from a reputable source where you can be guaranteed that it has been bred with a view to avoiding any inherent problems found in the breed.
7 – 10 years and sometimes more.
A pedigree Netherland Dwarf Rabbit will cost around £30.
While the initial cost of a pedigree rabbit may seem very low compared to pure bred dogs or even cats, the costs of the following items and procedures make the cost of owning a rabbit mount up:
Rabbits should also be kept in pairs. It is estimated that two rabbits together could cost around £1800 a year throughout their lives (including the initial outlay). See our article on working out the cost of keeping a pet rabbit.