New Zealand Rabbit

A popular companion rabbit variety, introduced to the UK in the early 20th century

Size and weight of the New Zealand rabbit

A reasonably large rabbit weighing on average 4.5 - 5kgs.

Colour varieties of the New Zealand rabbit

The breed comes in a variety of colours including:

  • Solid white
  • Red
  • Black
  • Broken colours (where the available colours are mixed with white)

Country of origin

United States

Time of original development

The 19th century.

New Zealand rabbit breed introduction and overview

Contrary to its name, the modern breed was developed in the United States for meat particularly in times of hardship and also for its fur and for product testing purposes. The origins of the breed do include introducing rabbits from New Zealand in the early 19th century. The New Zealand Rabbit is now a popular rabbit breed having first arrived in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century.

The New Zealand rabbit has a deep, broad and long body with a wide, well-rounded head with a barely discernible neck. The ears are medium length and upstanding.

Habitat and feeding requirements of the New Zealand rabbit

This large rabbit needs plenty of space to move around and exercise and a hutch that is large enough for it to stretch to its full height and length in all directions. Even a house New Zealand rabbit should have time to have a good run and explore in a safe place outside.

Feed a standard rabbit diet to ensure good digestion, avoid obesity and give proper wear on the rabbit’s continually growing teeth.

Does the New Zealand rabbit make a good pet for smaller children?

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 it feels secure.

If any rabbit becomes frightened, the rabbit’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. This is a big rabbit and is proportionally quite powerful.

A placid good natured and solid rabbit, with a fair deal of intelligence, the New Zealand makes a good family pet. This is an ideal breed to keep as a house rabbit, as it is so large it can move around easier in the home, does not find it too easy to squeeze into tight spots that you cannot remove it from. This breed can be trained to use a litter tray. Your rabbit will need plenty of toys and stimulation and regular access to run outdoors in a run.

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 family pets or people.

Grooming requirements of the New Zealand rabbit

The rich sumptuous coat, with its thick undercoat, needs a good brush at least once a week 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.

Health issues in the New Zealand rabbit

This rabbit is a reasonably healthy breed being not to large nor too tiny and with average length fur. As with all rabbits, however, check that its bottom is clean of any debris and is kept dry to avoid the danger of flystrike. Keep the rabbit at the correct weight so that it can move easily to groom itself.

Teeth and also toe nails should be checked frequently to ensure they are not growing too long.

Female rabbits (does) should be neutered if you do not intend to breed from them to avoid cancers in later life. Males (bucks) 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.

Average lifespan of the New Zealand rabbit

A healthy New Zealand rabbit can expect to live between 7 – 10 years and sometimes longer.

Estimating how much it will cost to keep your New Zealand rabbit

A pedigree New Zealand 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:

  • buying a sufficiently large hutch and run
  • specialised feeding and bedding
  • annual inoculations
  • neutering
  • on-going dental care
  • insurance

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.