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The Netherland Dwarf is
a popular breed of domestic
rabbit(Oryctolagus cuniculus) originating in the Netherlands.
Smaller than most rabbit
breeds, Netherland Dwarf rabbits weigh 500 g to 1.6 kg (1.1 lbs to 3.5 lbs)
and are usually kept as pets or
exhibition animals. They are not typically used as sources of meat or fur because
of their small size.(3 in.)
Most rabbits sold in rabbit
shows are Netherland Dwarfs,
breeds (often referred to simply
breeds), or Netherland Dwarf crosses.
Their popularity as pets stems from their babyish appearance and their smaller cage space
requirement compared to larger rabbit breeds. A lot of people also use
Netherland Dwarfs for showing.
The Netherland Dwarf breed was first produced in the Netherlands in
the early 20th century. SmallPolish
rabbits were bred with smaller
wild rabbits; after
several generations the resulting animal was a very small domestic rabbit
available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Netherland Dwarfs were first
imported into the United
Kingdom in 1948. In
the 1960s and 1970s the United
States imported its first
Netherland Dwarf rabbits. The breed was accepted by the American
Rabbit Breeders' Association in
1969 using a modification of the British standard.
Early dwarfs, even into the 1970s and 1980s, had fearful and sometimes
This was a result of breeders selecting
animals for their size. The first
dwarf rabbits behaved more like these wild rabbits
than domestic animals and were not good pets. However, through generations of selective
breeding, the modern Netherland Dwarf has become a gentle, friendly pet
rabbit, though it still retains a more energetic disposition than larger breeds.
Netherland Dwarfs' heads and eyes are
disproportionately large with respect to their bodies, and their ears are tiny
and carried high on the head. Additionally, their faces are rounded and
shortened. These features, a part of the animals' dwarfism,
cause them to look
infantile even into adulthood.
Dwarf crosses frequently retain some of these characteristics, depending on the
breed the dwarf is crossed with. However, crosses rarely look as babyish as the purebred dwarfs
and are usually somewhat larger.
Purebred Netherland Dwarfs come
in a wide variety of colors, including Himalayan,
Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Smoke Pearl, Sable Point, Tortoiseshell,
Chestnut, Siamese Sable, Opal, Lynx, Squirrel, Chinchilla,
Otter, Tan, Silver Marten, Sable Marten, Smoke Pearl Marten, Orange, Fawn,
Steel, Broken, Blue-Eyed White and Ruby Eyed White. Other
colors (including mismarks)
exist in non-show-quality Netherland Dwarfs and in dwarf mongrelrabbits.
Netherland dwarf rabbits have the same basic
behavioral traits as dogs or cats. They can be litter-trained, but success
varies amongst trainers of any breed.
Netherland Dwarfs have a reputation of being skittish, wild, and/or of poor
temperament. This is a leftover stereotype from the beginnings of the breed,
when temperament wasn't the best. This has changed through selective breeding,
making Dwarfs a docile breed. There are always exceptions, however, and there
are testy individuals out there. In general, the Netherland Dwarf is curious and
gentle. Those that are handled often learn to seek out human contact and enjoy
A well-bred Netherland Dwarf makes an excellent pet for both adults and
children. They are hardy and, while small, are able to keep up with reasonable
play and handling. ...
Like other domestic rabbits, dwarf rabbits have a
system that is less hardy than
their wild rabbit cousins, and leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage can
give them health problems, such as diarrhea, if fed in excess. Young rabbits, up
until about six months of age, should not be given vegetables for this reason.
Adults can be fed safe fruits and veggies in moderation. In addition, sudden
changes to a dwarf rabbit's diet can cause digestive problems, but it generally
only lasts a few days and usually causes no real harm/lasting damage.
A very important aspect of rabbit care is proper diet. Many owners
unintentionally fail at this point and that often spells disaster for their pet.
Netherland Dwarfs have a digestive system even more sensitive than most breeds.
The best diet consists of fresh, good quality rabbit pellets fed in limited
amounts. It is crucial that the pellets be fresh and stored for no longer than
eight weeks, do not use pellets which are moldy or have been contaminated. As
pellets age they lose important nutrients, and a rabbit’s system will become
susceptible to disease. The owner should also check the label for the
percentages of protein, fiber, and fat. The National Research Council lists
minimum rabbit nutrient requirements for a maintenance diet as 14% crude fiber,
2% fat, and 12% protein. It is best to feed a pellet that is higher in fiber
(18-20%) and lower in protein (14-15%) and fat (2-3%) to a pet rabbit. Once you
find a good brand, stick with it; frequent changes in diet can cause digestive
problems. If you need to change brands, be sure to mix the new feed in with the
old and increase the amount of new to old over a week's time so the rabbit can
Netherland Dwarfs generally don't require much feed. A small handful each day is
usually enough, but it is important to adjust for each individual to avoid
malnourishment/obesity. It is also important not to overfeed a Netherland Dwarf.
They need plenty of hay, a bunch at least as large as the animal per day. A
traditional ramekin dish full of complementary food and free access to water is
The netherland dwarf rabbit will thump their back
legs when they are upset or afraid.
Rabbit breeds derived from breeding larger rabbits with the
Netherland dwarf are known as dwarf
breeds. Most smaller breeds, like the Mini-Rex, the Jersey
Wooly, and the Holland lop, are results of such breedings. Generally dwarf
breeds are slightly larger than the typical Netherland dwarf, not growing larger
than 4 to 5 lb (1.8 to 2.3 kg). Most have shortened faces compared to larger
rabbits, and some even preserve the rounded head,
or small ears of
the Netherland dwarf.These features make them look little.
Most dwarf breeds are intended to bring a specialized characteristic, such as a
specific fur type, into a smaller rabbit. Mini-Rex were created through the
breeding of dwarfs with Rex rabbits,
a fur breed with a short, plush coat,
and retain both the dwarf's size and the Rex fur. Jersey Woolies are a dwarf
version of the Angora
rabbit, a wool-producing
rabbit breeds, interbred with dwarfs, were used to create Holland
Lop. Despite its name, the Mini Lop is not a dwarf breed.
When two "true dwarfs" (both buck and doe) are bred, the genetic
pattern which makes them "true dwarfs" (Dwdw) ensures that a percentage of their
offspring will inherent the lethal genetic combination DwDw. These offspring,
often called "peanuts" by rabbit breeders, are destined to struggle with life
for up to three weeks, and then to die. Reasons behind the death are unknown,
but it is believed that peanuts have underdeveloped digestive tracts. The
condition is 100% fatal, despite claims of some peanuts living to adulthood.
Many ethical breeders humanely euthanize peanuts upon finding them soon after
birth. Peanuts are easily distinguished from non-peanuts; they have extremely
pinched hindquarters, a bulbous head, and their ears are often set further back
than normal (sometimes almost onto the neck).
If two true dwarfs are bred, the statistical result will be 25% fatal 25% false,
and 50% true. The actual numbers of true/false/peanuts in a real litter varies.
"False Dwarfs" tend to have longer bodies, longer/larger ears, longer faces, and
are often heavier than the 2.5 pound maximum weight for showing. While false
dwarfs do not make good show rabbits, does from a good background are vital to a
breeder's program. They have the same "good genes" as a true dwarf and are
capable mothers, often having larger and more successful litters than true
dwarfs. False dwarfs are easily judged for quality as the traits are generally
the same, only bigger. Ear thickness/shape, fullness of hindquarter, topline,
and other traits are the same.
It is common practice amongst Netherland Dwarf breeders to breed a proven show
quality true dwarf buck to a quality false dwarf doe. This eliminates the chance
of peanuts and yields quality offspring. The chances of false dwarfs is higher,
but those offspring generally go toward breeding (some false dwarf bucks have
proven themselves valuable to a breeding program) or are sold as pets.