Lionhead rabbit – Breed guide for the king of the hutch

The Lionhead rabbit breed gets its name from the fluffy wool mane that makes it look just like a lion. With their friendly easy-going nature and super cute looks they make great household pets.

This fancy variety of rabbit is a relatively new breed and has become very popular amongst rabbit owners.

What is a Lionhead Rabbit?

The Lionhead rabbit is a breed of dwarf rabbit that, as a result of gene mutation through cross-breeding, sports a wooly fur mane giving it the appearance of a male lion.

The long fur that makes up the mane around the head is typically 2 inches in length.

Depending on the size and spread of the mane, they are known as either a single mane or double mane lionhead rabbit varieties.

Since the late 90s, the Lionhead has steadily gained popularity as family pets in the United States and the United Kingdom.

A brief history

Thought to originate from Belgium when breeders crossed two dwarf rabbits, possibly a Netherland dwarf rabbit and a Swiss fox dwarf.

What they were hoping for was a long hair miniature rabbit. What they got as the result of the genetic mutation was what we now know as the lionhead bunny.

The breed was officially recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 2013, having previously been accepted by the British Rabbit Council (BCA) in 2002.

In 2018 the Lionhead was awarded its first ARBA Convention Best in Show.

Breed Information

Common Name: The Lionhead Rabbit

Scientific Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus (Domestic European Rabbit)

Average Lifespan: 7 to 9 years

Adult Size: 8 to 10 inches in length; 2.5 to 3.75 lbs

Lionhead Rabbit Colors

ARBA Standard colors are recognized as

  • Black
  • Chocolate
  • BlueTortoise
  • Blue point
  • Blue eyed white
  • Ruby eyed white
  • Chestnut agouti
  • Seal
  • Silver marten
  • Smoke pearl
  • Pointed white
  • Sable point
  • Siamese sable.

Single or Double mane?

lionhead rabbit black background

There are two types of Lionhead rabbit, and the difference in appearance is down to their genes.

The ‘mane’ gene is dominant, which means if it present in the rabbit then they will have the flowing fur that gives them their looks.

However, in some rabbits this gene is present twice. This doesn’t mean they have two manes. What you see in a double mane lionhead is a larger covering of longer fur around the head and ears, but also down the skirt and chest of the bunny.

In the single mane lionhead bunnies, the mane is slightly smaller, typically just around their heads and behind the ears, occasionally a bit on the chest.

It’s difficult to truly know if you have a double or single name rabbit without a true gene test. The easiest way to tell is at birth.

Single mane babies will look much like their regular cousins. But, with double manes, they are born with a distinct v shape on the back, where the mane is already starting to form along their flank.

Double mane rabbits are more popular as their manes are typically thicker, and don’t diminish with age as much as the single mane rabbits.

Do Lionhead rabbits make good house pets?

Lionheads make amazing house pets.

They have a calm but playful temperament and love children. They are a very intelligent breed and are known to be easily trained.

With a bit of patients its possible to teach them to react to basic commands or to litter train.

Due to their coat and the extra grooming that goes with it, they might not be for the novice pet parent. But, if you have a little experience with rabbits or pets in general, then they make perfect additions to families.

Like all rabbits, they are naturally timid to start with. But, with time to get used to you and their new environment, they will happily be handled and stroked.

Once comfortable with its new settings, with their calm temperaments and cute personalities, a lionhead rabbit will be a joy to keep in the home.

Are Lionhead rabbits aggressive?

If cared for and handled correctly, the lionhead rabbit is not known to be overly aggressive.

Like with all rabbit breeds, they can be skittish when scared, so care must to taken, particularly when they are new to the home, that you take things slowly and let them get used to everything, especially with children who will be excited with their new friend.

It’s important that adults help their child to understand the correct way to hold a rabbit. Not too tight, and not too high off the ground.

Make your lionhead feel safe, but also offer a way out should they want to.

Look for signs of stress when the rabbit is being handled. Watch the behavior of your rabbit. If their ears are back or they start nipping, biting or growling, they are telling you to give them some space.

This is all part of becoming comfortable with you, and should pass. Tasty treats helps

How big does a Lionhead rabbit get?

Lionhead rabbits are a dwarf rabbit breed. On average they will grow 8 to 10 inches in length and 2.5 to 3.75 lbs in weight.

They are small and compact with rounded bodies and hindquarters.Compared to other dwarf breeds, they are the larger end of dwarf rabbit size scale.

How long do Lionhead rabbits live?

Given the correct care, with a good diet and enough exercise, the lionhead rabbit will live on average between 7-9 years.

Lionhead Rabbit Care

Lionhead rabbits require a little more attention and care compared to other rabbit breeds. Correct diet, exercise and housing is vital for your little furry pets to live a long and happy life. And, with their impressive mane, they need a little more effort in the grooming department

Hutches and Cages

Lionshead rabbits are perfectly fine in a large cage or hutch, due to their smaller stature.

However, if you wish to let them roam in the house or apartment then you can do so, and they make perfect house bunnies and can be trained to use a litter tray.

They do require extra space to run around in, as they are full of energy.

If kept outdoors, then a run or pen is a must. We recommend one with a roof covering to prevent predators. Any enclosure should be large enough that they can stand upright on their hind legs.

If you are after inspiration or ideas about the best enclosures for your rabbit, then head over to our buyers guide.

If kept outside, make sure they have extra hay bedding in the winter to keep them warm. Likewise, in the summer, make sure they can get some shade out of the sun.

Grooming

With more hair than the average rabbit, the lionhead rabbit does require extra attention when it comes to grooming, and without regular care their fur mane can become matted.

We recommend combing the mane at least twice a week. And, as seasons and the weather changes, it might be necessary to groom your pet every couple of days as they will lose large amounts hair through molting.

You can tell when the rabbit is molting as they will lick themselves more often, as they remove the loose hairs. This can cause health issues as they can ingest this hair, which becomes stuck in their tummy and cause wool-block.

Regular grooming will help to prevent this.

Brushing can be stressful for your lionhead bunny, so take it easy to start with. Let them go if they are stressed, and keep them calm with treats.

Its all part of the bonding process and your little furry friend will soon come to enjoy their grooming regime.

Using a rabbit grooming brush, hold your rabbit with one hand and gently work your way through their mane and down their coat, away from their eyes.

No not bathe your rabbit

Rabbits really dont like water, and can go into shock if bathed.

And dont forget the nails. Its important that these are kept clipped. You can buy pet nail clippers, or if you are not confident to do it yourself, then the local vet is always able to help.

Diet

lionhead rabbit eating a carrot

When keeping your Lionhead rabbit healthy and happy, it is very important that they are given the correct diet.

Because rabbits teeth grow continuously, they need a diet that will help their teeth to file down and to prevent them overgrowing.

All rabbits should be given unlimited access to high-quality and high-fibre fresh grass hay, like timothy hay, along with water. Fresh, leafy greens are also beneficial. Kale is a good example, and is a great source of vitamin c.

Fruit and berries can be fed, but only as a treat due to the high sugar content.

If you are going to be feeding your rabbit fresh fruits and vegetables then there are a couple of things to remember. Firstly, don’t overfeed fresh food to your rabbit as this will upset their digestive tract.

The lionhead rabbits diet should be mostly hay. And always make sure that you are feeding them foods that are safe for rabbits to eat. A rabbits diet should be around 75% Hay, 20% store brought rabbit pellet food, and 5% fresh fruit and vegetables.

Interaction and Exercise

No rabbits particularly enjoy being picked up and held, at least at the beginning of pet parenting. But once they have formed a bond with you they are very affectionate and do enjoy being brushed.

Regular brushings help to create this bond, but take it slowly and at your rabbits own pace.

The question of exercise, these rabbits are quite energetic and do require exercise, either out in the yard in a pen, safe from predators, like cats and dogs, or in a safe room in the house, where they can’t come to any injuries.

Hard floor areas are best in case they have an ‘accident’, making it easier to clear up any poop; Unless you have a very clever lionhead who is trained to use a litter box.

They do suffer from boredom, so provide plenty of toys, made from rabbit safe material.

Hopefully we have answered some of the questions you have on the lionhead rabbit.

They do make excellent pets, and if you are confident you can cope with the little extra care and grooming the lionhead needs, then you will have a cute, fun and loving pet.

Anything else spring to mind? If you have any questions or comments please do get in touch.

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