The Polish rabbit is a magical little creature, and not only because of their charming good looks and enchanting personality. They’re also a magician’s favourite breed to pull out of a hat because of their docile personalities and their small, adorable bodies!
Whilst Polish bunnies are fantastic stage performers, it’s not just magicians that love them. They also make award-winning show animals and phenomenal pets that brighten even the worst of your days.
Let’s find out everything there is to know!
Just like everything else that is magical, mystery shrouds the origin of the Polish bunny. Even their name itself is deceiving! These fluffy rabbits didn’t originate in Poland, but rather in Britain. Some say that they called them Polish because of the ‘polished shine’ of their fur, but we’ll never know for sure!
The first mention of Polish rabbit breeds happened in the early 1800s in England, when a few breeders began calling their small white rabbits ‘Polish’. Most believe that their ancestors include wild rabbits along with Dutch (possibly albino), Himalayan and small Silver rabbit breeds.
Their popularity grew rapidly in the 19th century and Polish rabbits were first exhibited in 1884 in England. By the early 1900s, they had become one of Europe’s most popular breeds.
The Polish rabbit joined the great European immigration waves of the 1900s and arrived Stateside in around 1912. They immediately made a huge impact in the new world, earning official recognition by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1938.
American breeders worked hard to make Polish rabbits rounder and more compact. This evolved them away from their original ancestor. When British Polish rabbits were again imported to the United States in the 1970s, they had to be classified as a separate rabbit breed by the ARBA, Britannia Petite. They kept their original name, Polish rabbit, in the UK. One name, two breeds, another magic trick!
American Polish rabbits are nicknamed “The Little Aristocrat” due to their regal appearance and posture. This ‘properness’ has won them a loyal following as an exhibition rabbit.
Polish rabbits are recognised by their short, round and compact bodies, which give them the appearance of being fragile. They also have short heads with adorable full cheeks, striking bold eyes and small furry ears. Not only do their ears stand upright, but they also rest against one another from top to bottom without leaving any gaps.
British Polish look more like their wild hare ancestors. They have long front legs and slim bodies.
The Polish rabbit is small and compact, usually weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds(1.1 and 1.6 kgs). Britannia Petites are even smaller with a maximum weight of 2.5 lbs (1.1 kgs).
They are sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Polish Dwarf rabbit. People likely get tricked by their small size and tiny, upright ears. Interestingly the Polish rabbit breed was selectively bred for size without the ‘dwarf gene’. However, to develop more colours in the Polish breed, breeders introduced small dwarf rabbits and this lethal gene into certain Polish bloodlines.
A Polish’s fur is short and soft with a slick ‘polished‘ sheen and fine hairs. It also flies back sharply. This means the fur quickly returns to its original position after you stroke it from tail to head.
This coat is easy to maintain in comparison to other breeds (think Angora rabbits!) and only requires you to groom your bunny once every two weeks. Leave the rest of the grooming to your cuddly friend!
ARBA recognises the American Polish breed in six colour variations:
- Red-eyed White
- Blue-eyed White
- Broken pattern (any colour mixed in with white).
Red-eyed whites were the first approved colour. During the 20th century, the other colours were developed and recognised. Blue-eyed whites came first in 1938, followed by chocolate and black bunnies in 1957. Blue rabbits joined the club in 1982 and so did broken patterned ones in 1998.
Britannia Petites also come in a large variety of colours. This includes chestnut, black, blue-eyed white and broken.
Polish rabbits are a healthy breed, which doesn’t struggle with any particular hereditary disease. They tend to have an average lifespan of 5 to 6 years, but you can extend it to 10 years by spaying/neutering them early on.
They are however vulnerable to many common rabbit health concerns.
- Ear mites
- Overgrown teeth and nails
- Damaged hips and broken backs
Hands down, a Polish rabbit’s best characteristic is their wonderful personality.
They are friendly, calm, docile, gentle, loving, intelligent, trainable … we could go on and on, but you get it! They are an extremely social rabbit breed that craves your attention and affection.
There is a downside to being the energetic centre of the party though. You need to occupy your Polish bunnies constantly. Ideally, they’d play or explore outside of their cages for at least five hours each day. They also want to spend as much time as possible with you. Without the proper level of socialisation, they can scare easily, become depressed or even aggressive.
Despite their small size and cuddly nature, they aren’t an ideal rabbit breed for young children due to their very delicate bodies. These rabbits are better suited to adults, seniors or a family with older children.
Caring for a Polish Rabbit
Polish rabbits are most definitely house rabbits. Keeping them indoors protects them from extreme temperatures and dangerous predators.
The good news, especially if you live in an apartment, is that they don’t need a large cage. All you’ll need is an enclosure, with a plastic or metal bottom, that is a minimum of five times the size of your rabbit.
Despite their limited cage requirements, a Polish rabbit must get loads and loads of exercise and outdoor time. To keep them safe, use an extension hutch in your garden and rabbit-proof your home on the inside! It’s also a good idea to provide your Polish rabbit with plenty of chew toys. This will keep your personal property much safer.
To keep your Polish living a long, happy life, you’ll need to provide them with a good diet and loads of fresh drinking water. Much like other rabbits, 70% of its daily diet should be high-quality grass hay like Timothy. The remaining 30% should be fresh leafy vegetables (i.e. romaine lettuce) and rabbit pellets. Fruits should only be used as treats due to their high sugar levels.
If you open up your home to a Polish rabbit, then it’s sure to bewitch you with its adorable fluffiness and gentle, aristocratic manners. But before setting your heart on one, guarantee that you can provide this energetic breed with plenty of opportunities to run free and socialise!