Ever thought you could have a pet rabbit that looks like a wild hare? The Belgian Hare is a domestic pet rabbit breed that resembles a hare.
The Belgian Hare rabbit is a large rabbit breed that weighs between 6-9 pounds and lives for 7-11 years. With a full-arch body shape, the Belgian Hare was originally bred to produce meat. These days, Belgian Hares are bred to be pets, but they are more popularly seen in shows and rabbit agility competitions.
Let’s learn about the interesting history of the Belgian Hare rabbit, what it looks like, and how you can care for it if you decide to adopt one of these rabbits.
What Is a Belgian Hare Rabbit?
The Belgian Hare rabbit is a large domesticated rabbit breed, even though the rabbit looks like a hare.
These rabbits are outdoor rabbits and show rabbits, and they are still sometimes sold for rabbit meat production.
Belgian Hare Rabbit History and Origin
The Belgian Hare is the rabbit breed that’s considered to be responsible for the domestic rabbit movement in the United States.
The original Belgian Hare originated in Belgium (the name of the breed did give you a clue); however, the British are given credit for what the breed looks like today.
From here, there are two versions of the Belgian Hare story.
In 1856, some Belgian Hare rabbits were imported by the London Zoological Gardens. The London Zoological Gardens wanted to show these rabbits on their property.
There were claims that the Belgian Hares were a cross between the European hare and a rabbit, called a fertile mule.
However, in 1873, Winter “William” Lumb convinced everyone of his stance that the Belgian Hare is a rabbit breed that simply resembles wild hares.
The Belgian Hare rabbit breed originated in Belgium in the 18th century. These rabbits were developed by selectively breeding wild and domestic European rabbits to create a rabbit fit for meat production.
The first Belgian Hare rabbit was imported to the U.K. in 1856, and this is where the breed got its name.
In 1873, two breeders by the names of Winter “William” Lumb and Benjamin Greaves further bred the Belgian Hare to be the rabbit we know today.
Where both story versions converge:
In 1888, the first Belgian Hares were imported to the United States of America by EM Hughes (Albany, New York).
Along with NY and GW Felton from Massachusetts and WN Richardson from New York, Hughes found the American Belgian Hare Association.
The American Belgian Hare Association was actually the first American rabbit club.
Unfortunately, the club only existed for a year. In 1897, another club organization, called the National Belgian Hare Club, replaced the American Belgian Hare Association.
Also in 1897, the National Pet Stock Association (nowadays called the American Rabbit Breeders Association, or ARBA) added the Belgian Hare to its “all-breed” club.
A noteworthy event was the “Belgian Hare Boom.”
Over a period of 3 years from 1898, Belgian Hares in their thousands were imported to the United States. Sutton & Company, a British shipping company, transported more than 6,000 Belgian Hare rabbits to America in 1900.
In that same year, a Belgian Hare buck fetched a price of $5,000. The rabbits were sold for hundreds and thousands of dollars during this “Boom” period.
Companies that dealt with the selling of the Belgian Hare rabbits were created, and Belgian Hare Clubs were established in every big city.
Even the millionaires got involved. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Dupont, the Guggenheims, and HM Flagler saw the potential to make loads of money with the Belgian Hare.
The market soon became oversaturated with Belgian Hare rabbits. In LA County alone there were more than 60,000 Belgian Hares in 1900.
With an oversaturated market, the stock prices for this show and exhibition animal dropped heavily. Plus, other commercial rabbit breeds were being developed around this time, and their popularity grew.
By the mid 20th century, the Belgian Hare rabbit became a scarce show rabbit. However, dedicated rabbit fanciers the world over have been trying hard to ensure this breed doesn’t go extinct.
Sometime after 1972, the Belgian Hare was officially recognized by ARBA.
While Belgian Hare rabbits are quite common, purebred Belgian Hares are rare. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy considered a purebred Belgian Hare rabbit as “threatened.”
Belgian Hare Rabbit Characteristics
The Belgian Hare rabbit is one of the rabbit breeds with very distinctive looks. You definitely won’t mistake this hare-like-looking rabbit for another domesticated rabbit breed.
If you are curious though, here are more details about what this rabbit looks like and what its temperament is:
Like a wild Hare, the domesticated Belgian Hare rabbit has a fully-arched body. This means its body is fine-boned, long, and muscular, and the back of the rabbit is arched.
These rabbits have strong legs and they are very agile. Just like with other rabbits, the forefeet are flat and straight, while the hind legs are arched backward because of the rounded hindquarter.
The Belgian Hares also have straight tails, long heads, and large ears that stand upright.
The Belgian Hare rabbit is considered to be the “racehorse of rabbits” because of its appearance and resemblance to hares.
This large rabbit breed weighs between 6 to 9 pounds.
The does are fairly good mothers to their kits. A litter, on average, has 4 to 8 baby bunnies, and these rabbits don’t mature quickly.
The Belgian Hare rabbit’s coat even resembles that of a hare. The fur of a Belgian Hare is short and glossy, requiring very little maintenance to stay in a great condition.
Groom your Belgian Hare weekly to get rid of stray hairs, and increase the frequency of grooming to twice weekly during shedding season.
Belgian hare rabbits come in a variety of colored coats: black, tan, chestnut, red, black, and tan. All of these coat varieties feature a black ticking.
ARBA only recognizes one color variety: A Belgian Hare rabbit with a deep red or rust-colored coat with a black-waved ticking.
The entire body of the Belgian Hare should be a red-orange tint. There should be markings on the rabbit, like the ticking on the upper back and hips, and lighter-colored eye circles.
The Belgian Hare isn’t the hardiest of rabbits, but these bunnies are energetic. As such, the Belgian Hare rabbit needs more care than most other rabbit breeds.
The Belgian Hare is also a nervous rabbit so they do better in an outdoor setting than in an indoor rabbit enclosure. Any sudden movement or noise can make this bunny scared and set them off in a running frenzy, leading to injury or worse.
Pet owners report that the Belgian Hare rabbits are sweet, but they only like to be petted if they are bonded with their human bestie.
If you do need to handle your Belgian Hare rabbit, do so carefully. Ensure you don’t spook your bunny so announce your presence and make sure your rabbit can see that you are approaching.
Because the Belgian Hare is a large rabbit, use a strong and secure grip to make sure the rabbit doesn’t accidentally fall or lash out and kick you.
These bunnies are smart, so they respond when you call them by their name.
Belgian Hare Rabbit Care Tips
To provide the best care for your Belgian Hare, follow these best care tips:
- Belgian Hares are best suited to live outside.
- Provide a large rabbit hutch that’s at least 24 inches x 48 inches.
- The floor should be solid to fully support the large Belgian Hare and ensure the rabbit doesn’t break their toes or nails.
- Add adequate rabbit-friendly bedding.
- Weatherproof and predator-proof the enclosure.
- Feed your Belgian Hare rabbit a healthy diet.
- Your rabbit needs all-day access to high-quality hay and drinking water.
- Feed your rabbit pellets and leafy greens and herbs twice a day.
- Feed treats sparingly to ensure your rabbit doesn’t become overweight.
- Ensure your Belgian Hare has enough space to exercise; this bunny is very active and likes to hop and run around.
- Provide lots of toys and mental stimulation for your rabbit so they don’t get bored.
- Consider getting another rabbit so your Belgian Hare doesn’t get lonely or depressed.
- Regularly take your Belgian Hare to the vet for checkups.
- Check your bunny for ear mites, flystrike, sore hocks, gastrointestinal issues, and worms.
Breeding Belgian Hare Rabbit
Traditionally, the Belgian Hare rabbit has been bred for meat production, and these days, they are still popularly used for this purpose.
Most often, the Belgian Hare is bred for show, exhibition, and rabbit agility purposes. The Belgian Hare rabbit is highly intelligent and agile, and with their unique appearance, they make perfect show rabbits.
Belgian Hares are also bred to be pets; however, they aren’t the best rabbit for every rabbit owner because of their skittishness. Plus, this breed is very active and likes to be on the move all the time.
Belgian Hare Rabbit Price
Belgian Hare rabbits are quite pricey, so expect to pay between $150 and $500 for one Belgian Hare.
You may pay more depending on the pedigree or show-worthiness of the rabbit, and if you buy from a reputable breeder versus a rescue organization.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
The large Belgian Hare isn’t a pet rabbit that’s suitable for every rabbit owner. The bunny has a lot of energy, and they need to ideally live outside and have lots of space to burn off all their energy.
They are also shy and skittish, so it’ll take time to bond with your Belgian Hare rabbit and get your bunny to feel comfortable around you.