Best known for its distinctive coat colors and markings, the Harlequin rabbit breed is a popular show rabbit but also makes a great pet. Active and playful, these cure rabbits are fairly easy to care for and are suited for first-time owners, families with children, and apartment or house living.
But, are Harlequin rabbits rare? Harlequin rabbits are unusual, but they aren’t rare or in danger of going extinct. Mostly bred as show rabbits, Harlequin bunnies are also kept as pets. However, breeding Harlequin rabbits for coloration and markings is very hard, and the perfect Harlequin is quite rare.
If you are interested in this colorful and curious breed of rabbit, keep on reading! In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Harlequin, the clown of the rabbits.
What Is a Harlequin Rabbit?
The Harlequin rabbit is an interesting and unusual-looking breed of domestic rabbit. Unlike other rabbit breeds, the Harlequin breed is based on coat colorations and markings, rather than body type and fur.
Harlequin Rabbit History and Origin
Originating in France, the Harlequin rabbit breed was developed by crossing semi-wild tortoiseshell Dutch rabbits and other rabbits. At first, Harlequins looked like badly colored Dutch rabbits.
The new breed was first shown in Paris in 1887 and was shortly after imported to the United Kingdom.
Originally the Harlequin rabbit was called the Japanese rabbit. However, during World War II the name was changed to Harlequin rabbit. Still, one color variation of the Harlequin rabbit is known as the Japanese Harlequin rabbit.
This breed is recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association and the British Rabbit Council. However, that didn’t stop experts from claiming that the Harlequin isn’t a breed of rabbit, but just a color pattern.
While the harlequin pattern also occurs in other rabbit breeds, the American Rabbit Breeders Association doesn’t recognize it as showable in other breeds except for the Harlequin rabbit.
Harlequin Rabbit Characteristics
The Harlequin rabbit is a rather unique breed, and you’ll hardly confuse them with any other rabbit. They have a broad rounded head, medium-long erect ears, and short, dense, and soft coats.
Size, Weight, Shape
The Harlequin rabbit is a small to medium-sized breed. They have a rounded commercial body type and usually weigh from 6.5 to 9.5 pounds. Does are generally slightly larger and heavier than bucks.
Best known for their interesting coat markings and colors, Harlequin rabbits come in two types – Japanese Harlequin rabbits and magpie Harlequin rabbits.
Japanese Harlequins are usually orange with either black, blue, chocolate, or lilac. On the other hand, magpie Harlequins are typically white with either black, blue, chocolate, or lilac.
A perfect Harlequin rabbit will be split between the two colors on the head, feet, ears, and body. Ideally, it should look like there is a perfect stripe between the two colors.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association’s standard of perfection calls for a three-part frontal alternation (source). Meaning, the ears are of two different colors, the face is split in two colors that alternate with the ears.
But that’s not all! The chest and the front legs also split in two colors which alternate with the face, but match the color of the ears. The hind legs should alternate with the front legs.
Last but not least, the body markings are either bands or bars or a combination of the two.
The average lifespan of the Harlequin rabbit is between five and eight years.
Harlequin rabbits are curious creatures that like to explore and will happily hop around your home, all day long. Even if your rabbit already explored every nook and cranny inside your home they’ll be eager to do it again.
Outgoing by nature, Harlequin rabbits make great pets for children and are ideal playmates. Although they aren’t a small breed, Harlequins are especially interesting to youngsters due to their colorful appearance and energetic nature.
While they are truly the clowns of the rabbit world, Harlequins are also affectionate and docile companions who will enjoy an occasional back scratch or a gentle pat on the head.
Laid-back and amiable, Harlequin rabbits are an excellent choice whether you are a novice or an experienced rabbit owner. They are also very social and love to spend time with their people.
Another great thing about this rabbit breed is that they are highly intelligent and obedient which makes training a lot easier. Like all other rabbits, the Harlequin bunny can be trained to use a litter box, and with some patience and effort, you may even manage to teach your rabbit how to do tricks.
Harlequin Rabbit Care
If you decide to keep a Harlequin as a pet rabbit, make sure that you’ll be able to care for it properly and fulfill your bunny’s essential needs.
Both Japanese and magpie varieties of a Harlequin rabbit can be kept as indoors or outdoors rabbits. Whichever way you decide to raise your rabbit make sure that they have a spacious and cozy enclosure to live in.
If you decide to get an outdoor enclosure, it should be raised from the ground and be large enough to allow your bunny to stretch and move around freely. Ideally, there should also be a ramp that provides access to the bottom of their fenced enclosure so your rabbit can feel fresh grass and ground.
Indoor Harlequin rabbits should be kept in wire cages with a soft bottom that won’t injure their feed and cause sore hocks. Line the bottom of the cage with rabbit-safe bedding and spot-clean it every day to maintain hygiene. To ensure comfortable and dung-free living quarters remove the entire bedding once a week.
A Harlequin rabbit’s diet should consist of 70% hay and the remaining 30% should be equal parts pellets, fruits, and vegetables. Feeding your bunny, a diet rich in the hay will support their digestive health and also help file their teeth naturally.
As always, if you are unsure about your rabbit’s diet, consult your exotic veterinarian. They will be able to tell you what are safe fruits and veggies for your bunny and what foods you should avoid (source).
Breeding Harlequin Rabbit
If you are planning on raising Harlequin rabbits for profit, you’re in luck! This is a multi-purpose breed that can be bred and raised for several different reasons, including:
Harlequin rabbits are commonly kept as pets due to their friendly, affectionate, and docile temperaments. Breeding Harlequin rabbits and selling them as pets can be a lucrative side business and a way to earn extra money from raising rabbits.
Due to their interesting colorations and markings, Harlequin rabbits are popular show animals and are commonly seen at rabbit shows. However, the American Rabbit Breeders Association has a strict standard for a perfect Harlequin rabbit, and breeding for color and markings isn’t as easy as it seems.
If you don’t have prior experience breeding rabbits, you might want to consider a less demanding rabbit breed in terms of standard. Another option is to spend some time researching and learning about genetics, coat colors, and markings before you embark on a rabbit breeding journey.
Although giant rabbit breeds are more commonly bred for meat, some people decide to breed and raise Harlequin rabbits for meat. The rate at which rabbits breed makes them one of the most sustainable meat sources you can raise.
Another benefit of raising Harlequin rabbits for meat is the relatively low amount of daily work and effort you need to put into raising a healthy colony. Also, compared to other small game, such as chickens, raising rabbits for meat has one of the lowest initial costs and produces more meat.
Harlequin Rabbit Price
On average, a Harlequin rabbit costs between $20 and $100. Pet quality Harlequin rabbits are at the lower end of the price range and show-quality bunnies cost significantly more.
There’s no way of knowing exactly how much you are going to spend on a Harlequin rabbit. But keep in mind that the price depends on a breeder, supply and demand, location, the rabbit’s coat color, markings, lineage, and quality.
Known as the clown of the rabbits, the Harlequin rabbit sports unusual coat colors and markings. A perfect Harlequin rabbit will be split between two colors on the ears, face, body, and legs.
Besides their colorful appearance, these bunnies have vibrant personalities and make great pets to people of all ages and families with children. Friendly, curious, playful, and affectionate Harlequin rabbits love to interact with their people and are the happiest when they get a chance to spend time with you.