For anyone considering a cute but smaller alternative to a classic rabbit species, Netherland Dwarf rabbits might be perfect for you. The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes the Netherland dwarf as one of the smallest rabbit breeds, most bunnies never capping 2.5 pounds.
These little bunnies have round faces and big eyes, with a disproportionately small body, which is part of why they look so cute. They have this baby look their whole lives.
There are a number of specifications when it comes to bunny care, and even more so when the breed is a dwarf breed. With sensitive digestion and a lot of energy, these rabbits take a little more consideration to ensure they thrive.
In the 1950s, the British Rabbit Council recognized Netherland Dwarfs as a breed. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States imported its first Netherland Dwarf rabbits due to its dwarf genes. The American Rabbit Breeders Association accepted Netherland dwarf in 1969.
Netherland Dwarf rabbit isn't just a smaller version of the larger rabbit breeds, and their face is more brachycephalic, which means they have a flatter face like a pug or Persian cat.
You can find Netherland Dwarf rabbits in more than 20 colors, including black, blue, lilac, Siamese smoke pearl, tortoiseshell, chestnut, opal, silver marten, Siamese sable, and more.
Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Personality
The personality of the Netherland Dwarf rabbit is not as cute and cuddly as you might think. These rabbits are notoriously more wild rabbits and shyer than most domestic rabbit breeds and require a little more time and human interaction if they are to be successfully tamed. Once tamed, however, they can be just as sweet and affectionate as any other rabbit, though perhaps always still a little on the shy side.
In the '70s and '80s, Netherland dwarfs were aggressive and unfit as pets. Through selective breeding, the modern Netherland Dwarf is much more gentle, docile, and friendly in nature.
Netherland Dwarf rabbits have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years, though some rabbits can live 12 years. Much of your individual rabbit's life expectancy will be determined by preventative care, vet checkups, genetic predispositions, and if it received the right nutrients when it was a pup. With proper care, your pet rabbit should be able to spend many happy years with you.
Getting the right habitat is important when it comes to having a healthy, happy pet. Netherland Dwarf rabbits need more space than other rabbit breeds, and they also tend to be a little rougher with food bowls and water dishes. You will need to make sure you get supplies that will keep your pet healthy and clean as well as safe and contained.
When it comes to Netherland Dwarf rabbits, you will need to plan a habitat that allows for a lot of energy. These rabbits tend to be high-energy and need a lot of space to run around and explore. The minimum requirement is 18x24," but ideally, you can provide 8 square feet or more.
You should ensure that your rabbit's cage is safely covered or has walls 14" or higher so your Netherland Dwarf cannot escape. If your habitat is outdoors, you may want to bury the fencing 6" beneath the surface to prevent escapes by digging.
The base of your Netherland Dwarf rabbit cage can be made out of metal wiring, but you need to provide at least some space that is not so that your rabbit doesn't develop foot sores. Lining your cage with aspen shavings or hay is also acceptable, though you should never use cedar or pine shavings since they can produce a toxic fume that is harmful to your Netherland Dwarf.
Netherland Dwarf rabbits should ideally spend most of their time indoors in controlled climates. You should ensure that your rabbit cage is not in a drafty area or in an area that receives a lot of direct sunlight, as these can make it hard for your Netherland Dwarf rabbit to regulate its temperature and lead to illness.
If you do decide to keep your Netherland Dwarf rabbit outside, you should ensure that it is protected from the elements and any natural predators. Consider covering any open runs with mesh or screening and provide a safe and shady place for them to hang out in the heat.
Netherland Dwarf rabbits can be taught to use a litter box, so keeping your habitat clean should not be too much of an issue. You should spot clean whenever you need to and plan to deep clean the whole cage once a week.
Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Diet
Food should be provided in containers or racks that keep your rabbit from making a mess. Hay racks can be attached to the side of your bunny's cage, food dishes can be anchored, or you can purchase heavier, tip-proof crocks for pellet food.
Because Netherland Dwarfs are a more energetic bunny, water bottles are preferred over water dishes to prevent spills which will create a damp, unsanitary environment for your rabbit.
Netherland Dwarf bunnies should receive 1/8 cup of rabbit pellets per pound of body weight a day. These pellets ensure that Netherland dwarf rabbits eat all their necessary nutrients.
Like most rabbits, a Netherland Dwarf rabbit's diet should contain hay. Acceptable eating hays for adult dwarf rabbits include Timothy hay, orchard grass, and oat hay. This can be put in hay racks or used as bedding so long as it is changed frequently. A Netherland Dwarf rabbit should have unlimited access to fresh hay since it will help keep its teeth worn down.
Some acceptable veggies for a Netherland Dwarf include carrots, broccoli, peppers, kale, mint, parsley, beet tops, and endive. Fruits can be offered to your Netherland Dwarf, though sparingly and as treats, since they can easily lead to negative weight gain. Apples and bananas are often favorites.
If you would like to give your pet rabbit some treats, keep in mind that it should never exceed 5 to 10% of a rabbit's daily diet.
Feeding based on age
A baby Netherland Dwarf rabbit will mostly nurse from its mother for the first seven weeks of its life. However, as early as four weeks, it can be introduced to alfalfa hay and alfalfa-based pellets.
At seven weeks, a baby rabbit will be weaned and should be eating alfalfa and alfalfa pellets just fine. They should have learned how to use a drip water bottle by now too.
Somewhere in the 4-7 month range, you can slowly begin introducing some veggies into your rabbit's diet. Because of these rabbits' sensitive digestion, you should introduce very small amounts of veggies at a time and only one at a time so you can monitor how your rabbit digests them.
7 months to 1 year
From seven months to a year, you should begin transitioning your baby Netherland Dwarf rabbit from alfalfa-based pellets for babies to Timothy hay-based pellets for adult pet rabbits. You should also transition out of alfalfa hay since it can lead to unhealthy weight gain in dwarf breeds.
Netherland Dwarf rabbits are pretty good at keeping themselves clean, so there is not a lot of grooming you need to anticipate doing. You may want to brush out your bunny's coat once every week or so to reduce the chance of hairballs in its stomach. In the spring, the Netherland Dwarf rabbit breed will shed their winter coat, and you may want to brush them a little more often to help out with that.
You will need to trim your rabbit's nails at least once every six weeks. This can be done with cat nail clippers, and if you start when your bunny is a pup, it is likely to be less stressful for them as adults.
You will want to provide lots of chewing materials and chew toys for your Netherland Dwarf rabbit. As rodents with open rooted teeth, rabbits must always be chewing to keep their teeth trimmed down. Access to Timothy hay will help with this. Still, you should provide other rabbit-safe chewing materials as well, apple sticks, willow branches, wooden chews, as well as many other fancy store-bought chews are available.
Potential Medical Issues
Netherland Dwarf rabbits are not overly prone to illness, but they are prone to dental disease. They are a little more likely to develop malocclusion (the overgrowth of their front teeth) due to their dwarf gene, but it is a condition that can be caught early and treated successfully. Other common conditions found in the Netherland Dwarf breed include parasites like mites or lice, respiratory issues, or digestive problems.
You should always spend time with your Netherland Dwarf bunny to spot it more quickly when something is off. Regular annual checkups at the vet and preventative care ensure that your Netherland Dwarf rabbit lives a long, healthy, and happy life.
Like other rabbits, Netherland Dwarf rabbits are social animals and would appreciate having another rabbit companion.