- Purpose: Meat, pelts, shows, laboratory tests and as a pet. It is the most common table rabbit and for animal testing.
- Size: Large rabbit
- Weight: 10 to 12 lb. (4.5 to 5.5kgs). The does are larger than bucks
- Lifespan: 5 to 8 years
- Country of Origin: America (California)
- Who they are suited for: Singles, couples, families with children, seniors, first-time pet owners
History and origin
Contrary to its name, the New Zealand bunny originated from California in America from probably rabbit breeds that came from New Zealand.
For instance, the white ones are believed to have descended from another Californian developed breed, the New Zealand Reds (ARBA recognized 1916) crossed with probably Flemish giants and some Belgian hares. Some sources claim Angora, American White and Flemish giants as their possible ancestors.
The white variety was developed by 1917 by William S. Preshaw, as whites which were born in a litter of the red-colored New Zealand rabbits.
Many people liked the white-colored one due to their eye-catching white pelt that was easy to dye and more valued in the market while the reds remained famous for meat production.
Appearance, size, weight, body type and fur
New Zealand rabbits’ bodies can be described as large, broad and muscular with a spinal curve that is more pronounced – a commercial body type that is well rounded.
To distinguish does from bucks, the does have a dewlap ( that stores fats for the extra energy that may be needed during lactation and pregnancy). A few large bucks may also have the dewlap although it is not common.
They have a head proportional to their body, full cheeks, a slender face and large erect ears that are proportional to its head and body.
Their hind legs appear to be longer while their front leg and feet appear petite
Another distinction is that male (bucks) have larger cheeks and a border face.
Size and weight
This is a large-sized bunny weighing about 10 to 12 lb (4.5 to 5.5kgs) with the does growing slightly bigger than bucks, i.e., the female weighs 10–12 lb and the male weighs 9–11 lb.
They have a medium length, flyback dense, soft and luxurious coat. Their undercoat has soft and thick fur with scattered coarser guard hairs.
The reds, which are slightly smaller have a fur that is somewhat coarser and they weigh about 3.6kgs.
New Zealand rabbit colors – blue, black, reds and whites
The rabbit comes in five colors which are recognized by ARBA, and they include white, red, black, broken (a color that is mingled with white – white and black or white and red) and the blue one.
Should you crossbreed the various colors of these rabbits, expect to get a combination of its three primary pigmentations. Common combinations you are likely to end up with are the chestnut agouti as well as the gold-tipped steel. Let us look at the whites, blacks, reds, and blues in a little more detail.
The New Zealand whites (NZW)
The NZW are most popular and most bred for meat. They have “well-rounded bodies; slender and muscular faces with round cheeks; large, long back feet; and small, short front pectoral muscles (Rubins)” (source: Wikipedia.org).
Furthermore, their ears are long and they erect straight upright. Unlike other colors, their bodies have thick fur that is snowy (and of normal length as other colors), their ears are covered with shorter fur that allows you to see their skin that is pale pink.
They have ruby pink eyes and owing to this eye color they are at times referred to as ruby-eyed white (REW), a recessive trait. If bred by other colors, they will result in non-ARBA recognized steel color.
Their white color is due to lack melanin which gives color to creatures; a condition referred to as albinism making them albino rabbits.
Black New Zealand
They first appeared in 1924 but the modern day ones were bred by Dr. Alfred DeCastro using Black New Zealand sports obtained from California breeders and got the recognition of ARBA in 1959
New Zealand Reds
Unlike the ARBA that classifies them as part of the New Zealand rabbits, the British Rabbit Council (BRC) sees them as a different standard.
Blue New Zealand
BRC and UK initially recognized them earlier. Later, in 2016, the ARBA also recognized them, where judges look at their body type as a primary judging basis.
New Zealand rabbit care
They do not need a lot of grooming. However, if you are keeping them as pets, you may need to groom them to avoid hairballs in your house. A soft-bristled brush can be used for grooming them and this should be done weekly or after every two weeks. Avoid bathing them.
Proper diets are required to ensure they are not obese. Also, ensure you feed your production rabbits with more amounts of protein – typically 18-20%, unlike non-production ones that need the standard 16-18% proteins. Alfalfa hay is at times also given and enough clean water.
Also give rabbit friendly leafy greens, fruits and vegetables.
Hutches or cages can be indoor or outdoor, but they must be spacious and high enough to ensure they can stand upright, and have a space to hop around. See guidelines on determining the right cage size for your rabbit.
It is recommended for hutches to have a sleeping area. Also, lining the cage with straws and hardwood shavings will make cleaning easy. Most experienced rabbit keepers claim that the New Zealands thrive best in all wire cages.
Outdoor hutches should be raised, weatherproof preferably under a well-lit shade that allows free air circulation.
On the other hand, if you opt to make them indoor rabbits and you allow them to roam freely in your house, give them a secure place to relax such as a dog tray and secure anything they may gnaw such as cables, shoes, etc.
Remove droppings daily and clean the cages thoroughly once a week, changing your rabbit’s beddings.
Also, have a fenced area in your garden where your rabbits can play or let them freely walk in the house if you don’t have a garden.
To begin with, they are a resilient breed. However, issues such as overgrown teeth (enamel spurs) may arise with an inappropriate diet that does not have enough fiber.
Overgrown teeth often injury the softer tissues inside their mouths making eating difficult. Gnaw toys, lots of hay, and fibrous foods can help deal with this issue.
Secondly, ensure you regularly groom them, and they should not be soiled on their bottom side since it can cause flystrike.
Finally, if your state requires it, let your rabbits be vaccinated against Viral Hemorrhagic Disease and myxomatosis, be free of fleas, worms (use a pea-sized deworming paste), ticks and rabbit mites.
Uses – meat, pets, and lab testing
These rabbits are commercially raised for their meat and outstanding fur. Around “90 percent of the rabbits raised for meat are New Zealand rabbits” Source Wideopenpets.com). For beef, older rabbits are sold to roasters while fryers require those that are 8-12 weeks.
The white breeds are most preferred for their white pelt that can be dyed. High premium grades make fur trimmings and fur coats while lower classes mainly make glove linings and felt hats.
Their meat is excellent with fine bones and a high feed to meat ratio. The whites are most commonly used for meat.
The NWZ rabbits are the most preferred rabbits for laboratory testing since they react similarly to human beings to some medications and diseases. Therefore, pharmaceutical laboratories, cancer research centers, university hospitals and the US Public Health building use them.
So far, they have been used in testing and developing drugs for diseases including TB, diphtheria, diabetes, heart diseases and even cancer.
They have also been used to test the effect of cosmetics, skin creams, food additives, and special diets.
A doe becomes fertile from the age of 8 to 12 weeks, but you should wait until they reach are about 16 to 17 weeks old to breed them to avoid harm or death of the doe, kits or both.
After breeding, most of the does will kindle after 31-32 days, and they produce a large litter of about 8 to 12 kits while they are hairless, blind and deaf.
When it is about to kindle, the doe often pulls fur from its belly and dewlap to line inside the nest that you need to provide. Kits weaning begins at three to four weeks.
Personality and temperament
They are calm, intelligent and can be a good companion. Also, are docile and can be handled easily.
If you have young children, do not worry, these bunnies are good with young children and other pets if socialized well while they are still young since they are friendly and calm
Although docile, ensure they are well handled since they are large and improper handling or lifting may make them feel unsafe, want to struggle and get injured or injure you.
Finally, with patience, they can be trained to use their litter boxes to avoid droppings everywhere.
New Zealand rabbit for sale
If you are considering buying these bunnies for meat, pelts or as pets, the price will range from $25 to $100+. Pedigree and purebred bunnies tend to be costly.
There are various places you can get these rabbits for sale since this is a popular type of rabbit which includes rescue centers, breeders, and rabbitries.
To locate them fast, use search engines such as Google and Bing and including your location. For instance, search for ‘New Zealand rabbits for sale in New York’ if you are in this location.
A few of the places we can also recommend to you include the following:
- Rabbit Breeders in the US
- American Federation of New Zealand Rabbit Breeders
- Sleepy Creek Farm
- Delaware Rabbitry