The Harlequin rabbit is a unique breed that is known for it’s coat colors. These rabbits are sometimes called the “clown of rabbits” due to their distinctive colors and markings. One of the oldest breeds, the Harlequin was developed in France in the 1880s. While these rabbits are primarily bred as show rabbits thanks to their wonderful coat, they are also seen as companion pets.
A large bunny, these rabbits can make excellent family pets. They are very docile and friendly and even make perfect playmates for children. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed and seeing whether they might be the pet for you, keep reading below to find out everything you need to.
History Of The Harlequin Rabbit
The Harlequin rabbit comes in two varieties: Japanese and Magpie. While these varieties are almost identical in every way, the feature that sets these two apart is their coat colors.
Some rabbit enthusiasts do not believe that the Harlequin rabbit is actually a breed and instead believe it is just a color that rabbits can be. However, the Harlequin rabbit is recognized by both the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) and the British Rabbit Council.
The Harlequin rabbit breed first appeared around 1880 in France. They were created by breeding the semi-wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbit with truly wild rabbits. First exhibited in Paris in 1887, they were imported to England shortly after.
Around the 1920s, the Harlequin was first recorded in the United States. They were originally called the Japanese rabbit, but this name was dropped quickly during the World Wars. During World War II, the Harlequin was used for meat.
Characteristics Of The Harlequin Rabbit
The Harlequin rabbit is a very unique breed with an appearance that makes them stand out. Although these rabbits are often used as show rabbits, they are also very commonly seen as pets thanks to their sweet temperament and cute appearance!
Harlequin’s are normally born in litter sizes of between five and six kits. These rabbits can be more expensive than other breeds of rabbit due to their appearance, particularly if they are of show-quality.
The Harlequin rabbit is a medium to large breed of rabbit that usually weighs between 6.5 to 9.5 lbs. Does are usually heavier than bucks.
They have a commercial body type with a round shaped head. Their ears are of medium length and stand erect on top of their head.
These bunnies have a short, soft coat that is very dense. Despite the popularity of this breed because of their coat, they actually do not have very high grooming needs. We will go into more detail about grooming your Harlequin later on.
The Harlequin breed is known for it’s unique coat colors. The variety of the rabbit — Japanese or Magpie — will determine their color. The Japanese Harlequin rabbits are generally orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac. The Magpie Harlequin rabbits are white instead of orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac.
Their body markings are usually either in bands, bars or a combination of the two. To qualify for the ARBA’s Standard of Perfection, these rabbits need to have 3 part frontal alteration. This means that the ears must be different colors, the face must be different colors and they must alternate with the ears. The feet should also alternate with the ears. The color of the rabbit’s face is split down the center. Their bellies can either be orange or white.
The Harlequin is a very outgoing rabbit that likes to explore. Curious by nature, they can be quite independent and will be happy doing their own thing, sniffing around and checking out their surroundings. They really are the clowns of the rabbit world and will certainly make you laugh and keep you on your toes!
That being said, they are also affectionate and will appreciate a stroke or back scratch from those that they love. They’re fairly laid-back and will happily live in the company of others without any issues. You should always respect your rabbit’s personal space, especially when they are new to your home. If they are afraid or frightened, then they might try to bite.
The Harlequin rabbit has a relatively short life expectancy in comparison to other pet rabbits. These bunnies usually only live for between 5 and 8 years.
Known Health Issues
Like all rabbits, the Harlequin can be prone to some health problems. These are the same concerns that most rabbits face.
– Malocclusion — this is when the upper and lower teeth are misaligned so that the normal process of chewing doesn’t wear down your rabbit’s teeth. Regular dental checkups are very important. You should also make sure your rabbit eats plenty of hay.
– GI Stasis — this is a potentially deadly condition in which the digestive system slows down or stops completely. Symptoms include loss of appetite, small or no fecal pellets and lethargy. It can be treated if caught quickly.
– Ear Mites — this is a common parasite of pet rabbits. You may see your rabbit shaking their head a lot if they are affected. Your vet will be able to treat them.
Like all rabbits, they can also suffer from back issues if they are mishandled or accidentally dropped.
Regular vet checkups will ensure that you catch any health problems before them become too serious. You should also make sure that you are buying from a reputable breeder.
Now we know all about the traits and characteristics of the Harlequin rabbit, we can take a look at what living with one of these bunnies on a day to day basis is really like.
Food And Diet
The exact amount you feed your Harlequin rabbit should be based on their size, age and activity level. They should be eating a portion of hay that is at least as their body size every day, alongside pellets and fresh vegetables. Fresh water should also always be available to them.
Hay is very important as it helps to keep your Harlequin’s digestive system moving, as well as helping to wear down their teeth so they are less prone to dental issues. At least 70% of your rabbit’s diet should be hay.
High-quality supplementary pellets help to provide extra vitamins and minerals that keep your rabbit healthy. Take a look at a supplementary pellet food we recommend below.
Best Food For The Harlequin RabbitBUY ON AMAZON
We recommend the Small World bunny food from Manna Pro for the Harlequin rabbit. This is a pellet only diet that provides complete and balanced nutrition for all rabbits. This food is made from wheat middlings, alfalfa and soybean based with added vitamins and minerals to support your bun’s overall health. The firm and durable pellets promote healthy chewing as well as helping to grind down your Harlequin’s teeth, and the high fiber content of this food ensures proper and consistent digestion.
In the wild, rabbits run around three miles a day. Therefore, it is very important that you give your pet rabbit enough exercise every day to keep them active and entertained. They should have at least three hours of free-range time, whether this is out of their hutch in the garden or just around the house.
Exercise is very important for the well-being of your rabbit. It helps to keep their joints moving, keeps them entertained and ensures they stay at a healthy weight.
A playful breed, you should provide your Harlequin with toys. They also like to things to climb on, crawl through, dig and chew. They will especially love to be able to exercise outside, so purchasing a secure enclosure which gives them adequate room to roam and play safely in the yard is a good idea. This also means you won’t always have to supervise them when they are outside.
Family Compatibility and Trainability
These bunnies make excellent family pets. A clever and docile breed, these rabbits can get on with everyone in the family, including children. Thanks to their playful nature they can make great playmates for children and will live to spend time with those that they love.
The Harlequin rabbit is very easy to train as they are an intelligent breed. You can teach this bunny to use a litter box so there is less mess for you to clean up, especially if they are a house rabbit. You can even teach them to come when their name is called!
You can choose to keep your Harlequin either inside or outside. As a larger rabbit, many owners choose to keep their Harlequin outside because this provides them with more space. That being said, they can also live a happy life as a house rabbit if they have enough room to hop around and are not confined to their cage.
Their hutch should always be large enough that they can easily move around inside. Try to stay away from hutches with wire floors as these can cause sore hocks within rabbits. Take a look at the hutch we recommend below.
Best Hutch For The Harlequin RabbitBUY ON AMAZON
We recommend the Trixie rabbit hutch for the Harelquin rabbit. A large hutch with an outdoor run, this multi-level hutch gives your rabbit space to roam and an enclosed upper level through a ramp for sleeping and hiding. There are three doors on the front — one for access for your rabbit and two for ease of cleaning — as well as access from above through the roof panels and run top.
This hutch is durably made with wood and metal. The roof has waterproof panelling to keep your Harlequin dry, too. There is a removable bottom pan for the enclosed area, again to make cleaning simple, and the entire hutch is lockable to keep your bunny secure.
Despite their wonderful coat that brings this breed a lot of attention, the Harlequin does not actually have very high grooming needs. Shedding is fairly minimal, so you should only brush them with a wire bristled brush once a week or as necessary.
You should very rarely bathe your rabbit. It is not really necessary, unless they are really dirty. Bathing can also be a traumatic experience for them. You should also trim their nails as and when is needed.
Harlequin Rabbit FAQ’s
What is the difference between the Japanese and Magpie variations of the Harlequin?
The Japanese and Magpie variations of the Harlequin rabbit have different coat colors. The Japanese Harlequin rabbits are generally orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac, while the Magpie Harlequin rabbits are white instead of orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac.
Should I keep my Harlequin rabbit indoors or outdoors?
This is up to you! Some owners choose to house their bunnies indoors, while others choose to keep them outside. There are pros and cons to both.
Outside, your rabbit will have more space and have access to grass and fresh air. However, they’ll also be more open to prey. Inside, your rabbit will be safer (and warmer!), but they may have less room.
How big should my rabbit’s cage be?
The rule with rabbits is: the bigger the better! If you have the space for a big hutch then your rabbit will always appreciate the extra room to roam and exercise. No one wants to be stuck in a cramped space!
If you do not have a lot of space, then the cage should be at least 4 times the size of the rabbit. A guide is 24″ by 36″ for smaller rabbits (less than 8 lbs) or 30″ by 36″ for larger rabbits. Hutches with multiple stories are also popular as they give your bun more space.
The Harlequin rabbit is a unique breed known for it’s fantastic coat. Bred normally as a show-rabbit, these bunnies also make excellent pets and will certainly add some fun to a household. They are playful and curious and can usually be found exploring their surroundings and making their owners laugh. Great with children, the Harlequin does not have high care needs and is perfect for first-time owners. If you’ve got the space for one of these bunnies, why not add a Harlequin rabbit to your family?