When is a deep rich dark brown Havana not a Cuban Havana cigar? When it’s a Havana rabbit!
Sometimes different names are used to describe this breed of rabbit, such as:
- The Havana,
- American Havana,
- Standard Havana,
- The Mink of the Rabbit family,
- The Fire-eyes of Ingen,
- The Chocolate Havana Bunny
Background Of The Havana Rabbit
The Havana rabbit is a gentle and docile breed of rabbit that originated in Holland, Netherlands* in the late 1800s. Its body type is that of a compact breed with a rounded back and it has an intense color and luxurious fur; often a rich chocolate color.
A Havana rabbit is soft and feels like satin to touch and is sweet, affectionate, and playful when encouraged. Havana bunnies are very cute and are now a popular rabbit breed as show rabbits or as a pet rabbit.
*FACT: The official name of this country is the ‘Kingdom of the Netherlands’. The name ‘Holland’ actually only covers two provinces; Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland (North & South Holland). However, the name Holland is often used when all of the Netherlands is meant.
A brief history of the Havana rabbit breed
The Havana Rabbit is not from the city of Havana, in Cuba, as its name suggests, it actually originated by accident in a rabbit litter in Holland, in the late 1800s.
In 1898, Mr. Honders, a Dutch farmer and rabbit breeder, from a small village called Ingen, near Utrecht, in Holland, let a common black and white farm rabbit doe into his breeding shed; this common farm doe was likely to have been from the Dutch Rabbit breed.
This doe bred with one of his breeding buck rabbits and the resulting litter had the most beautiful and unusual, chocolate brown and white kittens with modified ‘Dutch Rabbit’ broken color markings.
They were the most beautiful dark reddish chocolate variety of rabbit, from a Dutch rabbit that Mr. Honders had ever seen.
So how did Mr. Honders develop the Havana Rabbit breed?
This chocolate variety was the first such variety born to this Dutch rabbit doe (with a broken colored coat), on his farm in Ingen, in Holland.
Their chocolate color gave their eyes an amazing ruby glow in certain light and they were first referred to as the ‘Fire-eye from Ingen’ (Ingensche Veuoraoz)
Mr. Honders then started to breed them.
He crossed these new brown rabbits with Himalayan breed rabbits. He then crossed their offspring back with the original brown buck rabbit, to achieve the result he wanted.
Their fur coat resembled the coloring of the famous fine Havana cigar, from Cuba so they were finally called The Havana Rabbit; after their unusual fur coat coloring.
The average weight of the Havana rabbit was initially around 7.5 pounds (3.4kg); a medium-size breed of rabbit.
FACT: As breeding continued the desire for specific color types and body types grew, and the Havana Rabbit breed was used in the development of several other beautiful rabbit breeds: including the Fee de Marbourg, Gris Perle de Hal, and the Perlefee breeds of rabbit.
Where did they go to next, and how did the breed develop?
It was onwards and upwards for the Havana Rabbit and its popularity spread further than Holland, Netherlands to other parts of Europe from 1900-1910, such as the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland.
Various types and sizes started to be displayed as show rabbits and the quality of their soft and luxurious pelt was in great demand.
The United Kingdom – This Havana rabbit breed, was imported into the UK in 1908 and quickly became popular.
United States – the Havana breed of rabbit was introduced into the US in 1916, where it soon gained popularity and recognition and shortly after that year, was recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), as the Standard Havana rabbit, with its own breed standard.
There were different varieties, sizes, and qualities of the Havana breed at this time. Breeders worked hard to correct the faults and the quality of their mink type fur improved further.
Breeding continued and the popularity of the Havana Rabbit breed increased and in 1920, The National Havana Club was formed in England, and finally, in 1925, The Havana Rabbit Breeders Association was established.
The Standard Havana rabbit’s striking colored eyes and mink-like quality and texture of its fur were a winner in America; becoming known as the Mink of the Rabbit Family.
The exquisite pelts of this brown rabbit were in great demand at that time as they resembled mink fur, although at that time it was a difficult rabbit to breed.
1920-1950, breeding improvements continued and the Havana rabbit breed was also bred in a heavyweight size and smaller sizes; the Heavyweight Havana Rabbit was named the American Heavyweight Havana rabbit.
It weighed around 9 pounds (over 4 kg) and provided more pelt but at a cost as the quality of fur and body type was inferior and therefore the American Heavy-weight Havana rabbit was dropped from the breed standard in the 1940s.
In the 1930s another coat mutation occurred creating a very soft coat for the Havana rabbit; giving it the name the ‘Satin Havana’ rabbit. It caused disagreement at rabbit shows when competing against the Standard Havana rabbits, so it was decided that this Satin Havana rabbit was a mutation of the Standard Havana, and deemed a new breed. This was the origin of the Satin breed, and popular White Satin rabbit.
The medium-sized Havana rabbit continued its popularity and meets the breed standard today.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), have been presented with different varieties from breeders, over the last 100 years, and now recognizes five varieties, mainly color types, of the Havana rabbit:
- The Standard Havana rabbit – accepted 1916
- The Blue Havana rabbit – presented by Lee Own Stamm, in 1965
- The Black Havana rabbit – presented by Lee Own Stamm, in 1980
- The Broken Havana rabbit – presented by Brad and Katie Boyce, in 2008
- The Lilac Havana rabbit – presented by Julie Spier, in 2016
The Havana Rabbit appearance: What does it look like?
The Havana Rabbit is simply adorable with its super soft flyback fur coat and its sparkling amber eyes, set against its rich chocolate color coat.
The Havana rabbit breed has a short head, short neck, and a cute face with full cheeks and erect ears. It has a compact body type, with a prominent top line (the curve of its back that rises over the hips before rounding down to the tail).
It comes in a variety of color types: Chocolate, Brown, Black, or Blue/Lilac. All recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA).
Today the average weight is slightly lighter, reducing from over 7 pounds (over 3.2 kg) to a maximum of 6.5 pounds.
What are the main characteristics of the Havana Rabbit?
This gentle bunny has soft and shiny, thick fur that is irresistible to touch.
Havana rabbits are calm and friendly with an easy-going nature. Their compact build and soft fur make them popular with children and seniors who enjoy the company of a docile lap-pet.
They became popular very quickly, with their glowing ruby–glow eyes and their mink-type fur. They are still a very popular and handy-size breed.
However, in the late 1940s, the fur industry declined in popularity and different materials and fabrics were used as an alternative to rabbit fur for clothing and soft furnishings.
The fur industry did not die; it just declined in popularity in the US and also in parts of Europe.
The Havana rabbit is today mainly a companion bunny or show rabbit.
The Havana rabbit is moderately easy to house train and will become a creature of habit with patience and perseverance.
They are quite agile and can run fast, so you need to ensure their cage is secure or risk them taking off to explore.
Power and intelligence:
Rabbits are prey animals and will act on instinct when faced with danger. They are not the most intelligent animal, but they have strong instincts and good eyesight and hearing.
Be careful how you pick up your rabbit as it will kick on instinct if you do not handle it correctly.
The Havana breed is friendly and intelligent with a very gentle disposition which makes them suitable for children, and most will not mind being cuddled and being handled gently.
A Havana rabbit will thrive on attention.
Today they are mainly bred as show rabbits or domestic pets as they’re suitable for any type of owner.
They are good around children but not very young children who may play too rough and damage their back. This adorable rabbit is regarded as the calmest of all rabbit breeds.
Physical Characteristics of the Havana Rabbit
Size: Medium size
Weight: up to 6.5lb (3kg)
Life expectancy: 5-8 years
Litter size: 6-9 Kittens (Kits)/litter
Coat Color: The Havana coat is usually a deep rich chocolate brown color, but it is recognized in four color types by the ARBA: the Chocolate Havana, the Blue Havana, the Black Havana, and the Broken Havana ( think Dalmatian dog, this is a mix of colors with a pattern like that of a Dalmatian Dog).
The Standard Havana Rabbit can have any of these color types.
Coat type: The Havana rabbit has low-maintenance flyback fur, and a soft luxurious feel to its coat and that’s why it was nicknamed ‘The Mink of the Rabbit Family’.
It is not hypoallergenic; there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic rabbit.
Body Shape: It has a compact short rounded body with a curved topline (like a half-circle) rising over its hips right down to the tail, and short, straight legs with dark-colored toenails.
Ears: short erect ears which are set relatively close together on a short head, with full cheeks.
Eye Color: medium-sized eyes that give off a ruby-colored glow set against the brown fur.
A Havana Rabbit has a fairly constant docile temperament and this would make it a suitable house pet for a wide range of people: first time or novice rabbit owners, those living alone, for elderly people or families.
They suit indoor or outdoor living conditions.
Types of training required:
1) Crate – Buy a hutch or cage and get your rabbit used to going into it. This will become its nest and it will sleep there and just hang out in there to relax. You will have to lock the hutch in the early days so it knows it is supposed to live and sleep there and it will be a useful experience when transporting your pet.
If you are brave you can let it out to run around your house, but keep all cables, wires, books, and papers out of reach as rabbits love to nibble things.
2) Potty training – This rabbit is moderately easy to house train. You will need to start early and take the rabbit and its droppings back to the cage or hutch each time and put the droppings on the litter base each time so it will recognize the place to go by odor and habit.
FACT: A Rabbit may produce slightly softer-type stools overnight and it will then eat them in the morning to help with its digestion. This is not pleasant to watch but it is perfectly normal.
Eventually, it will know where to go but be prepared for the odd accident if your rabbit is allowed to run loose in the house and cannot make it back to its hutch in time. Practice makes perfect!
The cage should be cleaned out at least once a week, with litter and hay replaced regularly and fresh food provided daily.
3) Walking on a leash – believe it or not, you can actually buy rabbit leashes and teach your rabbit to go for a walk with you. Not too far though and be careful of its paws when very young, or on any hot ground.
Health problems and health issues
The Havana breed of rabbit is generally quite healthy, with a life expectancy of 5-8 years, but check your rabbit regularly to prevent:
Flystrike – Flystrike (also known as Myiasis) occurs when a fly lands on a rabbit’s skin and lays their eggs on a rabbit’s skin (usually around a dirty bottom, wet fur, or wounds).
These eggs hatch quickly and the maggots then chew their way into the rabbit’s skin. This can happen within hours become fatal.
Teeth – A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing so it is very important that it has enough hay to gnaw on. 70% of the rabbit’s food intake should come from hay and chewing hay will help keep the teeth from over-growing.
A rabbit’s teeth must not be allowed to grow too long as they can grow into their jaws and face which can be both painful and prevent them from eating properly. Overgrown teeth must be filed down by a Vet.
Caring for a Havana Rabbit- what’s needed?
Feed as a medium-sized rabbit, 70% of a rabbit’s food intake should be from hay, the rest should be a mix of formulated rabbit food, such as pellets.
The amount you should feed your rabbit will depend on its weight; add some leafy green vegetables into the diet too, as recommended by your Vet.
Believe it or not, not all rabbits like carrots and they should not be fed iceberg lettuce as it contains no nutritional value, too much Lanandum which can be dangerous for rabbits for them and can be too stringy to eat!
The Havana rabbit has short, soft thick flyback fur which does not need much maintenance. It will shed more during spring and fall seasons and, therefore, needs to be brushed more regularly until the shedding slows again.
It will lick its own paws and clean its face and ears thoroughly and then display some interesting stretches to clean the rest of its body. Rabbits are by nature very clean animals.
Check around the rabbit’s bottom regularly to make sure it has does not have flystrike evidence.
Tick and flea repellents are available if the rabbit mainly lives outside to protect it against bites.
There are a variety of soft and wire hair-brushes which will help keep your bunny’s shed under control. (Best check out what’s recommended on Google or Amazon.)
You do not need to bathe a rabbit. They will self-clean their fur.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Look after their teeth to prevent over-growth, by making sure they have enough rough food and toys to chew on.
Nails grow quickly and need to be trimmed regularly. If your rabbit is very active and allowed to run around, especially outside they will wear their nails down slightly. If not they need to be checked, say once a month for length and infection.
A Rabbit’s nails should not be trimmed past where the white end of the nail meets the pink part!
Despite the rabbit regularly cleaning its own ears, their ears still need to be checked for dirt build-up, mites or infection regularly, especially if they are kept outdoors.
What’s life like for a Havana rabbit?
A Havana rabbit is a beautiful rabbit. It’s adaptable, affectionate, and irresistible to stroke.
Although a Havana rabbit is one of the calmest breeds of rabbit it will still need stimulation and could start biting and banging on the cage door to try to get out if it is under-stimulated.
It may also run about the cage frantically if it lacks something interesting to do, so the cage should be provided with suitable objects for it to play with; objects that parts cannot be easily bitten off or it may choke.
Golf balls, or a big lump of hardwood are ideal, and a piece of large PVC tubing would make an ideal burrow tunnel for it to practice its burrowing instincts and play in.
Be careful if the rabbit is housed outside, that the hutch or cage is lifted off the ground and sealed with fine mesh or wire to protect it from predators.
Whether you keep your Havana rabbit as an indoor pet or outdoor pet you must ensure it has enough space in its cage, or hutch, to stretch out completely to rest or sleep and enough room to keep its food away from where it sleeps or its litter tray.
The recommended minimum caged space for a Havana rabbit is 14 inches tall and a 4 foot squared base area; this is a medium-sized rabbit that is active and will need space to exercise.
A Havana rabbit has extremely soft fur and likes to run about from time to time so it must not be able to snag itself on anything rough or protruding in its cage walls, floor, or door.
They love attention as they are sociable and gentle, but delicate so need careful handling.
Positives and Negatives of ownership
- Beautiful thick and soft fur, adorable to touch
- Bond quickly with family
- Good with children, if they are gentle
- Doesn’t mind being handled and cuddled
- House trainable, suitable for first-time rabbit owners or seniors
- Suits indoors or outdoor living
- May kick or nip if roughly handled
- Does not tolerate very hot temperatures well, or extreme cold
- Will need sufficient stimulation or will bite at cage contents
- Not suitable for very young children as their backs are delicate
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does a Havana Rabbit cost?
A. Around $20-$50, from a reputable breeder.
Do your research before you buy and check the breeder or seller, its health history, and any characteristics that might give cause for concern.
Food and litter material will cost around $20-25 per month, plus Vets fees, vaccinations, and accessories all need to be factored into the cost of owning your rabbit. Then factor in accessories, toys, vets bills, and care products.