What animal can change the color of its spots in cold temperatures? A Himalayan Rabbit!
It’s sometimes referred to as:
- The Black Nose Rabbit,
- Black Nose Rabbit from China,
- Black Himalayan,
- Chocolate Himalayan,
- Lilac Himalayan,
- Egyptian Rabbit,
- Chinese Rabbit,
- Russian Rabbit,
- Egyptian Smut
- The Himmie
The Himalayan Rabbit is a very mellow and friendly, small breed of rabbit.
This is considered to be one of the oldest breeds of rabbit in the world and has been used to develop many other well-known rabbit breeds.
Its fur is soft and short and it is the only rabbit breed with a cylindrical body recognized by the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association (ARBA). The baby rabbits are born entirely white or gray, and their markings develop as they get older. Baby Himalayan Rabbits are very cute and make great pet rabbits.
A brief history of the Himalayan Rabbit: a domestic rabbit breed
Domestic rabbits only became popular in the United States in the early 1900s.
The origin of the Himalayan Rabbit breed is not known exactly, but it is considered to be one of the most unique and oldest rabbit breeds around today; believed to have come from the Far East or the Himalayan mountain areas.
FACT: The Himalayas, the greatest mountain range in Asia with some of the highest mountains in the world, sprawls east to west from Afghanistan through Pakistan, then India into Nepal, Tibet through Bhutan, and ending in Myanmar.
The Himalayan rabbit breed made it to the United States in the early 1900s and was one of the first true breeds of rabbit to be recognized by the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association (ARBA).
A ‘true breed’ means it was not ‘human-made, not modified or crossed with any other breed of rabbit.
How can the coat color of the Himalayan rabbit change?
The Himalayan Rabbit is adaptable in different climates; hot or cold.
The Himalayan breed was known to have a solid white coat color in warmer climates and a solid black coat color in colder climates. It is also believed that the Himalayan rabbit can develop a darker spot on its fur overnight, where the fur has been touching a cold object, or in reverse, its dark markings can fade in very warm climates to give a yellowish tint to its white fur.
All Himalayan bunnies are born in a single color, either white or gray, and as they grow their color spots develop.
When it is very cold it is possible for markings to appear on a Himalayan rabbit around its eyes, or around its genitals; this darkening around the eyes or genitals is known as Vent Smut. If the darkening occurs around the nose area it is known as Nose Smut.
Dark when cold
This darkening, that happens when the rabbit generally gets very cold or touches something cold. It can occur quickly in several ways:
- Addition of a new marking
- Darkening of an existing marking
- An enlargement of an existing marking
- Dark hairs forming over the white coat area
- In rabbit shows the Himalayan rabbit would be disqualified if the darkening spreads to a useable part of the pelt.
Light when warm
The reverse occurs with heat and the markings can:
- Lighten an existing marking
- Shrink an existing marking
- Cause white hairs to appear over the marked areas; known as Frosting
How did the Himalayan rabbit breed develop?
In the early 1900s, an American breeder, Ron Smelt, from California, United States, was impressed with the Himalayan rabbit.
The typical Himalayan rabbit breed had a white coat with neat black markings, that looked like it had been dipped in black paint, on its front feet (socks), its hind feet (boots) its tail, and its black nose that is egg-shaped.
The original Himalayan rabbit had Black markings and then along came the Blue variety.
Ron Smelt wanted to create the broken pattern with other color markings for this breed of rabbit, in his rabbitry.
The Chocolate Himalayan rabbit
He is credited with developing the Chocolate Himalayan rabbit by mixing a chocolate-colored English Spot Rabbit with a Himalayan rabbit; to create a new chocolate-colored broken pattern.
The Lilac Himalayan rabbit
Smelt continued his breeding program from his rabbitry and developed the Lilac variety by mixing Blue Himalayans with Chocolate Himalayans.
The early Lilac Himalayans looked more light blue than lilac. Further development continued and Chocolate Himalayan rabbits were mixed with Lilac mini Rex Rabbits to enhance the color.
He developed this breed of rabbit to specifically have markings* available in Black, Blue, Chocolate or Lilac varieties.
*FACT: This coloration is caused by a heat-sensitive enzyme that creates brown pigment melanin on the Himalayan rabbit’s body. This heat-sensitive enzyme is active on the discolored parts on the white fur – on their ears, nose, feet, and tail.
What happened next?
The Himalayan rabbit is one of the oldest known breeds and one of the first breeds of rabbit to be recognized by the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association (ARBA).
It is the only cylindrical body type rabbit to be recognized by the ARBA.
It became a popular breed that contributed to the development of other breeds, like the Californian rabbit; one of the most common meat producing rabbit breeds.
The Californian rabbit is similar to the Himalayan but it is a bigger and meatier version. The development of the Californian continued with further mixes with the New Zealand rabbit and possibly the Standard Chinchilla rabbit as well.
The Himalayan rabbit appearance: What does it look like?
A Himalayan rabbit is one of the oldest known rabbit breeds and has an appearance similar to that of a Himalayan cat, or a Siamese cat, with short and silky fur.
The Himalayan rabbit is a small size and is the only breed of rabbit with a long cylindrical body. It appears to have a round body type when viewed from the front.
It enjoys lying stretched out and then its long, fine-boned skinny body type is most noticeable. The length of the average Himalayan rabbit, when stretched out, is three and a half head lengths long.
This is a beautiful small rabbit with a striking appearance with white fur and it looks like its paws, tail, ears and its little egg-shaped nose have all been dipped in paint.
It has lovely short flyback fur (that moves back to its original flat position after being stroked, not left standing up on end), and soft to touch. This rabbit breed was initially bred for its white fur (pelt), not for meat.
This white rabbit with dark spots usually has round red-eyes, but sometimes the Himalayan rabbit’s eyes can be pink or even blue.
The Himalayan rabbits’ baby rabbits are born in one color, either solid grey or solid white. Within a few months, their color develops and their nose, tails, paws, and ears show their distinctive dark spots.
A Himalayan Doe is the only rabbit with an extra set of teats.
What are the main characteristics?
A Himalayan rabbit has a very mellow temperament and is happy to be handled and cuddled. This is why the Himalayan rabbit is considered to be the best rabbit breed to be kept as a pet rabbit.
This is one of the oldest known breeds of rabbits. It has been used in the development of several other breeds like the Californian meat rabbit.
It’s gentle and friendly, makes an ideal pet rabbit as it’s not known to be aggressive.
They became popular very quickly in America for their beautiful soft fur. Today the Himalayan rabbit is mainly used as a show rabbit or family pet rabbit.
Intelligence and trainability:
The Himalayan rabbit breed is quite intelligent, friendly, and biddable.
It’s quite tame and can be trained to respond to their name, come for food, or even use a litter box. Rabbits are prey animals and will act on instinct when faced with danger.
This breed of rabbit is small and long which makes it easy to pick up and cuddle. It is friendly and likes human interaction so it will make an ideal pet rabbit for children.
It is important to socialize this rabbit as a young kitten and get it used to being handled early if it is to be kept as a family pet or even used as a show rabbit.
Today they are mainly bred as show rabbits or home rabbits and make wonderful gentle-natured pets. They suit both indoor and outdoor living but in proper secure hutches. The Himalayan Does make good mothers and are the only breed of rabbit to have an extra set of nipples.
This is a laid-back rabbit breed that is low maintenance and not aggressive. Remember rabbits are natural prey animals with acute senses and ever watchful for potential predators, and easily startled by sudden noises or unexpected movements; this may cause them to become afraid and run away.
Physical Characteristics of the Himalayan Rabbit
Size: Small size
Weight: 3-5lb (1.4-2.3kg)
Life expectancy: 4-5 years
Litter size: around 6-7 Kittens (Kits)/litter
Coat color: White with Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac markings, (on ears, paws, tail, and nose)
Coat type: A short, smooth silky feel coat, adapted to have different colored markings
The Himalayan breed has flyback fur that falls back into place after you stroke it.
It is not hypoallergenic; there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic rabbit.
Ears: upright ears
Eye Color: round-shaped red-eyes, occasionally pink or blue eyes
A Himalayan rabbit is considered to be the calmest rabbit, which makes it an ideal pet rabbit.
It’s friendly when socialized early.
It is not known to be aggressive but any rabbit, being a prey animal and always on their guard against predators. It will need space to run around and burn off energy otherwise like most rabbits it could get frustrated and cause a fuss in its hutch.
They suit outdoor or indoor living conditions, and suitable for any age or experience of owner.
Types of training required:
1) Crate – All rabbits need a hutch or cage to live in. It is important to get your rabbit used to going into its hutch as it 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 in there and it will also be a useful experience should you ever need to transport your pet.
This rabbit is suited to outdoor or indoor living, with a suitable hutch for each. If mainly living outdoors the hutch must be raised off the ground, with no rough edges and secure to protect it from possible predators.
2) Potty training – This rabbit is moderately easy to potty 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 shavings, or in a litter box, 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.
Any hutch or cage should be cleaned out at least once a week, with litter shavings and hay replaced regularly and fresh food and clean water 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 the hot ground.
Health problems and health issues
This small breed of rabbit is generally quite healthy, but it has a shorter life expectancy than many other breeds of rabbit at only 4-5 years, so it needs to be checked regularly to prevent:
Flystrike – Flystrike (also known as Myiasis) occurs when a fly lands on a rabbit’s skin and lays their eggs in the rabbit’s skin (usually around a dirty bottom, wet fur, or a wound).
These eggs hatch quickly and the maggots then chew their way into the rabbit’s skin. This can happen within hours and 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. This can be both painful and prevent them eating properly. Overgrown teeth must be filed down by a Vet.
Rabbits need to eat regularly and stay hydrated so make sure there is enough clean water, food, and shade available in the rabbit hutch.
Caring for a Himalayan rabbit – what’s needed?
Feed as a small-sized rabbit. 70% of a rabbit’s food intake should be from hay, the rest should be formulated rabbit food.
The amount you should feed your rabbit will depend on its weight and energy level; add some leafy green vegetables into the diet too.
Do not give your rabbit iceberg lettuce as it has too much Lanandum which can be dangerous to eat or sugary foods!
The Himalayan rabbit has beautiful soft flyback fur, which is short and soft so it does not need much maintenance. It will shed more during the spring and fall seasons and will therefore need 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.
FACT: When a rabbit rubs its face and whiskers for you to see it means it feels at home where it is.
Check around the rabbit’s bottom regularly to make sure it has does not have flystrike evidence.
Tick and flea repellents are available for rabbits that mainly live 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 or Wikipedia for further facts.)
Remember, you do not need to bathe a rabbit. They will self-clean their fur.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Check their teeth to prevent over-growth, by making sure they have enough rough food and toys to chew and play with.
Nails grow quickly and need to be trimmed regularly. If this breed of rabbit is allowed to run around, especially in a large enclosed area 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 Himalayan rabbit?
A Himalayan rabbit is a small rabbit with soft and silky fur.
It needs to be stimulated; otherwise, it may run about its hutch if it lacks something interesting to do. Therefore, the hutch should be provided with suitable safe objects for it to play with; objects where small parts cannot be easily bitten off or it may choke.
Golf balls or hardwood logs are ideal, and PVC tubing would make an ideal burrow tunnel for it to practice its burrowing instincts and to 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 your Himalayan rabbit is an indoor pet or outdoor pet you must ensure it has enough space in its cage to stretch out completely, stand up, rest, or sleep, and enough room to keep its food away from where it sleeps or its litter box.
The recommended minimum caged space for one Himalayan rabbit should be at least a 24 by 15-inch floor and a height of 24 inches, more if it’s a pregnant Doe. This is a small-sized rabbit but will still need space to roam, double the space if it’s for 2 rabbits
Himalayan rabbits are cute and friendly. It will be content to be handled and stroked, but no sudden movements as rabbits get nervous easily.
Positives and Negatives of ownership
- Beautiful smooth and soft fur, easy maintenance
- One of the most laid back rabbit breeds
- Popular in shows and as pet rabbits
- Small size, likes being handled and stroked
- Sweet-natured and loving, not aggressive
- Intelligent (for a rabbit)
- Very clean and easy to potty train
- Suits indoor or outdoor living
- Small size, not suitable for commercial breeding purposes
- Baby rabbits don’t tolerate very cold temperatures well
- Will need sufficient stimulation or will bite at cage contents
- Needs lots of exercises and a large enclosure to roam in
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does a Himalayan rabbit cost?
A. Around $25-$60, from a reputable Himalayan 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. The American Himalayan Rabbit Association can help with any information about finding, adopting or keeping Himalayan rabbits.
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. (Check Wikipedia for training and stimulation tips).