What rabbit has a polished look and a beautiful silvering sheen across its underbelly? ‘The Silver Marten Rabbit’
This rabbit breed is sometimes referred to as:
- The Strange little Black Rabbit
- or The little Black and Silver Rabbit
A ‘Silver Marten’ is both the color and the name of a breed of rabbit. It is considered to have one of the most unusual and beautiful looking coats of all the domestic breeds of rabbits.
A Silver Marten is a medium-sized rabbit breed that’s lovable and charming. It originated in the United States; as an offshoot of the Chinchilla rabbit breed, in the 1920s, and is one of the smallest ‘commercial’ body type rabbits.
The Silver Marten Rabbit originally appeared as a strange-looking little black ‘sports’ (mixed-breed) rabbit, along with similar silver sports rabbits, in a litter of Chinchilla rabbits that had been intentionally bred with Tan Rabbits (the Black and Tan variety)
It quickly became popular at agricultural shows and pet shows; with its exceptional soft fur that originated as a black color with silvering tips covering its underbelly, ears, tail, feet, and the eye circles around its dark brown eyes.
Baby Silver Marten Rabbits are lovable and charming so they would make an excellent pet rabbit, but are better with older children.
A brief history of the Silver Marten Rabbit: a domestic rabbit breed
It is believed that all domestic rabbit breeds came from a single species; the European Wild Rabbit.
Domestic rabbits only appeared in the United States in the early 1900s but had existed for much longer in Europe. The history of the Silver Marten rabbit breed begins with the Standard Chinchilla breed.
The Chinchilla Rabbit breed originated in France, where it appeared in an agouti colored litter, but with half of its color missing. It had a silvery-pearl glint to its fur resembling the color of the South American Rodent – the Chinchilla; so it was named the Chinchilla.
Breeders of Chinchilla rabbits worked hard to re-create the chinchilla grayish color to further develop the Chinchilla Rabbit breed. The breeders of Chinchilla rabbits were believed to have mixed a Blue Beveren doe with a Chestnut Agouti buck to obtain the color.
Introduction into the United States
The Chinchilla Rabbit breed was introduced into the United States at a New York State Fair in 1919. They had beautiful soft fur and the breeders of Chinchilla rabbits continued to work hard to maintain the color and quality of the Chinchilla’s pelt.
The Chinchilla rabbit breed dwindled and the breed ended up as being declared ‘critical’ on the American Livestock Breeders Conservation priority list.
In an attempt to save the breed, and enhance the color and pattern of the Chinchilla rabbits, Tan Rabbit‘s Black and Tan bloodlines were introduced into the Chinchilla breeding program.
The addition of the recessive Tan pattern produced a few Black ‘Sports’ in the agouti Chinchilla Rabbit litters. They were adorable but an oddity at the same time.
The offspring of the Chinchilla and the Black and Tan rabbit breeds was initially referred to as the ‘Strange Little Black Rabbits’.
They were essentially just an offshoot of the Standard Chinchilla rabbit breed, but eventually, some Black and Silver ‘Sports’, with Silver-White markings were found in Chinchilla rabbit litters.
The tan bloodlines produced had markings similar to the Tan Rabbit breed, but silver not tan!
The development of the 4 color varieties – Silver Marten Rabbit breed information
These black and silver ‘sports’ then bred true.
The Black variety was named the Black ‘Silver Marten’ and recognized as a new breed in 1924.
The ARBA publishes its breed standards in a guide called the Standard of Perfection.
All 4 color varieties were firstly described by the main color of the coat and then its breed name; recognizing the delicate silvering on their fur.
A Chocolate variety of the Silver Marten breed was then developed, known as the ‘Chocolate Silver Marten’.
In 1927 the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) established a working standard for the Black and Chocolate varieties; the Black Silver Marten and the Chocolate Silver Marten.
Shortly afterward the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association (ARBA) then chartered the first Silver Marten Club in the United States.
In 1933 the Slate Blue variety was developed and recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, and a working standard awarded for the Blue Silver Marten.
60 years later, in 1993, the Sable brown color variety was recognized by the ARBA, as the Sable Silver Marten.
Its popularity as a show rabbit
All color varieties of this breed are popular in both agricultural shows and pet shows. The order of popularity is as follows:
1 – The Black Silver Marten – with its dark brown eyes, black soft fur, and dark slate blue underbelly
2 – The Blue Silver Marten – with its bluish-gray eyes, slate blue colored soft fur everywhere with sharp markings
3 – The Chocolate Silver Marten – with its dark brown eyes, rich chocolate brown colored soft fur
4 – The Sable Silver Marten – with its dark brown eyes, medium sepia brown color soft fur, with a dark sepia brown (nearly black) color on the ears, face, feet, lower legs, and tail. The Sables are born silver but darken with age.
The color mutation process
The color mutation is sometimes a naturally occurring process when rabbit breeds mix and form ‘Sports’ offspring, but it can also be adopted to enhance or introduce color into an already-established breed of rabbit.
The color mutation has been used to create colors such as lilac, sepia brown, or silver in breeds like the American Sable, the Chocolate Havana, and the Lilac Rabbit or similar Silver Rabbits.
The Silver Marten breed was used to develop new color varieties in other rabbit breeds, even dwarf rabbits; including the Netherland Dwarf, the Mini Rex, and the Jersey Wooly Rabbit.
The Silver Marten rabbit appearance
It was initially nicknamed that strange little black rabbit, when it first appeared in a Standard Chinchilla litter, as a black sport with silver-white markings of color underneath inherited from the Chinchilla gene.
They were considered oddities at first. This offshoot from the Chinchilla rabbit was simply stunning with a commercial body type and a similarity to the popular Californian rabbit
The Silver Marten rabbit is a medium-size breed of rabbit with small ears that stand vertically on its head and adorable silver coloring around its eye. Its silvering or white ticking comes from a marking pattern. It is not the true silvering you find in similar silver rabbits like the ‘Silver’ or ‘Silver Fox’ rabbit breeds.
Its flyback soft fur has a beautiful polished look with silvering that shimmers in the light.
FACT: Rabbits can be classified into different categories of which one category is Body type.
There are 5 body types for rabbits:
- Commercial – Silver Marten (the smallest of the commercial types), Californian, New Zealand, Palomino, French Lop, Rex, French Angora
- Full Arch – Tan Rabbit, English Spot, Checkered Giant, Belgian Hare,
- Semi-Arch – American, Beveren, Flemish Giant, English Lop, Giant Chinchilla
- Compact – Netherland Dwarf, Havana, Holland Lop, Mini Rex, American Fuzzy Lop, Mini Lop, English Angora, Jersey Wooly
- Cylindrical – Himalayans
What are the main characteristics of a Silver Marten rabbit?
The Silver Marten is a normal breed of rabbit, but compatible for introducing color into a number of other breeds and into the bloodlines of certain dwarf rabbit breeds. It’s hardy but reserved and makes an excellent pet rabbit.
It is an active, playful breed, and enjoys tossing its toys around its hutch for fun.
It has a reputation as a bit of an oddity with its dark-colored fur with silvery highlights but considered one of the most attractive coat- colorings in the rabbit show world.
It’s quite timid and not known to be aggressive; aggression in domestic rabbits can be a sign of an underlying health problem or injury.
It’s a popular fancy breed rabbit in America and became successful as a show rabbit, thanks to the work of the first silver marten club.
Intelligence and trainability:
It’s intelligent and biddable and can be taught to respond to its name.
It’s charming and friendly. They are happiest if they live with a rabbit partner.
It needs socialization and handling experience early if it’s to become a family pet rabbit or a fancier’s show rabbit.
They are now mainly bred as show rabbits but are also good meat rabbits and home-raising rabbits as they good companions, but they are shy.
They suit indoor or outdoor conditions, and are intelligent and need attention so they may not be suitable for seniors or very young children.
They are active and like to hop about and throw things around their hutch in play. They’re most active and alert around daybreak and sunset and if allowed to run loose in the house will follow you around and investigate new things.
Remember to keep all dangerous cables and wires out of rabbit reach, as rabbits naturally like to chew things and dig! They should also be able to run around outside safely in a secure area away from other animals or possible predators. Outdoor fun will provide fresh air and some sunlight with makes for a healthy life.
Physical Characteristics of the Silver Marten rabbit breed
Size: Medium size
Weight: around 6.5-9 lb (3-4kg) for Male and around 6.5-9lb (3-4.1kg) for Female
Life expectancy: 5-8 years
Coat color: The Black variety, Blue variety, Chocolate variety, and the Sable variety, each with the silver underneath its chin, underbelly, feet, tail, and around its eye circles
Coat type: Short, glossy flyback fur
It is not hypoallergenic; there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic rabbit.
Ears: Short and upright on its head
Temperament: The Silver Marten rabbit is a charming and friendly rabbit that likes to play and keep active
Types of training required:
1) Crate – Silver Marten rabbits need a large-sized hutch or cage to live in as they are highly active and need space to hop around. It is important to get this rabbit used to going into its hutch as it will become its nest box 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, sleep and go to the toilet in there.
This rabbit suits indoor or outdoor living with free run-around time.
2) Potty training – This rabbit is quite easy to potty train, if you 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, 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 these nutrient-rich stools, from its litterbox in the morning to help digestion. This is not pleasant to watch but it is perfectly normal.
Any hutch or nest box should be cleaned out at least once a week, with its 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 with a small rabbit.
Health problems and health issues
This medium-sized breed of rabbit is generally healthy and has a life expectancy of 5-8 years; but still needs to be health checked 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.
Spaying or neutering –rabbits should be neutered or spayed early, at 4-6 months, if decided to do so.
It is recommended as un-spayed rabbits have a higher chance of developing some life-threatening reproductive system tumors and cancers it can also make their calmer and curb behavioral issues.
Overgrown 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. Chewing hay will help prevent teeth from over-growing.
Overgrown teeth can grow into their jaws and face, which is both painful and prevents them from eating properly. Overgrown teeth must be filed down by a Vet.
Bladder Problems – Rabbits, unlike most other animals, absorb all the calcium from their diets and get rid of it through their bladders. This build-up of calcium is known as ‘bladder sludge’.
A rabbit’s diet must be balanced to avoid too much calcium-rich food.
Caring for a Silver Marten rabbit – what’s needed?
There are many factors to consider ensuring your Silver Marten rabbit has a healthy life and a good quality lifestyle too.
Rabbits are herbivorous, so, their diet should consist of hay, green leafy vegetables, pellets, and a little fruit, but no meat or dairy!
Feed as a medium-sized rabbit. 70% of a rabbit’s food intake should be from hay, the rest should be good quality formulated quality pellets.
The amount you should feed your rabbit will depend on its weight and activity level.
Do not give your rabbit iceberg lettuce as it has too much Lanandum which can be dangerous to eat or sugary foods!
All rabbits need access to lots of clean water.
A Silver Marten rabbit has short and soft, flyback fur, that’s low maintenance and only needs to be brushed twice a week, and wiped with a cloth in between.
A Rabbit licks its paws to clean its face and ears thoroughly. 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 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, do not bathe a rabbit, it’s too stressful for them. They will self-clean their fur.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Rabbits’ ears control their body temperature so they should be protected from, dirt build-up which could lead to ear infections or even a build-up of wax.
Check their teeth to prevent over-growth, and provide rough food and safe toys to chew and play with. Toenails grow quickly and need trimming regularly A Rabbit’s toenails should not be trimmed past where the white end of the nail meets the pink part!
What’s life like for a Silver Marten rabbit?
Rabbits are now considered the third most popular domestic pet, after cats and dogs.
A Silver Marten rabbit is sociable and lively so will need to be stimulated with some out-of-hutch time.
Play and cuddle time
It’s fun-loving and will like to play with homemade toys like the empty toilet paper cardboard rolls stuffed with hay or paper, a hardwood block, or challenging rabbit-safe toys from a pet store
It’s suited to being both an indoor or outdoor pet rabbit and likes to be handled and stroked.
Although it’s a medium size it needs a large size hutch, to have enough space in its cage to stretch out completely, and hop around in, and not catch its fur on any part of the hutch materials.
The recommended size of a rabbit cage for a Silver Marten adult rabbit is a minimum size of:
- Area – 1 foot per 1 pound of the rabbit’s body weight.
- Width – The width of the cage should be 1.5 times the length of the rabbit
- Length – 3 times the length of the fully grown Silver Marten.
The cage will require proper bedding along the floor of the cage as the rabbit will sleep on it, dig in it, and often eat it. Therefore the bedding must be of good quality and deep enough along the floor of the hutch to keep the rabbit safe and healthy.
The bedding, therefore, needs to be soft, with no sharp pieces, edible and not harmful should the rabbit eat any of it. It should not be made of any material that comes apart easily and may choke the rabbit.
It is not recommended to use cat litter, pine products, or wood shavings for bedding for safety reasons. Hay makes an ideal bedding material as it is also a nutritious food substance for rabbits; especially meadow hay.
Positives and Negatives of owning a Silver Marten rabbit
- A true beauty
- A widely exhibited rabbit at shows
- Short silvery flyback coat that’s easy to maintain
- Makes an excellent pet rabbit for older children
- Likes being handled and stroked, but with care
- Charming and active but not aggressive
- Very intelligent, clean, and easy to potty train
- High exercise demands, playtime, and out-of-cage run time
- Needs to be handled gently
- It likes to romp about
- Not for very young children, or seniors
- Will need sufficient stimulation as it’s intelligent
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does a Silver Marten rabbit cost?
A. Around $30-$50, from a reputable Silver Marten rabbit 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. ARBA can help provide information about finding, adopting, or keeping Silver Marten 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).