What do you call the most elegant of the fancy rabbit breeds? The ‘Aristocrat of Fancy’ or the ‘Tan Rabbit’
This rabbit breed is sometimes referred to as:
- The Black and Tan Rabbit,
- The Chocolate Tan,
- The Lilac Tan,
- The Dutch Tan,
- The Aristocrat Tan
- or the Black Rabbit with the Yellow Belly
The Tan Rabbit is a very beautiful, small, and energetic breed of rabbit. It’s a fancy breed, show rabbit that originated in England, UK, in the late 1800s.
A Tan rabbit is lean with a sleek full-arch body type and has a lively personality. It was originally bred as a small fancy breed rabbit; it quickly became a popular show rabbit with its elegant pose, super glossy flyback coat, and large ears that stand erect on its head.
Baby Tan Rabbits are generally friendly and can adapt as a pet rabbit but as they are very active they won’t suit everyone.
A brief history of the Tan 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 original Tan Rabbit’s discovery was a beautiful surprise for the breeder. It was first discovered when a colony of Wild European Rabbits living in a warren, bred with common domestic rabbits, Dutch Rabbits that were released into the warren.
The resulting mixed offspring, ‘sports’, had a beautiful jet black colored glossy coat mixed with attractive tan markings.
The Tan Rabbit breed was developed in the English County of Derbyshire, in the United Kingdom, around 1887, and quickly became popular with other rabbit breeders. The breeding challenge was how to mix a wild rabbit with a domestic rabbit and achieve consistency of form, color, and the behavior of a domestic rabbit.
This Tan Rabbit inherited its lean, full-arch body type, and skittish behavior from the European wild rabbit parent, and initially a more cobby build from the compact type Dutch rabbit parent; it had a more robust body type than the slender version of the breed today.
It was initially called the Black and Tan breed of rabbit, after its unique coloration, and was instantly popular with rabbit breeders. Further selective breeding addressed the color, type, and the timid nature of this early Tan Rabbit.
A Belgian Hare was introduced into the breeding program that followed, and this enhanced the tan color and gave the Tan rabbit a more hare-like shape. With a further blend of the genetics from the Gray and Brown Silver rabbit breed, the Tan breed as we know it today was fixed.
The development of the color varieties of the Tan Rabbit breed
Rabbit breeders also worked hard to help refine the tan markings, and the popularity of the Tan breed grew.
- 1887 – The Black color rabbit with Tan markings arrived
- 1900 – The Blue Tan version appeared, believed to have been developed by mixing a booty fawn doe with a black Tan buck
- 1908 – the Tan Rabbit was imported into the United States where it quickly became popular
- 1920 – The Chocolate Tans appeared, possibly from either adding the genetics of a Havana Chocolate Rabbit (with the lovely rich chocolate coloration of a fine Havana Cigar), or it could have simply have been a naturally occurring gene mutation within the breeding stock rabbits used.
- 1920s – Chocolate Tan Rabbits were being produced in Belgium as well as in England
- 1927 – The Lilac Tans were easily created, as the chocolate gene was present. (all it took was a gene dilution of the chocolate coloration to make Lilac)
What happened next?
Achieving recognition for the Tan rabbit breed from The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA); initially known as the National Pet Stock Association The Tan rabbit was first introduced as a new breed of rabbit in the United States in 1908 and became noticed among the rabbit breeders community.
The Tan Rabbit was one of the first breeds of rabbit to be recognized and awarded new breed status by the National Pet Stock Association, NPSA; the NPSA later became the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). The ARBA publishes its breed standards in a guide called the Standard of Perfection.
The Tan Rabbit, a breed of fancy, quickly became a popular show rabbit and a regular competitor and exhibitor, and winner, at the ARBA conventions and a variety of other National and Local rabbit shows across America. In 2003, a Tan Rabbit (Black and Tan color) won the prize for best in show at the 80th ARBA convention in Wichita, Kansas.
Other rabbit clubs:
- UK – In 1891, The UK Tan Club that became the National Tan Rabbit Club was established.
- USA – In 1936, the first Tan Rabbit specialty club formed in the United States, but it dwindled over the years until it was replaced by the American Tan Rabbit Speciality Club (ATRSC)
The American Tan Rabbit Speciality Club (ATRSC), is now the main specialty club providing representing the interests of the Tan rabbit breed in the United States and provides breed information, rabbit husbandry advice, and breeders details.
However, the Tan rabbit breed must conform to strict ARBA standards to be able to participate in inspecific rabbit shows.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) allows for the Tan rabbit, a small rabbit breed to be shown in 4 colors varieties:
- and Lilac
The Tan Rabbit: What does it look like?
It’s called the Aristocrat of the Fancy as it has a stunning appearance and graceful poise, with a lean and well-balanced body. The Tan is a small breed of rabbit with a compact full- arch body shape with large erect ears standing tall on its head. In fact, the Tan Rabbit looks more like a hare than a rabbit, inheriting this characteristic from its Belgian Hare genes.
It has the classic coloring of a Doberman Pinscher dog. A sleek and shiny flyback fur and an elegance that is breath-taking.
FACT: Rabbits can be classified into different categories of which one category is Body type. There are 5 body types:
- Commercial – Californians, New Zealand, Palomino, French Lop, Rex, French Angora
- Full Arch – The 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
The Tan Rabbit has a full arch body type profile; from the nape of its neck, over its midsection down to its tail. It has large upright ears and short, medium-fine, springy flyback fur.
Its body can be one of four colors – Black, Blue, Chocolate or Lilac, with an unbroken solid color of rich tan from its chin, under its midsection through to its tail, and in its ears and around its eyes.
What are the main characteristics of a Tan rabbit?
The Tan is a normal breed of rabbit. It is alert, super active, sometimes highly-strung but can be friendly and playful.
It has a reputation as the Aristocrat of the Fancy rabbits One of the most widely exhibited rabbits at shows in the United States and a prize winner at the show table, and now popular as a pet rabbit, for those households that can cope with a very energetic bunny.
It’s affectionate and playful ranging from being a curious explorer to a busy hopper. This rabbit breed is not known to be aggressive; aggression in a domestic rabbit can be a sign of an underlying health problem or injury.
They became a popular fancy breed rabbit in America for their beautiful sheen and unusual coloration of fur. The Tan Rabbit breed earned itself the title of the ‘Aristocrat of Fancy’ as a regular rabbit show prize winner.
Intelligence and trainability:
It’s very intelligent and biddable. It can be taught to come for food when called.
It’s alert and sociable.
It needs socialization and handling experience early if it’s to become a family pet rabbit or a fancier’s show rabbit; as it will need to be handled at rabbit show tables with little fuss, to make it stand up. It’s also allowed to run around the show table to be judged.
They are now mainly bred as show rabbits or as home-raising rabbits and make good companions. They suit indoor or outdoor conditions and any climate. They’re intelligent but highly active and need attention so they may not be suitable for Seniors or very young children.
Generally friendly and affectionate, but the Tan Does can become aggressive in season. They are 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 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 Tan rabbit breed
Size: Small size Small size
Weight: around 4-5.5lb (1.8-2.5kg) for a Male and around 6lb (2.7kg) for Female
Life expectancy: 8-10 years 8-10 years
Coat color: Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, all with tan under markings (sometimes a rich Rufus red coloration)
Coat type: A short, glossy flyback fur coat
It is not hypoallergenic; there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic rabbit.
Ears: Long and erect ears
Temperament: The Tan rabbit is very energetic and active and likes to play
Types of training required:
1) Crate –Tan 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 your 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. Then 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 breed of rabbit is generally healthy with a life expectancy of 8-10 years but small litters of around 4 kits. Check regularly for signs of:
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 Tan Rabbit – what’s needed?
There are many factors to consider ensuring your Tan Rabbit has a healthy life and a good quality lifestyle too.
Rabbits are herbivorous, so, their diet should consist of hay, vegetables, pellets, and a little fruit, but no meat or dairy! Feed as a small-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 energy level; add some leafy green vegetables into the diet too, to ensure the rabbit has a healthy and nutritious diet. Do not give your rabbit iceberg lettuce as it has too much Lanandum which can be dangerous to eat or sugary foods!
Rabbits need access to lots of clean water.
Check out our guide on what rabbits can and can’t eat.
A Tan rabbit has a short, flyback sleek coat, that’s low maintenance and only needs to be brushed once 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.
FACT: When a rabbit rubs its face and whiskers for you to see it means it feels at home.
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 and 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 Tan rabbit?
Rabbits are now considered the third most popular domestic pet, after cats and dogs.
A Tan rabbit is sociable and energetic so will need to be stimulated with some out-of-hutch time.
Play and cuddle time
It’s curious 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 small 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 Tan 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 Tan.
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 Tan Rabbit
- A truly elegant beauty
- A widely exhibited rabbit at shows
- Short sleek and smooth flyback coat that’s easy to maintain
- Very popular as a fancy rabbit show breed
- Makes a good pet rabbit for a hands-on rabbit owner
- Likes being handled and stroked, but with care
- Sweet-natured and loving, not aggressive
- Very intelligent, clean, and easy to potty train
- High exercise demands and out-of-cage time
- Needs to be handled gently
- Too active for very young children, or seniors
- Will need sufficient stimulation as it’s intelligent
- Needs lots of different activity
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does a Tan Rabbit cost?
A. Around $50-100, from a reputable Tan 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, or rabbit clubs can provide breed information about finding, adopting, or keeping Tan Rabbits.
Food and litter material cost around $20-25 per month, plus Vets fees, vaccinations, and accessories need to be factored into the cost of owning your rabbit. Then include accessories, toys, vets bills, and care products.