Dwarf rabbits are most suited to being kept as pets. A particularly popular dwarf breed is the lionhead rabbit, which we will introduce you to here.
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The lionhead rabbit sports a lush mane like a lion.
Lionhead rabbits are classed as dwarf rabbits, meaning that they weigh an average of 1.5kg. This name of this rabbit breed refers to the long fur around its head and throat, which lends it a lion's mane. Hence, some rabbit lovers also call them rabbits with a lion's mane. Otherwise, they have short fur and resemble widely spread Netherland Dwarf rabbits.
Lionhead rabbits are found in all typical rabbit colours from white to black, including checked patterns. Since lionhead rabbits are quite a young breed, their appearance can be very different – apart from the mane-like collar. Short prick ears are typical, although there are now also lionhead males with lop ears.
Gregarious and sociable
With their large, round eyes and soft, tousled fur, lionhead rabbits soon feature high on the wishlist of many children. However, they are primarily animals to observe. It is especially fun to keep several lionhead rabbits and watch their sociable behaviour.
When it comes to people, although there are a few affectionate lionheads that enjoy cuddling on the sofa with their owner, patience is required for this. Well-socialised lionhead rabbits are trusting and easy to tame. They have a curious character but need opportunities to retreat.
They are suitable for children from eight years of age. Nevertheless, the main responsibility is with the parents, who should also enjoy and be interested in dealing with rabbits.
Keeping lionhead rabbits
Keeping rabbits requires plenty of space so that they can hop around to their heart's content.
Twos or threes instead of alone
Like all rabbits, lionheads are also pack animals, therefore you should keep at least two of these fluffy friends. You can keep lionheads together with other rabbit breeds, such as Holland Lops. Mixed-sex pairs get on particularly well with one another. Get the males castrated in order to avoid unwanted offspring. There is often friction between two females. In contrast, a male exerts a harmonious influence as the third in the group.
Lionheads and guinea pigs
Guinea pigs don't make good social partners. Although both small pet species have similar housing requirements, similar dietary preferences and are sociable, communication between them isn't fruitful: they have nothing to say to one another. Caution is best advised when socialising lionheads with cats or dogs. Cats and dogs can sometimes make good friends, but stay on the safe side and never leave hunters and potential prey unsupervised.
If you own a lionhead, you should get it used to being brushed from an early age, because brushing its mane once a week prevents matting. As with all dwarf rabbits, long claws need to be trimmed in order to prevent painful injuries. Find out about general grooming for dwarf rabbits.
Dwarf rabbits in a cage or outdoor enclosure?
It's possible to keep them both in your home and in an outdoor enclosure. What's crucial is having enough space, as anyone who chooses a lionhead should offer it enough free space to hop around and explore. These rabbits can live both inside your home as well as outdoors. The cage should meet the basic dimensions of 150 x 60cm and 50cm in height. The bigger the better.
Daily exercise is important in order to wear out these animals. A good alternative to typical cage housing is a cage as a retreat in a rabbit-proof room or outdoor enclosure. This allows the rabbit to decide for itself when it will commence its tour of discovery. Otherwise, they should be able to hop around freely for at least 30, ideally 60 minutes per day.
Along with bowls and a hay rack, a little wooden house also forms part of their equipment. Little lions can retreat there, rest and feel safe. Dwarf rabbits love digging, so secure outdoor enclosures properly. A digging box is also a safe option for them to put their digging instinct into practice.
Lionhead rabbits in summer and winter
As cute as they may look, these fluffy animals are robust and feel at ease outdoors even in winter. It's necessary for them to be able to slowly adapt to this, i.e. by spending the entire autumn outdoors. A thick winter coat then forms, allowing rabbits to brave subzero temperatures with no problem.
If you keep lionheads indoors in winter, make sure that they don't get too close to the heating. Dry air can be just as damaging as draughts.
You should make sure that your rabbit doesn't get too hot in summer, because they can soon overheat.
For lionesque hunger
Be it a Holland Lop, Rex or lionhead rabbit, they all need plenty of greens in their bowl, because rabbits primarily feed off grass and herbs in the wild. So if you have a herb area in your garden at home, you can let your rabbit graze. Hay, herbs and greens like dandelions or parsley make up the lion's share of the diet.
Fresh vegetables and occasionally some fruit are also suitable options to liven up the menu. Individual sunflower seeds – around four seeds per kilogram of body weight per week – provide rabbits with valuable omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hay and grass should also be available to these lionheads.
Health of rabbits with a lion's mane
Like all rabbits, sick lionheads tend to hide their condition, because they would be easy prey in the wild. Hence, it is important to closely observe rabbits. You should see a vet if they have extreme diarrhoea or show changes in their behaviour.
Teeth problems are amongst the most common ailments these pets suffer from. This can result from malpositioned teeth. Your vet will advise you regarding the right food for lionheads with teeth problems.
You should regularly get your dwarf rabbit vaccinated against myxomatosis and RHD – short for rabbit haemorrhagic disease. If well cared for, a lionhead rabbit has a life expectancy of ten years or more.
Where can I buy a lionhead rabbit?
There are several options for buying a lionhead.
Buying from a pet shop
Some pet shops carry live animals and also offer rabbits. Some animal lovers criticise the conditions in which small pets are kept in pet shops and refuse to buy there.
Lionhead rabbits from a breeder
There are numerous dwarf rabbit breeders – including many hobby breeders, for whom rabbits act as a welcome source of income. It isn't difficult to breed rabbits en masse. If you buy from a breeder, you should go to see the rabbits in their home to form an impression of how they are kept.
Lionheads from a private seller
There are always small ads or notice boards in supermarkets with appeals from people looking to give their rabbits away. Often their children have lost interest, allergies have emerged or the rabbits require more attention than expected. However, we ask that you always view such ads (especially on various portals) with a critical eye. You don't want to end up with someone wanting to make a quick buck from cute rabbits without behaving responsibly towards the animals!
Lionhead rabbits from an animal shelter
There are many dwarf rabbits in animal shelters waiting for new homes. Lionhead rabbits from animal shelters will have undergone a health check. Organisations rehome several animals or help you to find a suitable partner for the rabbit you already have. Along with animal shelters, rabbit lovers who have set up a rabbit welfare association are a good port of call such as the Rabbit Welfare Association.
History of lionhead rabbits
Lionheads are a new breed that emerged during the 1980s, presumably from pairing Netherland Dwarf rabbits with long-haired Swiss Fox rabbits.
Lionhead rabbits – clever dwarves
There is no question that lionhead rabbits are popular pets with young and old for good reason. However, animal lovers shouldn't be tempted into a spontaneous purchase by their cute appearance.
Lionhead rabbits can only be kept in a species-appropriate manner with good planning. If you give them enough space, you will enjoy observing the social life of these gregarious animals.