Raising Rabbits as Pets

Pet rabbits have a way of stealing hearts and minds, turning their owners into enthusiastic and dedicated fanciers.

| 2012 Guide to Backyard Rabbits

Whether your rabbit fancy is for whoppers like the gentle Flemish Giants, the gorgeous and easy-going Angoras, or the soft and cuddly Mini Rex, you’ll find plenty of these critters for sale at reasonable prices, all across the country. And if you decide to go a-rabbiting, keeping as few as two or three bunnies lets you tap some of the “green” contributions these versatile little animals can make to your homestead.

Domestic rabbits have been contributing companionship, food, fur and other products to their American keepers — urban and rural — since about 1900, when they were first imported from Europe. Today, they’re raised as pets; for meat, pelts and wool; and for medical research.

Whatever their purposes, all rabbits produce a high-powered, relatively weed-seed-free manure that can be used to enrich garden plots and raise earthworms, which also do their part to improve garden soil.

If you’re looking for yet another use for rabbits that doesn’t involve harvesting them for meat or pelts, some breeds produce a luxurious wool that can be sheered from their coats, spun and woven into an exotic yarn.

Raising rabbits as pets

From childhood, many of us have known bunnies primarily for their sterling qualities as pets — cuddly, quiet and inquisitive. Glen Carr, past executive secretary of the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), says his association recognizes 47 distinct breeds. The most popular for pet purposes, he says, are the Dutch, Netherland Dwarf, Mini Rex, Jersey Wooly (an Angora) and Mini Lop; of those, the Mini Rex holds the top spot.

Gretchen Shoup of Radical Rex Rabbitry in Custer, Michigan, says she thinks of her Mini Rex as “velveteen” rabbits. “Their fur feels just like velvet fabric,” she says. “The guard hairs keep the fur upright, which creates a very dense, springy, soft, slinky feeling when the fur is compressed.”

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