Netherland Dwarf Rabbit

Oryctolagus cuniculus

Last updated: January 5, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© RATT_ANARACH/Shutterstock.com

The Netherland dwarf rabbit is the smallest domestic rabbit breed in the world.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Lagomorpha
Family
Leporidae
Genus
Oryctolagus
Scientific Name
Oryctolagus cuniculus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Locations

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Locations

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Facts

Name Of Young
kittens, kits
Group Behavior
  • Social
  • Sociable
Fun Fact
The Netherland dwarf rabbit is the smallest domestic rabbit breed in the world.
Gestation Period
31-33 days
Temperament
erratic, friendly
Litter Size
two to four
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Crepuscular
Favorite Food
timothy hay
Origin
Germany

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
  • Orange
  • Silver
  • Chocolate
  • Lilac
  • Chestnut
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type
Hair
Lifespan
8-12 years
Weight
1.1 to 2.5 lbs
Age of Sexual Maturity
three to four months
Venomous
No
Aggression
Medium

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Quick Facts

  • Netherland dwarf rabbits are the smallest domestic rabbit breed.
  • Netherland dwarf rabbits are so small because they possess dwarf genes. Their size makes them a popular rabbit breed to own as a pet.
  • Regardless of their small stature, Netherland dwarf rabbits are one of the most energetic and lively rabbit breeds. They are known for their feistiness and vivaciousness.
  • Netherland dwarf rabbits make great pets for adults. They form strong bonds with their owners and are known to be affectionate.
  • Netherland dwarf rabbits almost went extinct after World War 2. After the war, only 17 dwarfs were left.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Summary

There are many reasons why the Netherland dwarf rabbit is one of the most popular domestic rabbit breeds. Bred specifically for its physical appearance, the Netherland dwarf rabbit’s size is a result of dwarf genes originally discovered in rabbits in the mid-1900s. From its tiny stature to its animated, energetic nature, it is little wonder that this breed has captured the hearts of so many around the world.

Dwarf Rabbit - Bunny
, Netherland dwarf rabbits are one of the most energetic and lively rabbit breeds, known for their feistiness and vivaciousness.

©Preediwat/Shutterstock.com

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Scientific Name

The Netherland dwarf rabbit is just one of 305 registered domestic rabbit breeds which has its origins in the Netherlands. Its scientific name is Oryctolagus cuniculus. The genus name originates from Ancient Greek, with Oryctolagus comprising of two words: oryktos which means “dug up” and lagos meaning “hare.” Cuniculus is a Latin word that means “underground dwelling” or “burrow” alluding to the holes rabbits create for shelter.

The Netherland dwarf rabbit has a dwarf gene which gives it its small stature and its name.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Evolution and History

Netherland dwarf rabbits belong to the order Lagomorpha and family Leporidae which consists mostly of rabbits and hares.

The history of the rabbit family can be traced all the way back to the Eocene Period 54.8 to 33.7 million years ago when the oldest known leporid species were present in North America and Asia. Two leporid fossils have been unearthed from China and India from 48 million and 53 million years ago respectively.

Most members of Leporidae diversified during the late Miocene Epoch from 12 to 16 million years ago in central Asia.

Netherland dwarf rabbits arose as a result of breeding Polish white rabbits called Hermelin with small wild rabbits. These rabbits almost went extinct during World War 2, after which only 17 Netherland dwarf rabbits remained. They were repopulated and now, they are a loved breed in many countries.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Appearance

Netherland dwarf rabbits are one of the smallest rabbit breeds out there. This is due to their dwarf gene. They are also among the most popular breeds.

These dwarf rabbits have large heads that may seem disproportionate to their bodies. They have short legs and wide foreheads. Netherland dwarf rabbits have large eyes that bulge out and a pair of upright ears that are very close to each other. Their faces are short. They don’t weigh much, only about 1.1 to 2.5 pounds. Their ears are usually one to three inches long.

The Netherland dwarf rabbit is considered extra cute because its dwarfism makes it look like a baby rabbit throughout its life.

This breed of rabbit has been bred to come in numerous colors which include chocolate, tan, blue tan, orange, Himalayan, opal, silver, lynx, black, ruby-eyed white, blue-eyed white, marten smoke, black otter, chinchilla, sable point, agouti, red agouti, squirrel, blue point, chocolate point, Siamese sable, blue otter, magpie, and so many more!

Netherland dwarf rabbit
Netherland dwarf rabbits are one of the smallest rabbit breeds out there due to their dwarf gene.

©Jeroen Mikkers/Shutterstock.com

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Behavior

Netherland dwarf rabbits are known for their spunky behavior, and this is one of the major reasons why they are such a popular pet rabbit breed. They have very energetic and lively characters. Their overall temperament is positive. They are known to be affectionate, fun, and downright hilarious.

These dwarf rabbits tend to be shy when they are first introduced into their new household. They are usually afraid of their new surroundings and their new owners, so it would be best to not aggravate them or stress them out by holding them too much or initiating excess contact. They should be allowed their own space and privacy. In time, they will learn that there is nothing to fear, and then they will gradually open up to their new owners.

Netherland dwarf rabbits can be prone to stress and anxiety. Their core behavior varies from rabbit to rabbit, but they can also be quite aggressive, a leftover trait from their breeding origins. Ironically, this personality trait makes them favored because it brings out their charismatic character.

Netherland dwarf rabbits are believed to be smarter than most other rabbits. They are able to be litter-trained due to the fact that they usually defecate in the same spot every time. They will need to be socialized as well, but overall, they are great pets once they get used to you.

Netherland dwarf rabbits are not good pets for small children. Children tend to be rough with their play sessions and the rabbit could bite or scratch them as a result. A bigger rabbit breed would be more conducive for them. Dwarf rabbits are ideal for much older children and adults who know how to handle them without causing them stress.

Just like other rabbit breeds, the Netherland dwarf rabbits are social animals and should be bought in pairs. Keep this in mind when considering these vivacious rabbits as pets because two rabbits means double the cost of upkeep.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Diet

Netherland dwarf rabbits are herbivorous just like other rabbit species. Their diet comprises mostly of hay and grasses. These rabbits will need a lot of timothy hay and fresh, clean water. They also use this hay for their bedding and will poop and urinate on it, so they’ll need a clean supply daily.

In addition to hay, your dwarf rabbit will also eat leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach, other veggies such as carrots, and sometimes fruit like apples. They shouldn’t be fed too much fruit because it contains sugar which could cause obesity. Fruits can be given as treats once in a while. Your Netherland dwarf rabbit can also be fed sparingly with rabbit food pellets.

At A-Z Animals, we recommend Kaytee Timothy Complete Rabbit Food. This food is made from timothy hay and contains essential vitamins and minerals to keep your tiny furry friend happy and healthy!

Check for this rabbit food on Chewy or Amazon.

Overall Best
KAYTEE Timothy Complete Rabbit Food
  • Made from nutritious Timothy hay
  • Taste and texture appeal to most rabbits
  • No artificial additives
  • Added vitamins and minerals
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The amount of food your rabbit needs depends largely on its size and also how active it is. Netherland dwarf rabbits are very energetic rabbits so they will need to be placed on a diet routine that caters to their trait. You should consult your veterinarian on exactly how much your pet fluff should be fed.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Habitat and Population

Netherland dwarf rabbits were engineered as a breed in the Netherlands in the early 1900s. They were a result of decades of selective breeding and are descendants of a Polish rabbit breed bred in Germany called Hermelin. These small white rabbits were bred with a tiny species of wild rabbit to produce the Netherland dwarf rabbits.

The resulting Netherland dwarf rabbits were brought to the United Kingdom in 1948 and subsequently to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The breed was recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association in 1969.

Netherland dwarf rabbits are usually sheltered in a rabbit house called a hutch. These tiny rabbits are also best kept inside the house because of their size. They could easily be snatched up by larger animals as prey.

Netherland Dwarf rabbits in shelter with hay
Netherland dwarf rabbits are usually sheltered in a rabbit house called a hutch.

©QBR/Shutterstock.com

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Reproduction and Lifespan

Netherland dwarf rabbits tend to mature faster than larger rabbit breeds. They can start reproducing as early as three to four months old on average. These rabbits can also keep reproducing up to the age of four years old.

Unlike people, rabbits do not operate on a hormonal cycle for ovulation. Instead, their egg release is triggered by mating. The typical gestation period for Netherland dwarf rabbits is 31 to 33 days. They typically spawn two to four kittens or kits.

There are a number of health problems that could affect your Netherland dwarf rabbit. Some of these health concerns stem from the tiny size of the rabbit.

These rabbits are prone to malocclusion, GI stasis, uterine cancer, respiratory issues, myxomatosis, and ear mites. Regular health checkups are very necessary to make sure your rabbit isn’t suffering from any of these health problems.

Netherland dwarf rabbits have long lifespans, longer than larger rabbit breeds. They live 8 to 12 years on average.

Netherland dwarf rabbit kittens
Netherland dwarf rabbits typically spawn two to four kittens or kits.

©JayOg/Shutterstock.com

Predators and Threats

Netherland dwarf rabbits are domestic rabbits so the chances of them being predated upon are usually zero. They have no natural predators. However, this does not mean that it isn’t possible. If you have other pets in the house, especially cats, dogs, or ferrets, it is very important to socialize these animals so that they can coexist peacefully. This might not be difficult with more trainable and sociable animals like dogs and cats, but if you have reptiles like large lizards, then keeping a pet rabbit might not be such a great idea.

Also, your beloved Netherland dwarf rabbit should be kept indoors to reduce the risk of them being hunted by wild animals like weasels, raccoons, and birds.

In addition to predators, your adorable dwarf rabbit is prone to a number of rabbit diseases such as cancer, respiratory issues, digestive problems, and parasites.

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About the Author

Hi! I am a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Reading is my favorite hobby. Watching old movies and taking short naps are a close second and third. I have been writing since childhood, with a vast collection of handwritten books sealed away in a duffel bag somewhere in my room. I love fiction, especially fantasy and adventure. I recently won the James Currey Prize 2022, so now, naturally, I feel like I own words. When I was 11, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love animals, particularly dogs, cats, and owls. I also enjoy potatoes and chocolate in all their glorious forms.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Netherland dwarf rabbits good with kids?

No, the Netherland dwarf rabbit is not a pet for kids. This is because little children do not know how to handle such small animals properly. They could drop it and break the rabbit’s bones, or they can mishandle it and end up being bitten or scratched by the rabbit. Larger rabbit breeds would suffice for younger kids.

 

 

 

 

 

What do Netherland dwarf rabbits eat?

Netherland dwarf rabbits are herbivores, so they eat plants. They mostly eat timothy hay, other grasses, and veggies such as celery, lettuce, and carrots. They can also be fed rabbit food sometimes.

Are Netherland dwarf rabbits friendly?

Yes, Netherland dwarf rabbits are very affectionate and loving to their owners. They tend to be shy at first, but once they get used to you, they become very friendly. It is important to not over-handle them as this can cause them stress and aggravation.

What is the lifespan of a Netherland dwarf rabbit?

Netherland dwarf rabbits have a long lifespan compared to other larger breeds of rabbit. They live for 8 to 12 years on average.

 

How much does it cost to own a Netherland dwarf rabbit?

Netherland dwarf rabbits typically cost about $30 to $90, making it more expensive than most other rabbit breeds.

 

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. MSD Veterinary Manual, Available here: https://www.msdvetmanual.com/all-other-pets/rabbits/breeding-and-reproduction-of-rabbits
  2. PDSA (1970) https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/rabbits/netherland-dwarf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherland_Dwarf_rabbit

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