Saturday, May 18, 2024

Breed Characteristics of Rabbit

Rabbit is one of the latest domesticated livestock across the world. While in the wild, rabbit is commonly referred to as hare. Rabbit production in Nigeria became popular following its earlier introduction in the Western States of Nigeria by the United States Department of Agriculture and the subsequent creation of awareness for its popularization by the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) in 1988/1989.

Rapid spread of rabbit production arises from its large scale advantages over many other species of livestock. The feeding habit of rabbit confers the ability to utilise forage and concentrate diets efficiently as sources of needed nutrients.

This ability further assists to reduce feed scarcity and cost for rabbit production. While the growth
rate is comparable with chicken in terms of meat production, it costs far much less to feed rabbit than broiler chicks.

Its high reproductive efficiency measured by number of young ones per birth, fertility and short generation interval makes rearing of rabbits a highly attractive and profitable enterprise. The quality of rabbit meat product is nutritious and it is relished in social gatherings and drinking places as “bush meat”.

Rabbit production above all is environment friendly; rabbits are not known for noise making, fierce fighting, attack on the husbandman or poor defecating habit that may result in stench environmental pollution. Thus, new entrants into livestock production often commence building up their skills through backyard rabbit production because of its attractiveness.

Breed Characteristics of Rabbit

There are several breeds and strains of rabbit that have been introduced into Nigeria. The breeds vary in the pattern of coat colours, sizes and productive characteristics. Most common coat colours are of dark, white brown, gray or ox-blood or a combination of two of these colours exhibited in a characteristic pattern for a given breed or strain of rabbit.

However, much greater interest to the producers relates to the productive characters inherent in a breed. In terms of size, there are medium-sized or heavy breeds of rabbits which vary in their relative suitability for home and commercial meat or fur production.

For fast growth, rapid attainment of mature body weight at 4.1-5.5 kg and 5.9-7.3 kg respectively for medium and heavy breeds is more desirable compared to small-sized breeds weighing 1.4-1.8 kg at maturity.

Some medium and heavy breeds of rabbits commonly found are listed in the table below:

BreedWeight atNo. of KittensCoat Colour

Maturity (Kg)Per Doe/Year
Flemish giant5.9-7.336Light grey American
Chinchilla4.1-5.538Fur grey, blue grey, Belly White
New Zealand4.1-5.450White, Red or black
Californian3.6-5.048White, black patches on Nose, ear, feet or tail
Dutch2.5-3.545/48Black, with belted white
English Spot4.1-5.440White black or chocolate spots

chocolate spots Champagne d’argent 4.1-5.4 40 Dark under fur slate white
Champagne d’argent4.1-5.440Dark under fur slate white

The objective of the producer most importantly dictates the choice of breed or direction of selection.

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Breed selection is commonly based on healthcare and vigour which is evidenced by alertness, brightness of eyes, coat colour, smooth and glossy coat, reproduction performance, type and conformation. Light coloured skins are often preferred to dark coat coloured rabbits.

A good age to start production is at weaning or maturity. Selection for breeding and rearing must be decided on the basis of rabbit performance records on the farm. However, such records are hardly available.

Rabbit breeds commonly found in the locality with proven assurance of good health and productivity from the producers nearby may suffice for a beginner.

For example the New Zealand white and American Chinchilla are the most adapted exotic rabbit breeds in Nigeria for instance, and they thrive very well in most ecological zones. Among the local types the light and dark brown are most preferred.

Note that a breed name depends on location or place of origin, coat colours, breeder nomenclature or size.

Rabbits that have white coat colour are preferred and sell faster in than those with dark coat colour. For wool production, the English Angora and French Angora have higher preference. For new starter, rabbits at maturity are easier to manage than newly weaned stock.

However, matured rabbits are more expensive than weaners but they hasten to attain the breeding age of 5 or 6 months. It is important to rely on the health status and records of performance in selecting rabbits for breeding.

The adaptability of a breeding stock may be easily accessed from the breed most populous in the community, this will also guarantee early disposal of stock whenever the producer desires.

Read Also: Poultry Record- Keeping and Performance Evaluation


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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