What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New Zealand Rabbits? Big white meat rabbit! Nothing surprising about that, as New Zealand rabbits are used in meat production more than any other single breed in the world. They are cute and adorable and make for lovely show animals. Children love New Zealand rabbits, which is why they are kept as pets in some households.
So are New Zealand Rabbits from New Zealand? No, not at all – these rabbits are as American as apple pie. They were developed in California and have a very tenuous link to New Zealand. They are a large breed of rabbits and can weigh from 9 to 12 lbs. They are mostly used for meat and for their fur.
New Zealand Rabbits History
These rabbits were developed to meet the huge demand for meat and fur, during the early 20th century. They became especially popular in the US during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s when hunger was so common in the country.
Following World War 2, the breed made its way to the UK and later, to the rest of Europe. It is now a popular source of animal meat on both sides of the Atlantic. These rabbits are popular as they grow very quickly and breed fast. So they serve as an excellent source of meat.
New Zealand Rabbits Temperament
These rabbits are generally very calm and make for excellent companion animals. They are large in size, but are very cute, docile and easy to handle. They are also incredibly clever, an expert rabbit trainer can make them perform several tricks, such as using a little tray, responding to calls and so on.
But since they are heavy, care should be taken while handling them. The rabbit’s weight must be supported evenly, and it shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable, otherwise it could cause an injury to the handler or to itself, in its desperation to escape.
New Zealand Rabbit Breeds
The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes four New Zealand Rabbit breed based on colours: white, red, black and broken. Broken means a solid colour that is mixed with patches of white. New Zealand White Rabbit was the first breed to be developed and was accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association in 1925. This was followed by the Red and Black breeds, which were accepted in 1926 and 1958 respectively. British New Zealand Rabbits look different from those grown in America. American New Zealand’s have a rounder and deeper body style.
New Zealand White Rabbit
New Zealand White Rabbit is the most popular breed of rabbits that are used for meat production. In fact, 90% of the rabbits raised for the purpose of meat belong to this breed. It was first developed by W.S. Preshaw in 1916 for fur trade and meat production.
These rabbits have a rounded body and a small bone structure, which means most of their weight comprises of meat – which is why they are so popular with farmers around the world. They have pink eyes and a charming disposition. The adult female is bigger and heavier than the male and weighs between 9 to 12 lbs, while the male weighs between 8 to 10 lbs.
The only issue with New Zealand white rabbits is that they produce a lot of litter, up to 8 to 10 pounds of it. Still, since they have such great qualities, these rabbits are used as foundation stock and many hybrids have been developed from them. They breed fast, remain healthy and are very productive.
If you are raising rabbits for your own family meat production, you cannot go wrong with New Zealand rabbits. They provide healthy, lean meat and are excellent companion animals for kids. And no, they have nothing whatsoever to do with New Zealand!