- Californian rabbit size: Large
- Weight: BRC accepts 7.5-9.5 pounds (3.4 -4.3kgs) while ARBA accepts not more than 10.5 lb. (4.8kg)
- Country of origin: USA
- Similar breeds: Himalayan and New Zealand rabbits
- Lifespan: 5 – 10 years
- Body type: Commercial
- Purpose: Meat, pelt, show, and pets
- Best suited for: Families with older kids, singles, seniors, experienced as well as beginners.
History and origin
The Californian rabbit (California White) was developed by George S. West of Lynnwood, California in 1923 by crossing Himalayan and a Standard Chinchilla rabbit.
The resulting progenies were then crossed with purebred New Zealand Whites (with recessive Angora genes – no Angora genes) to make them larger and fleshy.
He intended to create a multipurpose bunny suitable for meat (i.e., with a muscle to compete well in the meat pen class) and fur (silky, soft-furred coat) industries. The Standard Chinchilla contributed the dense coat and the Himalayan gave this domestic rabbit breed its unique markings.
The rabbit was first shown in 1928, and in 1939, ARBA accepted it where only the standard, original white color with dark points were recognized. Later the British Rabbit Council (BRC) recognized the standard or normal as well as those with blue, lilac and chocolate markings.
To help promote the Californian bunny and make it popular in shows, A. O. Kelly Jr. of University City, Missouri started the Californian Specialty Club.
Today, the Californian bunny is one of the most popular breeds around the world. It is also considered as a fancy breed due to its coat which often wins ‘best in show’ awards.
Appearance, size, and color
The Californian rabbit is a medium to large rabbit breed weighing approximately 7.5-10.5 pounds with a well-rounded, firm and muscled medium length body. The width and depth of the body are almost equal.
Its body should have “good depth of hindquarters and well-developed shoulders, with the shoulders being slightly lower and narrower than the hips, forming a slight taper” (source: Twobucksandadoe.com), i.e., the hindquarters must be well rounded, broad, deep, and smooth with filled backsides.
Looking at its top line, it should rise gradually from its neck, reach its highest point above its hips, before sloping down to its tail.
The Californian bunny has an averagely full nicely shaped head with a short neck, large erect ears comparable to those of the Flemish Giants and a strikingly pink colored eyes.
Californian rabbit colors
The standard Californian rabbit recognized by ARBA has a white coat with very dark brown or almost black markings on its ears, nose, tail, and feet resembling those of their Ancestor, the Himalayans.
It has leg markings that go upwards towards its limbs while the markings on its nose cover below its jaw and above the nose, towards its eyes. The markings on the ears are uniform from the tip to base, and its nails are dark-colored.
In very cold climates, it is possible for the bunny to have smut (discoloration) on any other part of the body. However, this smut will go away after molting as the new fur will not have it.
As mentioned earlier, the BRC recognized three other color markings, i.e., blue, lilac and chocolate markings.
The coat should be rough because of the guard hairs with a fine, soft and dense underfur interspersed thickly with these coarse guard hairs. If stroked from its tail to head, the coat should fly back – it should have a flyback coat.
To groom them, brush their fur with a slicker brush once a week and more times if it is molting to avoid hairs on your clothes, furniture or carpet. Also, clip their nails. However, do not bathe your bunnies if they get dirty, as this stresses them unless it is very necessary. In such a case, get a safe shampoo such as Kaytee Quick & Clean Critter Dry Shampoo. Otherwise, spot-clean them with a moist towel.
These bunnies thrive well in warmer climates, and they can be indoor rabbits or in a well-sheltered outdoor cage or heated areas during winter. Go for the right size of enclosures that can allow them to stand upright, stretch, turn and hop freely and have a sleeping or a quiet hideout place.
Go for cages with solid bases, remove any droppings and clean the cage thoroughly at the end of the week, replacing your bunny’s bedding.
Outdoor cages should be under shade, weatherproofed, preferably on an area with free air circulation.
If they are left to roam inside your house, ensure you rabbit-proof it to avoid them chewing your valuables such as cables, shoes, furniture, etc., or something that may be harmful to them.
To keep them healthy, provide them with high-quality hay, pellets, leafy greens and occasional treats of vegetables and fruits. Limit the vegetables and fruits amount and ensure they are safe for rabbits. Also, provide them with unlimited fresh drinking water.
On average, an adult bunny should be given a quarter a cup of high-quality pellets per every 5 lbs. of its weight. Buy brands such as Oxbow Animal Health Bunny Basics Essentials Adult Rabbit Pet Food or Small Pet Select Rabbit Food Pellets.
To help blossom their personality, ensure you give them plenty of playtime outside their cages, especially in a fenced area in your backyard. Spending time together will help you grow a stronger bond with them. Include small dog toys and cat toys especially the noisy ones or buy rabbit toys including logic or puzzle, chew toys, and so on.
Check for sore hocks in case your cage has a wired bottom, obesity (as rabbit meats, they can be vulnerable to obesity), wool blocks (as they self-groom, there is a chance of swallowing and accumulating wool in their digestive system), flystrike if they get soiled especially their bottoms, ticks, overgrown teeth, fleas, worms, and other rabbit parasites.
If required by your state, ensure they get myxomatosis and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease vaccines. In case of any signs of sickness in your bunny such as loss of appetite, not pooping, fever, lethargy, drooling, hair loss, discharges from eyes and nose, etc., inform your veterinarian.
Temperament and behavior
The California rabbit temperament can be described as docile, calm, well-natured, even-tempered, and friendly. They enjoy human company if well socialized and handled. These traits make it an ideal pet.
These bunnies can be timid, sensitive, skittish and show fear if not handled well. If made uncomfortable, like any other prey animal, it can struggle and injure itself or the handler.
If done patiently, rabbits are trainable to use litter boxes. However, this may take some time.
Finally, it is recommended you keep them in pairs or trios because they do not like being alone.
Breeding Californian rabbits
If you intend to breed them, you deserve to know that they produce large litters of approximately 8 to 12 kits that grow very fast, reaching fryer weight in 8 – 12 weeks.
Since the Californian and their slightly larger counterpart the New Zealands are most commonly used for meat, some breeders often cross them to get a hybrid (Californian doe and New Zealand buck) or use Altex rabbits to get terminal offspring sold off for meat.
Studies reveal that after the crossbreeding, you will get larger litter and use the same amount of feeds until they reach the fryer size.
If you intend to crossbreed them this way, ensure you do it with only a purebred New Zealand white rabbit. Besides breeding ages, all other details are the same as breeding any other type of a rabbit.
Californian rabbits for sale and price
If you would wish to have these bunnies, be it as pets, for shows, meat or pelt, they are relatively easy to find owing to their higher popularity. Check at your local rabbitries, rescue centers or some ARBA approved Californian rabbit breeders.
The cost of buying one California rabbit will range from $ 20 to $100 depending on an array of factors. Generally, show quality, pedigreed and purebred will be expensive.
A quick online search will give you many locations near you where you can buy these bunnies. Also try the Californian rabbit specialty club, Inc. for more details.