Originally known as the ‘German Blue Vienna’ Rabbit, the American rabbit breed was developed for both fur and meat production. It is well known for being docile and mild tempered so they also make excellent pets. They are generally good mothers and are popular as a show breed. This is a larger sized rabbit and is an excellent all-rounder.
This breed of rabbit was developed in 1917 by Lewis Salisbury of Pasadena, California. It has been suggested that this was actually the first domestic rabbit breed developed in the United States of America. It was originally called a “German Blue Vienna” and although the precise parentage is not known, the body shape suggests Flemish Giant, Beveren, Imperial and blue Vienna ancestry. The rabbit was renamed to “American Rabbit” after World War I. This is an actual regulated breed and not the general mixed breeds that those without a background in rabbit breeding refer to as American Rabbits.The white variety was recognized in 1925. The popularity of these rabbits declined after World War II when rabbit breeders starting investing in faster growing rabbits and show breeders were looking for the smaller, cuter rabbits or those with unusual markings. This led to the breed becoming fairly rare in the US. Fortunately, the breed is starting to pick up again and breeders all over the world are showing interest in these rabbits removing the threat of extinction.
The American Rabbit has a mandolin or semi-arched body type. This means that the top line of the body flattens and curves upwards near the midsection. The head is narrow and well-shaped with proportionate length ears which taper to a point. They have a rounded shape and a long loin. They can weigh around 4kg to 5kg fully grown. They are seen as a medium to large rabbit.
They have a very attractive coat. It is dense, fine, soft and silky. It is quite short and moves back into place when stroked forwards (fly-back fur). The fur is a good, deep colour and free of moult and is one even colour. These rabbits should be groomed regularly to keep the fur neat and clean. They should never be bathed. If they are given access to bathing dust, they will usually take care of their own bathing. When they are moulting, make sure grooming is kept at the same level. Light shedding needs minimum brushing while heavy shedding will need more grooming during that period of time. The white variety has pure white fur and the eyes are usually an amber colour. The blue variety is a dark grey coloured rabbit.
They are quite docile rabbits and can become quite lazy. Females can be spayed around the age of 4months to 6 months to prevent litters. Bucks can be neutered at around 3.5 to 4 months of age. The American rabbit is not particularly susceptible to any particular health issue, but care must be taken to prevent infection and common health issues experienced with any rabbits. This includes overgrown teeth, hairballs, snuffles, calicivirus, uterine tumours and myxomatosis. Overgrown teeth can be prevented by feeding high-fibre hay along with their normal diet to wear the teeth naturally. If teeth are growing faster than they should, add straw mats, straw baskets or pet safe wood to the enclosure for them to chew on.
These are docile, calm rabbits that seem to be relatively unafraid and laid back around humans as long as they have been brought up around people. They can be skittish if they have not had much interaction with people and generally do not enjoy being handled by smaller hands if they were not raised as pet rabbits. They don’t generally bite but can nip defensively if scared. Environment is quite important if you are looking to have these rabbits as pets.
These rabbits are perfect for commercial breeding as they offer meat and fur. They are medium to large and are good for backyard breeding due to their docile, laid-back nature. If they are raised in the right environment, with human interaction as kits, they can also be amazing pets. They are good mothers and raise large litters and reach marketable weight quite quickly. They can live for 5 to 10 years if they are well cared for.