Longhaired rabbit breeds and how to care for them
Longhaired rabbit breeds require dedicated and specific care in order to remain happy and healthy - we show you how!
There are several recognized longhaired rabbit breeds, as well as many crossbreeds. The length of the fur, or wool as it is often referred to, will vary between the breeds, but regardless of which kind of longhaired rabbit you have, you’ll want to invest in one of the best rabbit brushes to keep their mane looking marvellous.
Unlike their shorter-haired friends, longhaired rabbits require a lot more care and attention when it comes to grooming. We recommend you check out our guide to rabbit grooming which has lots of helpful information to help you learn how to groom your bunny correctly. You’ll also find some additional information specific to longhaired rabbits in this piece, which will help prevent matted fur from becoming an issue.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common longhaired rabbit breeds before we dive into the specifics of grooming as well as health and welfare concerns that are worth being aware of.
Common longhaired rabbit breeds
- Angora: These rabbits have fur that is at least 60mm long, and in some cases longer. Their ears stand upright and are around 4-5 inches in length, with fur tassels on the end. They come in a variety of colors and weigh 3-4kg when fully grown. As well as the English Angora, there is also the French Angora whose fur is slightly harsher than the English version.
- Cashmere Lop: The Cashmere Lop rabbit is a medium-sized rabbit with long fur and lop ears. There is also a Miniature Cashmere Lop. The breed comes in many different colours and weighs 1.8-2.3kg when fully grown.
- American Fuzzy Lop: This breed is recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). Their fur is similar to that of the Angora, although shorter in length. They weigh up to 1.8kg when fully grown and have lop ears.
- Lionhead: Lionhead rabbits are relatively small, and weigh approximately 1.4kg when fully grown. Their ears stand upright and they come in a variety of colors. Single mane Lionheads have long fur around their head and neck, whereas the mane on a double mane Lionhead rabbit covers more of the head, and they have wool on the flank of their hind legs. Single mane Lionheads can lose their mane as they mature.
- Swiss Fox: Adult Swiss Fox rabbits weigh 2.5-4kg when fully grown. Their fur grows to 50-70mm, except on the head, belly and legs where it is shorter. They come in a variety of colors.
Like all rabbits, longhaired rabbits need a suitable companion (both rabbits should be neutered), a large and interesting enclosure providing physical and mental stimulation, a diet consisting of at least 85% hay/grass, and regular veterinary checks, including vaccination.
How to groom longhaired rabbits
Grooming of longhaired rabbits needs to be carried out daily to prevent matts from forming.
Use combs and soft brushes as opposed to brushes with metal teeth as these will scratch and damage the rabbit’s skin. ZoomGroom (opens in new tab) brushes are good for grooming rabbits. Follow these steps:
- Place the rabbit on a non-slip rubber mat or towel, preferably on the floor so they cannot jump and injure themselves
- Ideally, have someone to help gently restrain the rabbit for you
- Start with the head and work backwards towards the tail
- Part the fur and with a comb, grooming from the skin to the end of the fur, covering around 1 inch at a time
- Repeat until the whole of the top of the rabbit has been covered
- Carefully lift their front legs off the ground and with a brush or ZoomGroom, brush over the rabbit’s tummy and neck area
- If the fur on the rabbits legs is long, groom with a comb.
Never turn a rabbit on their back to groom them. This places them in a trance, which is a stressful and fearful state for rabbits.
Should I clip or bathe my longhaired rabbit?
It is recommended that only experienced individuals clip rabbit fur. Rabbit skin is fragile and will tear or cut easily, causing pain and risking infection. Never use scissors. Ideally, longhaired rabbit fur should be kept short for health and welfare reasons. Contact your vet, or a local groomer who has experience with rabbits.
Longhaired rabbits, and indeed all rabbits, should never be bathed. Rabbits find being placed in water stressful and such situations can cause the rabbit to panic, leading to skeletal fractures as they attempt to escape, or sudden, fatal heart attacks. Rabbit fur holds moisture, so can take several hours or even days to dry properly, meaning the rabbit remains damp during this time.
Health and welfare concerns
Longhaired rabbits pose some very serious health and welfare concerns. If their fur is not kept knot free, it will matt causing pulling and skin tears. Added to this, Angora rabbits especially, have thick, dense coats and cannot cope with warm weather if not clipped. They can suffer easily from heat stroke, which can be fatal. Matted coats can quickly become contaminated with urine and faeces, attracting flies and leading to flystrike, which is often rapidly fatal.
Grooming must to be carried out daily all year round, with clipping as and when necessary. Many longhaired rabbits will find this process stressful, even if it is introduced at a young age, and if the fur matts into a solid, large matt, the rabbit may need to be sedated by a veterinary surgeon so it can all be clipped off safely.
The ingestion of longer fur can also be a contributing factor in the development of fur balls. Rabbits cannot vomit – once they consume something, it only has one way of coming out! If rabbits consume large amounts of fur, as many longhaired rabbits do during their normal grooming or grooming a companion, this may cause a blockage within their digestive system, which can be fatal.
The housing of longhaired rabbits needs to be considered. Wood shavings will quickly become entangled in their fur, so if outside, they will need to be bedded on hay. Mesh floor housing should never be used. It is extremely uncomfortable and will cause sores to develop on their feet.
Owning longhaired rabbits is not a decision that should be taken lightly. You must ensure you can care for them correctly for their entire life and you will need to be able to dedicate time to daily grooming, plus pay for clipping when needed.
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Claire currently works in Kettering as a Head Nurse in a practice with a high rabbit caseload, as well as frequently lecturing and writing on rabbits to both veterinary professionals and owners.