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New Zealand Rabbits

New Zealands are a breed of rabbit, who despite their name, are American Made. They were developed in the early 1900’s, from many different breeds such as Angoras, Belgian Hares and Flemish Giants

They are currently recognized by ARBA in three colors, White, Red, Black. There is also a variety of New Zealands called ‘Broken’. The term ‘Broken’ doesn’t mean the rabbit is broken, it refers to a spotted rabbit who is a combination of white, and any other color.

New Zealands are a medium breed of rabbit and weigh 9-12lbs when full grown. They are primarily raised for meat and laboratory uses, but are also fun to show, and can be good pets too.

I’d like to soapbox for just a moment here. As I stated a moment ago, New Zealands are a medium breed of rabbit. You have no idea how many people come up to me at events and tell me they are the biggest rabbits they have ever seen. This doesn’t surprise me, since most of the demographic we serve are people who would be familiar with the various dwarf breeds, such as Netherland Dwarf, Lionhead, or Mini-Rex. But, just so you know, rabbits come MUCH bigger than the New Zealand. These are called Giants, and there are several breeds out there such as the Flemish Giant, Giant Chinchilla and Checkered Giant. Anyhow, soapbox speech done, let’s move on.

Up to 90% of the rabbit meat produced is thought to be New Zealand. This is because they have large litters, are such great mothers, and gain weight quickly. The market also tends to like white rabbits, which is why the New Zealand White variety has quickly become the most popular variety in the breed.

New Zealands typically have 8-10 kits at a time, though they can have more. A doe needs a nestbox that is approximately 18”x10”, and about 8” high. A doe also needs a good sized, all-wire cage that is suspended up off the ground to keep her happy. A buck doesn’t require quite as much space since he will live alone for the most part. Even if they grow up together, domestic adult rabbits will often fight, and sometimes hurt each other really badly. The best way to house rabbits is in individual cages where they can see and smell other rabbits, but not be able to fight.

A good New Zealand Doe can produce 200lbs of meat in one year. A baby rabbit (also known as a ‘kit’) will double its birthweight in 6 days. It takes 47 days for a calf to double its birthweight.

We breed our New Zealand White does at 4 months of age. They do not always conceive at this age, but that’s ok. We wait the required 28 days, put an all wire nestbox in the cage, and wait to see if she has a litter. If she hasn’t had a litter by about the 32nd day (rabbits typically have their babies at 30-31 days post breeding), we re-breed her. The majority of the time, she will conceive on this second breeding.

We also have New Zealand Reds, and these seem to take slightly longer to mature. We still try them at 4 months, but don’t sweat it if they don’t have babies right away. My theory is that since there has been so much more selective breeding done with the New Zealand Whites, that breeders have been able to improve the traits that allow them to mature quicker.

A good New Zealand in any color variety is a wide over the shoulders and loin, but also has a deep body. Many of our New Zealands get faulted at shows for being too flat over the back. Ideally, their back should start to rise in a gentle arch that starts within a few finger widths of the back of the head. The highest point of their arch, should be almost directly in the middle of the rabbit’s back.

New Zealands are a good fit for our rabbitry, though we love our Californians, Chinchillas and Lionheads too!

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