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Breed: Dwarf Angora Rabbit
Temperament: placid, docile, friendly
Cost: from $50 to $75
Lifespan: 6 to 10 years
Recommended for: families
The Dwarf Angora is a small rabbit weighing no more than 1.5 kilograms. The body is short, compact and well rounded. The ears are ideally 2.5 inches (16 cm) in length and the eyes bright and bold. Dwarf Angora rabbits come in a variety of colours and patterns including agouti (wild rabbit), self (one colour all over), and shaded patterns. The wool, which grows to between 5 and 7cms in length, is dense and contains slightly more guard hair than undercoat, which results in a type of wool which is not prone to matting.
The Dwarf Angora is known for it's calm, quiet disposition, easy care and small size. Most rabbits get along fine with other pets, such as guinea pigs, if introduced properly and the Dwarf Angora is no different. The Dwarf Angora loves being petted and handled which makes it a good house pet or an ideal show rabbit for kids or anyone starting out in rabbits. However, as with all breeds of rabbits, it is recommended that females (a female rabbit is called a doe and a male is a buck) not intended for breeding be de-sexed in order to prevent them from experiencing phantom pregnancies and becoming frustrated and territorial.
The Dwarf Angora is a new breed of rabbit to Australia, having only received recognition by the Australian Show Rabbit Council in 1997. The Dwarf Angora is the result of selective crossbreeding, the most successful results coming from adding the dwarfing gene to the French Angora Rabbit.
The breed was originally developed as a pet rabbit in the 1970's in New Jersey (USA), where it was known as the Jersey Wooly. The American Rabbit Breeders Association however, did not recognise the Jersey Wooly as an official breed until 1988. Dwarf Angoras have been steadily increasing in popularity here in Australia since 1997 but are not yet readily available in all states.
Rabbits need to have a well balanced diet to ensure that they stay in good health, and to maintain their immune system. The ideal diet for your rabbit consists of good quality rabbit pellets (4 oz. or half a cup per day), lucerne hay (a large handful daily will help prevent fur balls forming in the stomach), fresh fruit and vegetables such as cauliflower, parsley, spinach, corn on the cob and carrots, (but no lettuce or cabbage) can be offered in small amounts as a treat. Fresh clean water must be available at all times.
Commercial rabbit pellets are sold by most pet stores and produce merchants. Hay and straw should be provided daily. Rabbits require both digestible and indigestible fibre in their diet in order to avoid getting fur balls. If possible, move the hutch around the lawn to provide fresh grass but avoid any grass which has been sprayed with herbicides.
All rabbits should have an area in which to exercise outside their hutch. Exercise will assist rabbits to wear down their nails and to maintain body tone.
Most rabbits in Australia are kept outdoors in movable hutches made of timber or metal. These should be enclosed with mesh, and preferably covered with a layer of insect screen to prevent mosquitoes infecting your rabbits with the fatal disease myxomatosis. One end of the hutch must be enclosed to provide shelter for the rabbit and a hinged type lid will help when cleaning the hutch each week. Minimum dimensions recommended are 120cmx60cmx50cm (4'x2'x20') per rabbit. Wire should be 25mm x 25mm (1'x1') to prevent the rabbit chewing through it.
Of the many commercial hutches available (ranging in price from about $80) timber cages are preferable as the metal versions can get very hot in summer and cold in winter. With this in mind, hutches should be located in a sheltered area of the yard in warmer months. It is very important that the hutches are secure against attack from cats, dogs or foxes.
Maintenance of hygiene is important for healthy rabbits. Rabbit manure will need to be raked or scooped out of the hutch with a trowel. The hutch should also be hosed out once a week (remove bunny before doing this!).
Most problems relate to inadequate diet. Ear mites are common. Mosquitoes and rabbit fleas can carry myxomatosis, a fatal disease which cannot be vaccinated against in Australia. Screen hutches and use flea powder if exposed to wild rabbits. Rabbits can be vaccinated against the Calicivirus (Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease) if this disease is considered to be a problem in your area. Rabbits are susceptible to extremes of heat or cold, especially if kept permanently outdoors. 'Snuffles' is the term given to a common infectious respiratory disease (Pasteurella multocida) seen in rabbits which are kept in draughty or poorly ventilated conditions. Other diseases to look out for include Coccidiosis (a protozoan parasite in the liver or intestine), Enteritis (a potentially fatal condition caused by sudden changes in diet).
Dwarf Angoras can have a lifespan of between 6 and 10 years.
Breeders say rabbits can be toilet trained to use litter trays but avoid using clay-type litters as these can cause digestion problems if nibbled. The biggest problem caused by rabbits roaming free inside the house is biting through electrical cords so homes should be bunny-proofed before release.
Although the Dwarf Angora is a true wool bearing rabbit, it requires less grooming than the English Angora rabbit. While the rabbit is still young the coat lacks the guard hair of a mature animal, it is a good idea to brush the animal a couple of times per week. By the time a Dwarf Angora rabbit is 6 to 8 months of age, it carries a mature coat and should need to be brushed only once per week. A slicker brush, like that used on dogs, is ideal for grooming.
Never lift a rabbit by the ears. Instead, place one hand under its front legs and the other hand under the bottom and lift holding it firmly and supporting its body. If held firmly the rabbit should feel secure and not wriggle. Never allow children to grab the rabbit, run with it or rough it up.
Dwarf Angora rabbits have an average litter size of three to four. Rabbits can be desexed for about $100 (roughly the same as cats) and this is recommended for pets. Otherwise, with more than one rabbit and only a rough idea of sex identification, one doe (female) could produce 50 kittens annually.
Dwarf Angora rabbits are kept as companion animals. Rabbits are pets which can be cuddled, brushed, housetrained, are clean and relatively cheap to feed, don't kill wildlife, and they fertilise the lawn.
Dwarf Angoras are a relatively new breed. Prices vary from state to state. Expect to pay between $50 to $75. Once purchased, they do not cost much to feed (about $6 per week).
While it's still illegal to keep a rabbit in Queensland unless you are a magician, most other states will allow them as pets. Some states may require a permit so please check with local authorities for your own special requirements.
Canberra Rabbit Club Inc.
Secretary - Christine Carter
Phone: (02) 6231 5862
NSW Rabbit Fanciers Society
President, Catherine Charteris
Phone/Fax: (02) 9679 1004
Rabbit Breeders Association of South Australia
Secretary, Sue Smith
Phone: (08) 8388 2571
Rabbit Breeders Association of Tasmania
Secretary, Joan Eastley
Phone: (03) 6362 2340
Victorian Rabbit Association
Secretary, Mrs Lorraine Landry
Phone: (03) 9786 3501
Western Australian Rabbit Council
President - Warren Hill
Phone/Fax: (08) 9377 3017
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