The English Lop was bred in England and made its first appearance on the show scene in the 19th Century. It has the kudos of being the very first lop rabbit to be developed by humans and is thought to be one of the oldest types of domesticated rabbit. Weighing around 5.5kg, the English Lop is instantly recognisable thanks to its long, droopy ears, robust head and imposing frame.
As the forerunner of the lop breeds, the English was one of the first fancy types ever bred in England as a direct response to the rise in popularity of showing small ‘fancy’ animals during the 19th Century. During the Victorian era the English Lop became popular as a pet as well as a show animal, and demand for the animals rose dramatically.
This rise in popularity as a pet was unusual as, at this time, rabbits were generally bred for meat, fur or the showring. Obviously the English Lop’s good looks and pleasant disposition meant it appealed to adults (and probably their children too!), who decided to keep them as companion animals.
Later in the 1800s the English Lop was put to other types such as the Flemish Giant, in order to create a more diverse portfolio of Lop types, which subsequently included the French Lop and the Holland Lop, which was the result of breeding the French Lop with the Netherland Dwarf. Interestingly, it’s thought the long, drooping ears of the lop rabbits originated in North Africa where rabbits evolved to have large ears to help keep them cool.
Main colourways: Solid or self colourways and broken colours (white base) fawn, golden fawn, white and black
Average weight: 5.5kg
This is the original; the predecessors to all lop breeds that have become popular across the globe as pets and as show animals. These are rather slim, long animals – certainly more so than their Lop cousins, which display a much rounder and compact form. They have very long drooping ears – many can boast appendages that measure up to 22 inches in length – the longest of any rabbit type.
Male lops, or bucks, usually have a longer ear as they also have a much wider head, while the does have a much slimmer skull. The English Lop comes in a variety of colours including self or solid colours and broken coats with white as the base colour. They’re a short-haired animal that can have black, fawn, golden fawn or white coats.
Most English Lops are playful, inquisitive and laid back. However like all prey animals, rabbits can become skittish and panicky if they become stressed or fearful. Generally this breed makes a great pet, but any owner should learn how to handle their rabbit correctly as it’s if they’re picked up by an inexperienced handler, that they can display severe panic. A struggling rabbit can be very strong and could cause injuries to itself or the handler – even worse he could be dropped or injure his spine as he struggles to get free.
English Lop Health
Because of their large ears, English Lops can be prone to ear infections more often than other types. It’s advisable to check and clean the ears of your pet regularly to avoid ear problems. Excess wax can collect deep within the ear canal and this should be monitored and removed where possible. Blemishes within the ears can be kept to a minimum by keeping the nails neatly trimmed as, if infection is allowed to take hold, he will scratch the area. Trimming the nails will also prevent injuries occurring when he walks on his ears, which he will do as they are so long.
It’s wise to ensure that he doesn’t get too cold. The English Lop’s ears are designed to increase heat loss and keep the animal cool, and in the colder British climate he may get chilly so he might be better kept as a house rabbit!
English Lops are also renowned for having sensitive feet and can develop sore hocks very easily. He should be housed on a solid floor in order to avoid the issue and he should also be given a deep bed of straw and shavings.
His teeth should be checked regularly as they grow continually and can overgrow, causing problems including sinus infections, mouth injuries and difficulty eating. A diet high in roughage should be offered to help wear down the teeth and they should be checked visually on a regular basis.
All rabbits should be vaccinated against myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease and should also be treated regularly for fleas, ticks and worms. Non-breeding does should also be spayed to prevent uterine cancer, which is common in rabbits.
Caring for a English Lop
As already mentioned, it’s worth considering keeping your English Lop indoors to prevent him from becoming too cold and developing illnesses because of this. Train him to use a litter tray and give him somewhere quiet to relax – a dog crate is ideal for a larger bunny – and he will be happy.
If you are going to keep him outdoors his hutch should be large and completely weatherproof. If you can place the hutch in a well-lit, well-ventilated shed this would be ideal. If not, it should be waterproof, kept out of direct wind and sunlight, and should be insulated. It should also have a waterproof cover for the mesh front and draught excluders should be placed in draughty areas where possible. He must be given plenty of deep bedding with which to build a robust nest.
His diet must consist of good quality hay, rabbit pellets and plenty of fibrous green leaves and vegetables such as kale, cabbage and dandelions. He should also have access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times.