By breeding together the English Lop and the Flemish Giant or French Butterfly rabbit back in the 19th Century, fanciers developed the hugely popular French Lop rabbit. The French is different from it’s English cousin as it’s bigger and its drooping ears are shorter. It also weighs slightly more.
The lovely French Lop usually weighs in at around four-and-a-half kilogrammes, but can weigh more and can live to be five years old.
The French Lop was developed in France in the middle of the 19th Century not as a pet or show rabbit, but as a meat animal. As already mentioned, the breed is said to have originated from the crossing of the English Lop with the French Butterfly rabbit, an old breed that is still shown at Grand Prix events in the capital.
The Butterfly closely resembles the Flemish Giant rabbit, but is slightly shorter and weighs approximately 15lbs. In the neighbouring countries of Belgium, Holland and Germany, the new French Lop began to increase in popularity, and records show the first examples were brought to the UK in 1933. However it wasn’t until much later – the 1960s in fact – that the French Lop gained a foothold in the UK and grew in popularity. The French Lop made its way to the US in the following decade.
Main colourways: white, brown, black, blue, Chinchilla, fawn, opal, steel and Siamese (solid or broken)
Average weight: 4.5 – 6kg
The French is one of the larger rabbit breeds. They have a short, robust and thick-set body, with well-rounded haunches and short, powerful legs. They have a round head with a wide forehead, with chubby cheeks and their thick ears usually hang down the side of their head and usually measure between five and eight inches.
The French Lop comes in many colours and these can either be solid, or broken – where they can display a mixture of white and another colour. Colours include white, blue, black, agouti, chinchilla and sable, among others. The fur is short, dense and very soft.
This is a bunny that simply loves to be adored, and he’ll return that adoration tenfold. Because he’s a large rabbit, he will need lots of space in which to play, and any hutch must be big enough to accommodate his larger size. They can live perfectly well indoors or outdoors but it must be remembered that this is a rabbit and not a dog or cat. They will chew indiscriminately so anything you treasure, including shoes, mobile phones, clothes and cables and wires, should all be kept well out of the way. He can be litter trained, but as a rabbit, it will not be easy and will take time and patience. That said, it can be done!
The French Lop is renowned for its gentle, docile demeanour and he will tolerate handling and other animals and children very well. Providing your animal is socialised and handled correctly from a young age he will make an affectionate and playful companion and will be fantastic with children.
It should be remembered that because he is a larger rabbit he can be strong and will not make a suitable pet for a first-time owner. Their hind legs are very powerful and the can kick out if startled, which, if you are holding him at the time, could cause injury.
A French Lop will accept another rabbit companion readily, but he shouldn’t really be housed with another species like a guinea pig because he could injure anything smaller than himself. As rabbits are very social animals they should always have a friend, although if you are introducing your French Lop to a new companion as an adult care should be taken as they may fight initially.
If your rabbit is neutered, the likelihood of fighting is slim, and a mixed-sex pair will often form the strongest bond. A ‘stroppy’ teenage phase can sometimes occur as the rabbit approaches and goes through puberty. They can get aggressive, although happily, French Lops are less likely to go through this stage than other breeds.
French Lop Health
As with most rabbit breeds, there are some conditions which affect the species as a whole that are the biggest threat to your pet’s otherwise good health. Dental issues are the number one cause of illness in rabbits so it’s vital that you keep a close eye on the quality of your bun’s gnashers.
By feeding a diet that’s high in fibre and roughage, your rabbit’s continuously growing teeth will be kept worn down. They can suffer with overgrown teeth and enamel spurs and if these are allowed to develop your pet could find it difficult to eat or may develop injuries in his mouth that may become infected. Prevention is better than cure so providing a diet that’s high in good quality hay and fibrous green vegetables is essential if you are to avoid dental problems.
A good diet is also crucial to the health of your rabbit’s digestive tract and if the diet is not adequate, he can easily develop diarrhoea. Having a soiled coat can also attract flies in the warmer months and if he is overweight and unable to groom himself properly, the flies may choose to lay their eggs in his fur, where the maggots will hatch and cause injury. This is known as flystrike and is incredibly uncomfortable as well as posing a serious threat to the health of your rabbit.
Caring for a French Lop
A large wooden hutch should be provided for the French Lop – he’s a big rabbit and will need plenty of space in his home to hop, stretch out and stand if he chooses to. The hutch should be placed out of direct draughts and full sun and could be placed in a light, well-ventilated shed if there is one available. If not, his hutch should be fully waterproof and should have a mesh front with a cover to keep out any wind or driving rain, and he should also have a covered area where he can build his nest and escape for some peace and quiet.
If your rabbit is going to be kept in the house he can have the run of the place providing anything important is kept out of the way. Take the time to litter train him and he will be clean too, although he will appreciate somewhere quiet to rest where he will not be disturbed. French Lops can be very lazy creatures and sometimes he will appreciate a place where he can observe the action, rather than take part in it. He will also love a nice warm lap to sit on too.