The Himalayan Rabbit looks very much like the Californian Rabbit, with its white coat and distinctive dark coloured markings on the nose, ears, feet and tail. The markings are accepted in a number of colours including blue, lilac and chocolate.
The breed is known as one of the oldest and calmest types of rabbit and is a medium-sized animal weighing in at around 1-2kg. Somewhat unusually, they also have red eyes and they are a cylindrical breed, meaning the body is long and slender.
Although the history of the breed is not certain, many fanciers believe that the Himalayan originates not in the Himalayas themselves, but rather in the Far East, as when they’re kept in colder climates the coat can display a black colouring, which makes them a phenocopy of black rabbits.
The history of the Himalayan is shrouded in mystery as there have been white rabbits with darker markings for many hundreds of years. The Himalayan has been given many names over the years including the Chinese, the Russian, the Black Nose and the Egyptian. Regardless of the exact origins, the Himalayan and its distinctive markings is one of the most ancient and widespread breeds of rabbit. It’s thought that the genetic mutation responsible for the Himalayan markings occurred spontaneously in different breeds in different parts of the world as examples of the Himalayan from England have been shown to have no genetic links with a similar animal developed in France.
The breed as we see it today originated in England in the middle of the 19th Century from animals thought to have been brought back to Britain from the Himalayas by adventurers and explorers. Because of the quality of its markings and its fur the Himalayan became popular as both a commercial animal and a show rabbit. Although the very first examples were marked with black, selective breeding led to the other colours – blue, chocolate and lilac, being developed. By the beginning of the 20th Century the Himalayan rabbit had made its way to the US.
Main colourways: white with blue, lilac or chocolate markings
Average weight: 1-2kg
The Himalayan is quite a small rabbit, usually weighing around 1-2kg, and has a long, slim body that’s often referred to as being ‘cylindrical’ in shape. Their hips are the same width as the shoulders and the legs are long, straight and slim. The head is also slender and the ears are short, tapered and held erect.
The colour displayed by the breed is white with markings on the nose, feet, ears and tail. The nose mark runs under the chin and up over the nose towards the eyes, the ears are fully coloured from top to bottom and the tail is too. The markings on the legs run onto the feet and the nails should be dark in colour.
The markings of the Himalayan appear thanks to a recessive gene, which means the extremities of the animal – where the circulation is not as effective – end up with darker patches of fur. Himalayans are born completely white and the coloured patches appear when the kits reach around four weeks – reaching their final colouration by six months. The darker patches can change according to climate, when the colour will darken in colder temperatures and lighten when it’s warmer.
The Himalayan Rabbit is renowned for being calm, friendly and intelligent. They seem to love people and can be very affectionate – particularly if they’ve been allowed to get used to human company from an early age.
They thoroughly enjoy playtime and will appreciate lots of attention from their owners. Cat and dog toys – particularly those that make noises, will be welcomed, and whether he lives indoors or out, he will also benefit from a secure outdoor space in which he can run and explore. Add tubes and boxes to his living quarters and outdoor space so he can climb, burrow and nest and you’ll have one happy bunny.
All rabbits are social creatures and the Himalayan is more sociable than most. Even if you intend to spend lots of time with your rabbit it’s certainly worth considering getting two animals if you’re already thinking about getting one.
It’s imperative that the teeth of all rabbits are checked regularly as they grow continually and can easily get too long. Problems such as enamel spurs and overgrown molars can make eating difficult and may also cause injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. Symptoms of overgrown teeth also include runny eyes and a runny nose, as well as a loss of appetite. A diet that’s high in roughage will help keep his teeth worn down, as will gnaw toys, but visual checks should also be made and any suspected problems should be attended to by a vet.
Although special attention should be paid to his diet, a rabbit should never be overfed or allowed to become overweight. An obese rabbit may have difficulty grooming and this will make him vulnerable to flystrike. This is a dangerous condition where flies lay their eggs in soiled areas of fur – usually around the hindquarters – and the maggots can burrow into the skin, causing open wounds and infection. Flystrike is a nasty condition that needs rapid attention from a vet.
All rabbits must be vaccinated against Viral Haemorrhagic Disease and myxomatosis and they should also be wormed regularly and treated for fleas and ticks. Female rabbits that aren’t going to be used for breeding should be spayed as they can be prone to uterine cancer.
Caring for a Himalayan
The Himalayan can live indoors as a house rabbit, or outdoors in a hutch, which is more common. If you’d like your pet to live indoors he can be taught to use a litter tray and he must be provided with a cage or crate where he can go to get away from it all and relax. Cables and wires must be kept out of his way and he must also be given regular access to the outdoors in order to exercise and indulge his love of exploration.
If he’s going to live in a hutch outdoors it must be completely weatherproof and positioned so it’s protected from the worst of the weather. A light, airy shed is an ideal place to put a hutch, but if this isn’t possible, then somewhere that’s out of strong wind and sunlight should be sought. The hutch should be lined with shavings and straw so he can build a nest and soiled areas of bedding should be removed every one or two days. The hutch should be cleaned out thoroughly once a week and he should be provided with tubes and boxes he can burrow into and climb on. He should also be provided with a friend if circumstances allow. Two neutered males or a neutered male and a doe will get on best.
His diet should be high in fibre and roughage; comprising good quality hay, good pellets and lots of fibrous leaves and vegetables such as kale, dandelions, spring greens and carrot tops, which will help keep his digestive system healthy and his teeth in check. He should also have access to clean, fresh water at all times.