Rather than simply being a descriptive term for the colour of the animal, the ‘Lilac’ Rabbit is a breed in its own right. It’s a small to medium-sized bunny weighing in at between six and eight pounds when it reaches adulthood.
The fur of the Lilac is wonderfully soft to the touch and comes in a number of Lilac shades from purple blue, to light grey. Interestingly, in a well-lit room the Lilac can appear light grey in colour, but when seen in natural light it can appear to take on a beautiful lavender hue.
The Lilac has origins in two different countries and with two different breeders. In the second decade of the 20th Century Mr Spruty of the Netherlands developed the Gouda, which is very Lilac-like in its appearance. Weighing around seven or eight pounds, the Gouda was primarily a meat and fur animal and was popular in France in Germany, where it is still kept today.
At the same time Mr Spruty was developing his Gouda, the famed R.C. Punnet was also creating a Lilac breed. By putting together a Blue Beveren and a Havana Mr Punnet created the Cambridge Blue, which was quickly recognised by the British Rabbit Club and named the Lilac.
Both the Gouda and British Lilac made their way to the US in the later part of the 1920s and they were very popular there until the 1950s when the fell out of favour for a while, before experiencing a resurgence in the 1970s.
Main colourways: light purplish-grey
Average weight: 3-4kg
The fur of the Lilac Rabbit appears to take on different colours in natural and artificial light. The rabbit seems to look light grey in a lit room, while it appears to be a light purple or lavender colour in natural light.
The adult Lilac usually weighs around three or four kilograms, with the does being a little heavier than the bucks. The ears are broad, upright and typically measure around 3.5 – 4 inches long. The Lilac only ever displays one colour – the grey-lilac fur, which covers the animal from head to foot, apart from the undersides of the feet, which are white. The eyes are usually a pale blue-grey, which matches the coat.
Adult males and females can be told apart quite easily. The head of the buck is wider and appears furrier, while does are larger and have a pronounced dewlap. The fur has a distinctive quality that makes is wonderfully soft and light to the touch.
This is a very sweet-natured rabbit that loves company and enjoys playing. It’s an inquisitive, affectionate little animal that will appreciate lots of toys. Cardboard tubes, teething keys for babies, cat toys (especially if they have bells in them) and soft toys are particular favourites. They will also love being outdoors either in a run or a secure area of garden, where they can hop and play to their heart’s content.
Female lilacs are known for making excellent lap bunnies and they will love to sit close to their owner to be petted and stroked. Surprisingly, the female Lilac can also be a ‘neat freak’ and will like to have her toys and bowls arranged ‘just so’ in her living areas. Bucks are generally happy to be petted but tend to be more playful and excitable than the does. They are also a little bit messier than the females and will spray to mark their territory. Generally, the Lilac is a lovely rabbit and makes a great companion.
As a rabbit with such a fine, light coat, prospective owners should be aware that it is possible for the fur of the Lilac to be damaged by too much sun. It can, for all intents and purposes, become sunburned. Your rabbit must not be allowed to spend any time in direct sunlight, and should always be provided with a covered area to retire to. Even an hour in the sun can cause the fur to turn an unwelcome shade of brown.
It’s vital that the teeth of a rabbit are checked regularly as they grow continually and can cause injuries and difficulty eating if they are allowed to overgrow. Gnaw toys and a diet high in roughage can help keep the teeth worn down.
Flystrike can be prevented by monitoring the animal’s diet and ensuring he is clean and able to groom himself properly. An overweight animal will not be able to keep itself clean and will therefore be vulnerable to flystrike.
A rabbit should be vaccinated against myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease, both highly infectious, potentially fatal diseases that can be passed on by wild rabbits. Companion rabbits should be treated for worms, fleas and ticks and non-breeding does should be spayed to help prevent uterine cancer, which is common in rabbits.
Caring for a Lilac
Is your rabbit going to live indoors or out? If he’s going to live indoors he will happily hop around the house wherever you let him. He can be taught to use a litter tray quite easily, and will also learn to come when called. However, he should be kept away from anything that wouldn’t benefit from being chewed – particularly cables and wires, and he should also be provided with a secure area he can totally relax in. An indoor rabbit cage or dog crate is ideal for this.
If you’d prefer your pet to live outdoors he should be provided with a hutch that’s completely weatherproof and positioned out of wind and direct sunlight. If you have a shed that’s airy and well-lit, this will be an ideal place to put the hutch. Any hutch should also be big enough for him to hop around and stand on his back legs. The hutch should be lined with shavings and straw and must be cleaned out thoroughly once a week, with droppings removed daily; the hutch should also have a covered nesting area where he can go to get away from it all and out of the worst of the weather.
He should be fed a high-fibre diet of good quality hay and rabbit pellets, along with plenty of fibrous green vegetables like cabbage, kale, carrot tops and dandelions. He should also have access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
Remember too, that rabbits are social animals and will benefit from having a friend, so if you’re thinking about getting one rabbit, it would be well worth considering getting two, as they will thrive living with company. Never house a rabbit with a guinea pig as the larger animal could hurt the smaller one.