The Siberian is a fur breed that was originally developed to make the matching of skins easier. It’s a small to medium breed that commonly weighs between seven and nine pounds.
The Siberian was first bred in the UK in around 1930 and became very popular very quickly, however as the fur trade shrank, as did interest in the Siberian Rabbit. These days the Siberian is mainly kept as a pet or as a show animal that is popular with fanciers thanks to its grace, fine coat and attractive colourways.
The Siberian was originally bred in the UK and should not be confused with the Himalayan Pointed Angora, which used to be called the Siberian but is now extinct. This ‘new’ Siberian was produced to provide skins that were easy to match, however the decline in the fur trade following the Second World War meant the breed declined in popularity and its fine coat meant it was no longer required for the fur industry.
The foundation breeds used to develop the Siberian are unknown, but following its rapid decline in popularity after World Wart II, organisations such as the British Rabbit Council and the American Rabbit Breeders Association made concerted efforts to protect the breed and prevent it from disappearing altogether. Today the Siberian is kept mainly as a pet and show animal and although it’s not one of the world’s most popular breeds, it has very dedicated followers who love the Siberian because of its beautiful colours, elegance and placid temperament.
Main colourways: lilac, black, brown, blue
Average weight: 3.2 – 4 kg
This is a small to medium sized rabbit that has a dense, glossy coat with very few guard hairs. The fur should have a ‘roll back’ or be ‘blanket’ fur, which springs back to its original position immediately if it’s stroked the wrong way. The colour must be the same shade all over the animal and should display obvious yet evenly distributed flecking which blends with the rest of the coat. White hairs in the coat are considered a fault, but one or two will not attract bad marks.
The body must be neat and compact, with a very slightly arched back and feet and legs that display medium bone. The head is also of a medium size and should be longer than it is wide. The neck should be visible, but short. The eyes of the blue, brown and lilac should match the colour of the coat, with the eyes of the black being a dark brown.
The ears are held upright and have a good covering of fur.
The Siberian is well known to be a placid animal. It’s popular as a pet and a show animal thanks to its laid-back, even temper and makes a good companion for adults and children alike due to its friendly, affectionate nature. It’s an intelligent rabbit so can be easily trained to come when called or use a litter tray – useful if he’s going to be a house rabbit!
Despite its docile personality, it’s vital any owner knows exactly how to pick up and hold their rabbit. Any animal that’s held incorrectly will feel vulnerable and uncomfortable and is likely to panic and struggle. A struggling rabbit can be very strong and could cause injury to himself or his handler.
Although a generally hardy breed, rabbits are delicate creatures that can be susceptible to a number of conditions that any owner should be watching for.
As a rodent, the teeth of any rabbit will grow continually. They must be kept worn down with gnaw toys and plenty of fibrous vegetables as overgrown teeth can cause numerous health problems – not least difficulty eating and injuries to the soft tissues inside the mouth. As well as dietary roughage and gnaw toys, visual checks of his teeth must also be made weekly.
His diet should be closely monitored to ensure he isn’t allowed to gain weight. Any overweight rabbit may find it difficult to groom himself. In warmer weather, when flies are abundant, they can be attracted to soiled fur and may lay their eggs in the animal’s coat. The hatching maggots can burrow under the skin and cause painful open wounds and infection.
Rabbits are also particularly sensitive to respiratory issues and colds so extreme fluctuations in temperature, dust and fumes should be avoided. All rabbits should be vaccinated against myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease and they should also be treated for fleas, worms and ticks. Non-breeding females may also be spayed to help prevent uterine cancer, which is common in rabbits.
Caring for a Siberian
Indoors or outdoors? That’s the most important question when you’re planning on welcoming a rabbit into your life. If he’s going to live in a hutch he may get lonely if he lives alone – it’s always worth considering acquiring two rabbits if you’re thinking of getting one. Two neutered bucks or a neutered buck and a doe will make the best pairings.
Any hutch should be big enough for him to hop around in and stand on his rear legs. It should be lined with hardwood shavings and straw and could also be furnished with cardboard tubes and boxes – perfect for hiding and climbing in, and even better for chewing! The hutch should be placed in a sheltered spot or in an airy shed, and it must be completely weatherproof, with a cover for the mesh front when the weather gets bad. The hutch should be cleared of droppings daily, and cleaned out thoroughly once a week.
If he’s going to live in the house he must be taught to use a litter tray and be should also be provided with a cage or crate in which he can relax in safety. Cables and wires must be kept out of his way. Whether he lives inside or out, he should have regular exercise in a large run or a secure area of garden.
His diet should include good quality pellets, good hay and plenty of fibrous vegetables such as cabbage, dandelion leave, carrot tops and kale. Clean drinking water should be readily available.