The Netherland dwarf is the smallest breed of rabbit -- and the second-most popular. He's tiny, soft and furry, but prospective Netherland dwarf owners should realize that the skittish nature of his breed means that he usually prefers to interact while he's on the ground.
The History of the Netherland Dwarf
English breeders discovered some mutations of the Dutch breed in the early 1800s. The mutated rabbits were small, with white coats, red eyes and soft fur. Carefully managed breeding led to more red-eyed white rabbits, which were shown in 1884 as Polish rabbits. Crossbreeding with wild rabbits led to more variety in eye and fur color. The Netherland dwarf breed continued to develop in Germany, England and the Netherlands over several decades.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association accepted the Netherland dwarf as a breed in 1969, and granted a charter to the American Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Club in 1970.
Living With a Netherland Dwarf
Every rabbit has its own unique personality, but the Netherland dwarf is known to be generally high-strung and excitable. Families with small children might wait until the children are older to get a pet rabbit. Netherland dwarf rabbits are particularly prone to stress from loud noise and rambunctious behavior. They're easily injured. They may prefer playing on the ground over snuggling.
Your Netherland's Environment
Keep your rabbit indoors except for occasional, supervised outside exercise. Provide your Netherland dwarf a solid-bottom cage that's at least 4 feet wide and 2 feet tall. Give him some chew toys to keep his teeth from growing too long. Your rabbit can learn to use a litter box -- provide one in his cage. Clean your rabbit's cage at least once a week.
Let your rabbit out of his cage a few hours every day for a play and exercise session. Keep an eye on him while he's out of his cage -- he can injure himself if he chews on an electrical cord or nibbles on a poisonous houseplant. Rabbit-proof your home to ensure that your pet Netherland stays safe.
Your Netherland's Diet
Feed your Netherland plenty of fresh timothy hay. Store it in a dry location so it won't get moldy. In addition to hay, supplement his diet with fresh greens and vegetables. Your rabbit should always have access to fresh water; clean out his water dish several times each week to prevent algae.
Your Netherland's Health
Find a rabbit-savvy veterinarian before your rabbit has any problems, so if he gets sick or injured you know right where to take him. With proper care, your Netherland dwarf will live 5 to 15 years, depending on whether he's been neutered. The House Rabbit Society website says rabbits should be neutered or spayed. Altered rabbits are healthier and they aren't as aggressive and destructive. If you're planning to keep more than one Netherland dwarf, spay or neuter them to avoid unwanted baby bunnies and fighting.
The Netherland Dwarf Standard of Perfection
The ARBA Standard of Perfection states that a fully mature Netherland dwarf should weigh 2 pounds or less. He should have:
- A compact body with broad shoulders that are the same width as his hindquarters.
- A round head in balance with his body size.
- Short, erect ears of about 2 inches in length, covered in fur with rounded tips.
- Round eyes of the appropriate color depending on his fur color.
- Soft, thick fur.
The ARBA places Netherland dwarf rabbits into five groups, based on their fur color and patterns:
- Self varieties, which include black, chocolate, lilac, blue and white
- Shaded varieties
- Agouti varieties
- Tan pattern varieties
- Any other variety