A calm and outgoing companion, the Himalayan rabbit is one of the oldest rabbit breeds. Their coloring, similar to a Himalayan cat, has made them a popular breed among bunny lovers everywhere. Although commonly purchased or adopted for show purposes, they can make an excellent pet for adults and children alike.
Origin and History
Although their name refers to the Himalayan Mountains, there is debate regarding their origin. Theories hypothesize they can be traced back to the Middle or Far East; although rabbit lovers and scientists each have their own idea of where they came from. Their history is vague, but it's thought they were derived from silver rabbits.
One theory of how Himalayan rabbits arrived in the United States is that they came from England during the "Belgian Hare Boom" in the early 20th century when breeders were drawn to rabbit furs. They existed prior to the introduction of rex rabbits and were consequently highly valued for their distinctive fur type. They were one of the very first rabbit breeds to be recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA).
Himalayan Rabbit Names
Since the breed has been around for so long and has possible origins in several countries, it has a variety of breed names. It is also known as the black nosed rabbit from China, the Chinese rabbit, black nose, the Russian rabbit, and the Egyptian smut. They are often known by the nickname "himmie" in the United States.
Himalayans are small rabbits, weighing about 3 to 5½ pounds when fully grown. They are the only "cylindrical" breed the ARBA accepts. This body type is long and appears round when viewed head on with the rabbit stretched out. It's sometimes referred to as snake-like.
The Himalayan is similar to Siamese and Himalayan cats when it comes to their coat color. Their body is white with "points" on their ears, nose, and feet. Black is the most common point color, but you can also find Himalayans with black, blue, chocolate, and lilac points. Their fur is short and is "flyback" which means the fur moves back to its original place if you run your hand through it.
They require minimal grooming aside from a weekly brushing. They will shed during molting season. An interesting fact about Himalayans is that their fur is all white or grey when they are kits and their points come in as they get older.
Himalayans are gentle rabbits that enjoy human contact. They are considered one of the best rabbits to have as pets for their easy-going demeanor and ease with children. They are one of the most laid-back rabbits and love snuggling and handling. Although all rabbits can bite, the Himalayan is known for rarely doing so.
While they are sweet and loving, they are also quite intelligent and will need mental stimulation to be happy. You can provide them with cat toys and even teach them tricks with a clicker. They also will need time out of their cage to roam around regularly.
Himalayan rabbits eat a diet of 70 percent Timothy hay, 25 percent commercially made rabbit pellets, and 5 percent fresh fruits and vegetables. They also need a lot of hay to chew on or their teeth can become overgrown, leading to a painful dental condition. When supplementing with fresh foods, make sure they are rabbit-friendly, as some fruits and vegetables can make them sick.
The average Himalayan rabbit will live anywhere between 4 to 5 years. Himalayans don't have many medical concerns specific to their breed. They are susceptible to common problems found in all rabbits including:
- Overgrown teeth - Teeth should not be allowed to grow too long or they will grow into the rabbit's jaws and face. This can be both uncomfortable and obstruct their ability to eat properly. A veterinarian must file down overgrown teeth.
- Ear mites - The parasite known as Psoroptes cuniculi is the most common culprit of ear mites in rabbits. Ear mites aren't generally an emergency but can cause loss of balance and hearing if left untreated.
- Myiasis - Also known as "flystrike," this condition occurs when flies nest in their flesh and hatch eggs. More specifically, it's caused by the Lucilia sericata, or green bottle fly. The developing flies can literally eat the rabbit alive, which can be fatal for the rabbit, as well as quite painful. This is most commonly associated with rabbits who have been kept unclean for a lengthy period of time, have wet fur, or have an open wound.
Although you can keep them outside in a hutch, inside is recommended. In cold temperatures, their fur can actually become darker and baby Himalayans do not handle the cold well. Your minimum cage size should be 24 inches by 15 inches with a wire frame and solid bottom. There should be plenty of room for your rabbit to move around and if you keep more than one you should double the size of at least the minimum needed. You can line the cage with bedding such as Carefresh or straw and it should be cleaned often with a complete changeover once a week.
Purchasing or Adopting a Himalayan Rabbit
If you're looking to buy your own Himalayan, visit the website of the American Himalayan Rabbit Association. You can also find breeder information on the ARBA and USA Rabbit Breeders websites. The average price for a Himalayan is about $25 to $60, with show rabbits at the higher price end. Himalayans are common rabbits so you should be able to find them in shelters as well. You can use the Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet websites to look for them by breed.
You can also look into rescue groups including the following:
- Long Island Rabbit Rescue: A volunteer-based organization rescuing abandoned or neglected rabbits in Long Island, New York.
- Midwest Rabbit Rescue and Rehome: A nonprofit rescue organization solely focusing on rehoming rabbits into the most suitable indoor homes.
- Magic Happens Rescue: A rabbit rescue located in Baton Rouge, La., extending across state lines for rescue, adoption, and public outreach.
Is the Himalayan Rabbit for You?
The Himalayan rabbit has been a beloved pet for almost a century in the United States. It's easy to see why with their lovely, calm temperament and cuddly behavior with children and adults. Their striking colors and easy-to-care-for fur also make them the perfect choice for the rabbit novice pet owner.