The Californian breed of domestic rabbit was developed in the early 1920s by George West in Southern California. He crossed Himalayan breeds and the Standard Chinchilla rabbit breed and then crossed the offspring with New Zealand Whites. The purpose of this breed was to have a good meat breed that also had a good quality pelt. The breed did not become popular for at least 15 years after development. Today, the Californian rabbit is the second most popular meat-producing breed in the world after the New Zealand rabbit. The fur quality allows this rabbit to also be classified as a fancy breed.
The Californian rabbit has big ears (although not as large as the ears of Flemish Giants) and is large in size, weighing around 7 to 12 pounds (3.5 to 4.75 kilograms). The original coloration of this breed was very similar to the Himalayan rabbit, with a predominantly white body and are black on the feet, nose, ears and tail. They have pink or red eyes due to a lack of pigmentation.
Feed and housing
Commercial rabbit pellets are often recommended, though this is a disputed claim amongst rabbit rescue shelters and commercial breeders. Pellets are high in fat and protein needed for a healthy rabbit.Feed 1/2 cup of pellets per 5 pounds of body weight every day. Ensure a steady supply of fresh water or the rabbit may not eat the feed ration. For rabbits under 8 months of age, feed unlimited plain grass pellets. House rabbits may be fed 2 cups of fresh rinsed greens, (NO iceberg lettuce) vegetables (stay away from greens high in iron) should be given daily, and fresh fruit sparingly. Free choice hay, such as timothy-grass, should be unlimited and changed daily. Alfalfa hay should not be offered free choice to rabbits over 8 months of age because it is too rich in calcium.
Many rabbits do very well in the home. They can be litter box trained and are quite fastidious groomers, they can also be trained to wear a harness and leash. Be aware that rabbits love to chew so make sure all wires are safely hidden or in protective plastic covers and understand that some of your furniture, books and baseboards may be nibbled. They can be contained in an exercise pen to prevent damage to your house. If you choose to cage your rabbit, make sure the cage is at least 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet. If the cage has a wire bottom make certain you give the rabbit a plank or sea grass mats to stand on so his feet won’t get damaged from being on the wire all the time. It is preferred that the bottom wire of the cage be 1/2 x 1/2 - large enough for the bunny berries to go through, but small enough to keep their feet and nails from being caught in the wire. Provide a hide box or shelter and plenty of straw for bedding. The rabbits are wonderful pets, with a very nice easy-going temperament. They enjoy empty oatmeal boxes, a juice can (paper) with the ends cut off and stuffed with hay, a bell hanging from the top of their cage. You should also provide chewing material, i.e. UNTREATED pieces of lumber or small twigs from trees.
Californians are an excellent meat rabbit breed. They produce large litters of 8-12 kits, which have a fast growth rate to fryer size (4-5 lbs)in 8–12 weeks. Californians are a breed developed for show and commercial purposes.
Common diseases and disorders
As with other rabbits, Californians do not do well in high or low temperatures. They are prone to hairball obstructions and matted coats if not cared for properly. When the rabbit is molting, dead hair can be removed with a slicker brush. Other health concerns include ear mites, Pasteurella, respiratory disease, dental problems, urinary bladder stones and fractured backs. Be quick to notice any changes in diet or litter box habits and contact a rabbit veterinarian immediately. The average life span of a breeding Californian rabbit is 5 to 10 years.