The Harlequin is a colourful breed of rabbit originating from France. It is a breed based around the coloration and markings, rather than fur and body type. The ideal weight of a standard Harlequin is 6.5-8 lb (2–3 kg)
The traditional Harlequin is part black or some other colour (no silvering) and part white or orange (the brighter the better). It should have an even mix of both colours and ideally have a half-and-half colouration on the head. Their colouration (not the name of the breed) may also be called magpie where the second colour is white rather than orange. The recognized colour patterns are (mixed with orange):
- Chocolate (brown)
The magpie variants are, naturally:
- Chocolate (brown)
The Harlequin rabbit is playful, docile, and intelligent. Like most breeds the rabbit can respond to its own name and even be litter box trained. They are gentle, but like all other rabbits, are high maintenance. Rabbits are exotic and require consistent care by responsible and financially capable individuals.
Harlequin rabbits come in two types: Japanese and Magpie. Japanese Harlequins are generally orange and either black, blue, chocolate, or lilac, while Magpie Harlequins are white (instead of orange) and either black, blue, chocolate, or lilac. A "perfect" Harlequin will be split between the two colors on the head, ears, feet, and body. It kind of looks like a perfect stripe between the two colors. Some Harlequins will have orange or white bellies.
The current American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Standard of Perfection calls for a 3 part frontal alternation. The ears are two different colors. The face splits into two colors, which alternate with the ears. The chest and front legs split into two colors, which alternate with the face and match the ears. The hind feet should alternate with the front feet. The body markings are either bars, bands, or a combination of the two. The animal may be disqualified if it doesn't have certain markings on its face etc.
Some experts say[who?] that "Harlequin" is not a breed of rabbit, but just a color type. Others argue that it is a breed of rabbit with that color scheme. This is debatable. The Harlequin markings do occur in other breeds, but the ARBA does not recognize it as showable in other breeds besides the Harlequin breed.
It was developed from semi-wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbits. Originally it looked like a badly marked Dutch rabbit. The Harlequin was first exhibited in Paris in 1887. They were then imported into England a few years later. Harlequins were used for meat during World War II. Harlequins are nicknamed the clown of the rabbits and the royal jester because of the color separations and markings.
The average life span for the Harlequin rabbit is 5 years or more.
The bucks usually weigh 6.5 to 9 pounds and the does weigh 7 to 9.5 pounds.
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