New Zealand white rabbit
New Zealand White Rabbits are a breed of rabbit, which despite their name are commonly known to have been developed in the US. The original breeds that were used are unknown, but Suarez are believed to have played some part. (Verhallen 23-35)
New Zealand Whites have well-rounded bodies; slender and muscular faces with round cheeks; large, long back feet; and small, short front pectoral muscles (Rubins). They have long perforated ears that stand straight up. Unlike the thick, snowy fur on their bodies, their ears have shorter fur that allows the delicate pale pink of their skin to show through. The most noticeable characteristic of New Zealand White rabbits is their bright eyes, which range in shade from pale pink to bright ruby purple. Due to their eye colour their colouring is often referred to as REW (red eyed white). A very rare variation of New Zealand White rabbits have blue eyes. These are known as BEW (blue eyed whites)colouring.
New Zealand White rabbits have large, broad, and muscular bodies. Bucks (males) weigh between 9-11 pounds, while the does (females) weigh between 10-12 pounds (Verhallen 23-35). In addition to their greater size, females are distinguished by the presence of a dewlap,which is a flap of fur below the chin that stores fat to be used as extra energy if needed during pregnancies and lactation.
New Zealand white rabbits have a genetic deviation called albinism. Albinism is caused by a lack of melanin, which is a pigment that gives all creatures, including humans, their skin/fur/hair/eye color. The snowy coat of a New Zealand white rabbit is a normal length like other rabbit breeds. Most New Zealand rabbits also have a white/pink/light brownish tint to their noses.
The diet of a New Zealand white rabbit is no different than for any other rabbit breeds. A high quality pellet feed (protein ~ 16-18%), along with unlimited timothy hay and fresh water and exercise will maintain a healthy individual. In production rabbits a higher protien feed (protein ~ 18-20%),and alfalfa or mixed hay in addition to unlimited fresh water may be necessary to maintain proper condition.
In the beginning New Zealand white rabbits were not bred to be a domestic pet. Instead they were bred for their excellent fur and meat. Fryers are slaughtered at two months of age and older rabbits are sold as roasters. The rabbits with high grades of fur are used to make fur coats and fur trimmings. The lower grades are used to make felt hats and glove linings ("Commercial Rabbit Raising"). New Zealand white rabbits are the number one meat rabbit in the United States (Bare 63-65).
Along with commercial purposes, New Zealand white rabbits are also used for laboratory purposes. Rabbits react similarly to humans to diseases and medications. This reaction allows them to be used at pharmaceutical laboratories, the U.S. Public Health building, cancer research centers, and university hospitals. New Zealand white rabbits have been used to develop tests and drugs for diseases like diabetes, diphtheria, tuberculosis, cancer, and heart disease. The effects of skin creams, cosmetics, special diets, and food additives have also been tested on New Zealand white rabbits. (Bare 63-65)
A Doe(female rabbit) becomes fertile between 8-12 weeks of age and can be safely bred at 16-17 weeks of age. Breeding before this age can cause harm or death to the doe and/or kits. Does are fertile all year long although day length can affect that some. The gestation period is around 28–35 days, although most will kindle(give birth) at 31-32 days. A nest box should be provided for the new mother two to five days prior to the expected kindling date. The doe will pull fur from her abdomen and dewlap and along with hay or other materials provided she will create a nest. The young are called kits and are born hairless, deaf, and blind. Fur begins to grow in by day 3 to 5 and after 7 to 10 days the kits' eyes will open by 2 weeks they may begin exploring and sampling outside food sources. At the age of three to four weeks their mother will begin to wean them off milk,meanwhile the kits will switch to eating hay and pellets. The average number of kits per litter is seven but commonly range from one to fourteen. Because rabbits are induced ovulators a doe can become pregnant by the simple act of mating if conditions are right. A doe can get pregnant within 24 hours after giving birth.
Cannibalism is rare but can happen. In the wild it is a defensive mechanism to remove all blood and dead tissue from the nesting area to avoid detection by predators. Cannibalism can also be brought on by a severe lack of fluids and feed. Make sure the rabbits always have access to fresh clean water and feed to prevent this. If young are stillborn or die after birth, many times the doe will ingest the remains. Bucks (male)rabbits have little to no part in raising the young. They do in some cases act as babysitters and a heat source for the young kits in group settings known as a colony . Contrary to popular belief bucks do not kill and eat kits under normal circumstances.
- Rubins, Suzanne (2001). "Simple Beauty: In Praise of the New Zealand White". Retrieved 2006-07-13.
- American Federation of New Zealand Rabbit Breeders
- New Zealand Rabbit Breed History
- Breeds of Rabbits