- COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN: Japan (possibly), France
- YEAR RECOGNIZED: 1914
- USES: Show, fur, meat
- WEIGHT: 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg) max., senior does
- BODY TYPE: Commercial
- FUR TYPE: Flyback; ARBA Commercial Normal Fur Standard
Japanese Group — black with golden orange, lavender blue with golden fawn, chocolate and golden orange, lilac (dove gray) with golden fawn
Magpie Group — black with white, lavender blue with white, chocolate with white, lilac (dove gray), with white
THE HARLEQUIN IS BEST IDENTIFIED by the fascinating arrangement of color bands in its fur. Seen head-on, its muzzle and head are neatly divided into two colors, as if two half heads had been blended into one. Each side of its body sports five to seven alternating bars or bands of color. Even its legs and ears exhibit alternating colors.
The Harlequin was originally called the Japanese Rabbit. The breed may or may not have originated in Japan, but it spread from there into France in the 1870s and thence to England in the 1890s. The first imports to the United States occurred in 1917, when the novel Harlequin colors were responsible for adult rabbits fetching a staggering $40 apiece and juveniles $30.
For political reasons, the United States and England, in conflict with Japan during World War II, changed the breed name to Harlequin, to reflect its fanciful color schemes. The breed retains the name Japanese Rabbit in other countries.
Harlequins are medium-sized rabbits, typically ranging from 6.5 pounds (3 kg) to a maximum breed standard of 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg). The Harlequin is uncommon enough in North America that it has drawn the concern of The Livestock Conservancy study group.