New Zealand Rabbit

  • COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States
  • YEAR RECOGNIZED: 1958
  • WEIGHT: 11 pounds (5 kg) max., senior does
  • USES: Meat, fur BODY TYPE: Commercial
  • FUR TYPE: Flyback; ARBA Commercial Normal Fur Standard
  • COLORS: Black, red, white with pink eyes, broken (white with marking in any accepted New Zealand breed color)

DESPITE ITS NAME, this big, versatile rabbit is a Yankee, not a Kiwi. The first variety of the breed, the red, was developed largely in California, presumably from the now-extinct Golden Fawn and possibly Belgian Hares to enrich the color. The white variety was developed after four white kits appeared in William Preshaw’s red New Zealand litter in Ripon, California, in 1917.

The late Bob D. Whitman, foremost among breed history sleuths, was baffled by the choice of names for the breed. He speculated that at least some early 20th-century historians believed — erroneously, in his opinion — that the breed had roots in Scotland and New Zealand. Early efforts, however, to change the breed’s name to American Red were voted down.

The New Zealand has spread throughout the globe as a multipurpose breed, raised for meat, fur, the laboratory industry, and show. Most commercial rabbit operations today use the New Zealand or a hybrid derivative of it. Usually easy-going, the New Zealand is a worthy house rabbit. The white variety, with its erect ears, fluffy tail, and pink eyes, is perhaps the most classic of North American white rabbits.