- COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Belgium
- YEAR RECOGNIZED: 2014
- USES: Pet, show
- WEIGHT: 3.75 pounds (1.7 kg) max., senior bucks and does
- BODY TYPE: Compact
- FUR TYPE: Wool; rollback; soft, dense, of medium length; saddle clear of wool; mane at least 2 inches (5 cm) long
- COLORS: Ruby-eyed white, tortoiseshell (black, blue, chocolate, or lilac)
THE LIONHEAD RABBIT is a compact little creature with a telltale leonine mane spiking from its head and chest. In prime condition, a Lionhead’s fur doesn’t extend from the flanks or hind end. Jersey Woolies, probably the only breed that could be confused with the Lionhead, are completely covered by their long, wooly coats.
The origins of the Lionhead are unclear. Bob D. Whitman, who researched breed histories for many years, wrote that the Lionhead’s forebear was the result of a gene mutation that created a “bearded” rabbit, traced to Belgium prior to 1960. Several bearded rabbits eventually surfaced and led to a European version of the Lionhead. The breed reached England in the mid-1990s and the United States shortly thereafter. Several Minnesota breeders, in an effort to expand the breed’s gene pool, crossed Lionheads with other small breeds, including the Netherland Dwarf and the Florida White.
It can be difficult to achieve the “perfect” mane of the Lionhead breed standard. Breeders strive for a full-circle mane with strands of fur 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) long. Lionheads should not weigh more
than 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg). That small size, blended with a generally winning temperament and adaptable nature, tends to make them excellent pets.