Lionhead Rabbits Have Great Hair, But Are They Great Pets?

By: Laurie L. Dove  | 

Lionhead rabbit
Lionhead rabbits have great hair and sweet personalities, but need a bit of peace and quiet to be happy. Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0)

Arguably one of the most magnificent things about lionhead rabbits is that they have a lot of hair. Like a lot, a lot. It's one of the reasons people are attracted to them as pets. After all, who wouldn't want a cuddly little lion hopping around the house?

But, with great hair comes great responsibility. To prevent knots and tangles, you'll need to brush a lionhead rabbit's fur at least three times a week. In the spring, when rabbits molt by shedding the excess hair they've accumulated, daily brushing will be de rigueur. As you keep your rabbit's fur tangle-free, you'll also help them avoid a potentially deadly intestinal blockage: Rabbits naturally groom themselves and swallow fur, but too much will gum up their inner workings.

Lionhead rabbits are a dwarf breed that can live for eight to 10 years; they usually weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds (1.1 to 1.6 kilograms) and sport 3-inch (nearly 8-centimeter) ears. There are two types of lionhead rabbits, and while both have an adorable fur mane, one is a "single" mane and one is a "double" mane. Single mane lionhead rabbits carry a solitary mane gene, which means that hair around the head, ears and chin (and sometimes the chest or rump) will remain wispy and often not last past adolescence. Double mane lionhead rabbits, however, have a thick mane encircling the head that they retain for life. They also may have a woolly flank, sometimes called a "skirt."

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Temperament Trifecta

They're smart, playful and usually in a good mood, so what's not to love about lionhead rabbits? This temperament trifecta may make it seem like the maned lionhead rabbit is an ideal pet, but before you make a decision, there are a few things to consider. Lionhead rabbits can be timid. In fact, among domesticated rabbits, they are among the most timid. This means it will take time and gentle dedication to forge feelings of fondness (at least from your bunny's perspective).

For starters, you'll want to provide a quiet environment. If yours is a household with young children running around, a lionhead probably isn't the ideal choice for a pet. But they do warm up to their owners, albeit gradually, and it can help to have a treat on hand to reward their interactions with you. It usually works best if you allow a lionhead to approach you on their own terms; picking one up and holding it "until it loves you" will send these bunnies into a panic. And, like most animals, a fearful panic may result in aggression. In this case, it could lead to biting or scratching (you'll also need to clip their nails regularly).

"It's important to know that rabbits aren't pets meant for kids," says Emma Miles, co-founder of PawsomeAdvice, "as they're very fragile animals that become easily frightened. They're a great pet for experienced pet and rabbit owners."

Lionhead rabbit
Lionhead rabbits are great as pets, but they're shy and not known to be terribly kid-friendly.
Natasha Sioss/Getty Images

Because they are intelligent, lionhead rabbits thrive when offered plenty of mental stimulation. This enrichment also helps to channel their burrowing and chewing instincts, and can usually be accomplished by providing a variety of rabbit-safe chew toys.

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Food, Shelter and Friends

Lionhead rabbits, and domesticated rabbits in general, typically need more variety than a bowl of commercially prepared food pellets. While food pellets are fine in moderate amounts, rabbits need more fiber — and fibrous surfaces on which to chew — than commercial food provides. A lionhead rabbit will need unlimited access to a high-quality grass hay, such as Timothy hay, which is dried Timothy grass. Timothy grass is a high-fiber, low calcium variety that is ideal for rabbits and horses.

It will be important that the hay is fresh and free of mold (this can occur if the hay isn't completely dry before baling or if the hay gets wet after baling). Hay can be supplemented with thick leafy greens like fresh kale or collard greens. Together, these fibrous foods will help your rabbit pare down its teeth, which never stop growing.

Fresh water should always be on hand, and it will be important to regularly wash and sanitize its water bowl (and food bowl) to prevent bacterial infections. Along with a small amount of commercially prepared pellets (about one tablespoon per pound), you can offer the occasional treat of fresh fruit — but only in limited quantities, as the sugar content is not good for rabbits.

Like most domesticated rabbits, lionhead rabbits can live in protected areas indoors or outdoors — with some important restrictions. Remember that they are naturally shy and even the presence of a dog or any kind of predatory animal can be enough to spook them, so make sure to keep them separated. They are also susceptible to temperature extremes. Unless you live in a moderate climate, plan to keep a lionhead rabbit indoors. And, you may want to consider owning more than one.

After all, what could be better than one lionhead rabbit? Two, of course!

"Rabbits are social animals," says Miles. "They live best when they have another rabbit housemate."

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