Dating back to the late 1800s, Harlequin rabbits have very distinctive coat patterns. Half of their face is one color, while the other half is another. Their ears are the same way but mismatched from the face coloration.
Harlequin Rabbits are often called “clowns” due to their sweet but funny appearance and their amusing personalities. They are medium-sized rabbits with sweet dispositions. They make wonderful pets and are often bred for shows.
Table of contents
- What do Harlequin Rabbits Look Like?
- Harlequin Rabbit Diet
- How Long do Harlequin Rabbits Live?
- Harlequin Rabbit Grooming
- Harlequin Rabbit Hutch
- Harlequin Rabbit Behavior and Training
- How to Handle Harlequin Rabbits
- Harlequin Rabbit Veterinary Care
- Adopting a Harlequin Rabbit
In our complete guide, we’ll talk more about this unique rabbit breed, its appearance, care, and more!
What do Harlequin Rabbits Look Like?
Harlequin Rabbits have two coat varieties: Japanese and Magpie. Japanese Harlequin Rabbits are bicolored rabbits with an orange base, while Magpies are also bicolored but with a white base.
Secondary Harlequin Rabbit colors are black, blue, chocolate, and lilac.
Harlequins’ faces and ears contain both coat colors but on opposite sides. For instance, a Magpie may have a half-white left side of the face and a white right ear, with a black right side of the face and left ear.
Their feet are also bicolored, matching the face on either side, and their stomachs are the base color (white or orange). Their backs are typically banded.
This very specific coloration makes them a super fun breed, and some people think they’re equally funny-looking as they are adorable!
These buns are short-haired with round heads and upright ears.
How big do Harlequin Rabbits Get?
Harlequin Rabbits usually weigh between 6.5-9.5 pounds. They are a larger breed of bun, though not giant by any means.
Harlequin Rabbit Diet
Harlequin Rabbits need a diet consisting of at least 70% hay and supplemented with various daily vegetables. Pellets and fruits are optional foods for your rabbit.
We’ll go more in-depth below, but first a few pointers:
- Introduce new foods slowly. Rabbits need a variety in their diet, but they also have incredibly sensitive stomachs.
- Use water dishes, not bottles. This makes it easier for your bunny to access their water and get enough to drink each day.
- Bunny-proof your home. Rabbits love chewing, and many will get into anything including your baseboards, phone charger, or the legs of your favorite table!
- Untreated wood items are best for bunnies. They satisfy your rabbit’s instinct to chew and are much safer than plastic if consumed.
What do Harlequin Rabbits Eat in the Wild?
Although Harlequin Rabbits are a domesticated breed, they are closely related to the European Rabbit. These buns live in the wild throughout Europe and have even been introduced as an invasive species on other continents such as Australia.
European Rabbits eat primarily grass. They also forage for vegetables and fruit, with a preference for dark, leafy greens. As herbivores, they do not eat any kind of meat.
In the winter, fresh foliage is less accessible. The rabbits will eat wooden items like tree trunks and twigs during this time. This is where our domestic rabbits get that urge to chew from!
Chewing also helps to grind down their ever-growing teeth, keeping them healthy and preventing them from growing too long.
We provide our domesticated rabbits with almost the same diet as the European Rabbit, with some small changes.
The first is the staple of their diet: instead of grass, we feed hay. This is because hay is easier to keep for most families than a constant supply of fresh, rabbit-safe grass.
Our yards are typically treated with fertilizers and pesticides. They are also defecated on by wild animals and may contain pests that can infect our buns.
Domesticated rabbits also have much steadier access to fresh vegetables, which is terrific for them! They don’t have to go days, weeks, or months without veggies like their wild counterparts might.
This, among other things, allows them to live longer, happier lives.
The last stand-out difference is pellets. These provide all of the nutrients your bunny needs, and are obviously human-made—you aren’t finding them in the wild!
Some people don’t feed their rabbit pellets since they find the extra nutrients unnecessary in a healthy diet. It’s ultimately up to each person to make the right choice for their bun.
What Should You Feed Your Harlequin Rabbit?
Here’s what you should feed your Harlequin Rabbit:
- A constant supply of fresh grass hay
- Daily vegetables
- Small amounts of pellets (optional)
- Fruit (in moderation, optional)
Hay should make up at least 70% of your Harlequin’s diet. It’s rich in fiber to aid their digestive system and also helps to keep their teeth healthy.
Your bun should always have ample, fresh hay. You can pile it in their litterbox or use a hay holder with large holes so that the hay is easy for them to take out and eat.
Never restrict your rabbit’s access to hay.
When it comes to vegetables, the best for your rabbit are dark, leafy greens. Parsley, spinach, and romaine lettuce are all great choices!
Sprinkle in other vegetables like carrots, cucumber (see also ‘Can Rabbits Eat Cucumbers?‘), or bell peppers. Although we often think of carrots and rabbits going hand in hand, the truth is that carrots should be fed only in moderation—they have a high sugar content and aren’t good for your bunny when fed in excess.
Pellets are controversial in the bunny community, and each person will have to decide for themselves what is best for their furry friend.
On the plus side, they contain tons of essential nutrients for bunnies. The negative side is that your bunny won’t need these nutrients if fed a proper diet of hay and vegetables—and the excess can stop them from natural behavior like eating their cecotropes (in other words, their poop!).
This may seem like a good thing, but it’s actually essential for rabbits to consume their cecotropes as part of a healthy diet.
Lastly, if you’re like us, you love spoiling your bunnies! One fun way to do this is by providing them with treats.
Many store-bought treats are unsafe for bunnies, unfortunately, so the safest way to provide your little one with a snack is through fruits or vegetables.
Think bananas, carrots, strawberries—things that you aren’t giving them every day, but that your rabbit enjoys in moderation! Each rabbit is an individual, so you’ll have to try out different foods to discover their likes and dislikes.
The plus side is that you get to stock up your fridge with tons of healthy snacks for yourself, too!
Treats can be fed during socializing and bonding with your bunny, training them tricks like recall, and just as a fun surprise!
Harlequin Rabbit Toxic Foods List
When adopting new animals, it’s always good to know what they can and cannot eat. You likely know that your rabbit can’t have chocolate or meat, but did you realize chives and rhubarb are also toxic to rabbits?
Take a look at the list below to learn what not to feed your bun!
- Fruit pits and seeds
- Raw onions
- Raw leeks
- Raw garlic
- Broad beans
- Kidney beans
- Iceberg lettuce
- Processed foods
- Raw potatoes
Also, be cautious with plants and cleaning products. Place houseplants out of reach, lock the cleaning supplies away, and always supervise your bunny outdoors.
When cleaning your bunny’s items, use products that are as natural, gentle, and scent-free as possible. For example, use vinegar instead of bleach to sanitize the litterbox, and wipe items down with dish soap rather than harsh cleaners.
Many pesticides and fertilizers are also toxic, so don’t let your rabbit eat things from the yard if it’s been treated.
How Long do Harlequin Rabbits Live?
Harlequin rabbits have a lifespan of 5-8 years. Some bunnies die younger, while others live to be years older than this.
Your bunny’s genetics and unpredictable health problems play a huge role in their lifespan, but there are ways to increase it. Here are some ways to make your bunny live longer:
- Have them spayed or neutered
- Visit the veterinarian for a check-up once yearly
- Watch your rabbit for any medical symptoms or changes in behavior, and contact your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual
- Look your rabbit over each week during grooming for health concerns
- Feed them a balanced diet
- Provide a proper, indoor enclosure that allows your bunny to exercise freely (or free-roam them instead!)
Harlequin Rabbit Grooming
Harlequin Rabbits have short fur, which makes them a lot easier to groom than long-haired rabbits. They won’t develop mats, and will typically stay cleaner than rabbits with long fur that drags on the ground.
However, these bunnies’ fur is quite thick, and they can shed a lot—especially during shedding season. To keep up with this, brush them once a week.
This will keep your home cleaner, save you some vacuuming time, and also promote a healthy coat by distributing oils across your rabbit’s fur.
Routine grooming is also a good time to do a quick health check, giving your rabbit a once-over to make sure all is well. This way, you can catch health issues early and see a veterinarian as soon as they develop.
Grooming Health Checklist
Catching illness or injuries early can be the difference between life and death for your rabbit. As prey animals, they often hide their discomfort until it’s too late for you or a veterinarian to help them.
Giving them a quick look-over once weekly is a great idea to keep your bunny in tip-top shape.
Here’s how to check your bunny during grooming:
- Part their fur down to the skin. Look for parasites, sores, redness, or hair loss.
- Check their underside and butt area. Make sure they are clean, and use pet wipes to remedy the situation if they aren’t. Never bathe your rabbit.
- Look at your bunny’s eyes and ears. Their eyes should be clear, alert, and free of discharge. Their ears should be clean without any redness.
- Give their teeth a look. Bunnies’ teeth are constantly growing, and this can cause dental issues if they aren’t worn down properly by eating hay and gnawing on wood. Sometimes it’s difficult to spot teeth issues, but it doesn’t hurt to give their mouths a quick look for obvious problems.
- Weigh your rabbit. If you weigh your bunny each week, you’ll notice early on if they begin to considerably gain or lose weight.
- Feel your rabbit with your hands. Check for any lumps, bumps, injuries, or anything else unusual.
If you notice any issues during this check, consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. This check isn’t meant to self-diagnose issues, but instead to be aware of any changes in your rabbit’s health so that you can seek proper treatment.
Can you Bathe a Harlequin Rabbit?
Harlequin Rabbits should never be bathed. Their fur takes a long time to dry out once wet because it is very thick and dense.
While wet, your rabbit will have a difficult time maintaining their own temperature. This can lead to hypothermia, especially if you don’t keep them warm.
Another risk of bathing your bunny is the stress it will cause them. Bunnies are fragile animals, and stress can kill them by way of shock or heart attacks.
Luckily, Harlequin Rabbits are very clean animals. They groom themselves and each other (you should always keep rabbits in pairs or groups!), and their short coat doesn’t pick up much dirt or debris.
If your bunny is looking dirty, use a damp cloth or a pet wipe to clean them up.
How to Trim Your Harlequin Rabbit’s Nails
Your Harlequin Rabbit’s nails should be trimmed once monthly. You can do it yourself or bring them to see a veterinarian or groomer.
It’s easiest and cheapest to learn to trim your bunny’s nails, and we’ll provide a full guide below. If you’re uncomfortable, though, be sure to see a professional with rabbit experience.
You don’t want someone unused to handling buns, or who doesn’t know not to give them a bath! For this reason, a veterinarian or groomer experienced with rabbits is a must.
Here’s how to trim your bunny’s nails step by step:
- Bond with your rabbit. This process will go so much smoother once your bunny trusts you! Don’t rush the process, but over time you should get your bunny used to being picked up and having their feet touched. Treat them for behaving while you handle them.
- Familiarize yourself with handling them. Holding a rabbit can be intimidating at first, so get comfortable picking them up, messing with their feet, and viewing their nails.
- Locate the quick of the nail. It’s pink and located near the base of the paw. It’s crucial to know where the quick is located before making any cuts. The quick is full of blood, and you’ll hurt your rabbit if you cut into it.
- Gather your supplies. You’ll need a pair of clean, sharp nail trimmers (cat or human clippers work fine), treats, flour or cornstarch, a towel, and someone to help you hold your bun. The last two are optional and will depend on your experience, comfort, and how well your bunny behaves during nail trims.
- Wrap your bunny in the towel. Enclose their entire body tightly, while still ensuring to support their body with your hands.
- Hand the bunny to your helper if you have one, keeping your bunny low to the ground in case they struggle away. Now’s the time to introduce a tasty treat—preferably something like a large vegetable that takes time to eat.
- Pull one paw from the towel. Keep the others securely wrapped to lessen the chance of your bunny squirming away.
- Trim the tip of the nail with straight, clean cuts. Remember to avoid the quick! Trimming too long is better than too short, as you can always go back once you’re more confident.
- Flour or cornstarch will help to clot bleeds if you cut too deep.
If you accidentally trim too short and your rabbit doesn’t stop bleeding within a couple of minutes, see a veterinarian immediately.
If the bleeding does stop, watch the injured claw over the next few days to ensure it heals and doesn’t become infected.
Harlequin Rabbit Hutch
Hutches aren’t recommended for rabbits for two reasons:
- The vast majority of hutches are too small for rabbits.
- Harlequin rabbits should never be housed outdoors.
Although we’re used to seeing rabbits and other small animals in tiny pet store cages or outdoor hutches, this isn’t proper rabbit care.
They don’t provide rabbits with proper space for exercise. It’s the equivalent of expecting a human to live in a small room their entire life!
When given the proper space, bunnies will hop, sprint, and binky all around! A “binky” is when rabbits jump up and twist around in the air, and it’s a sign of a very happy bun.
Sadly, many rabbits don’t get to experience this happiness because they’re kept in a container small enough to be their litterbox!
Repurposing pet store cages or hutches as litterbox is actually a perfect use for them. Larger ones can also be used to set up a “home base” for your rabbit containing their hay, water, food dish, and litterbox area. This can keep their larger environment more cleanly as it contains their hay and waste.
By removing the bars of a cage or leaving a hutch open 24/7, you can then set up a larger area such as a free-roaming space, a large dog exercise pen, or a large C&C (cubes and coroplast) grid enclosure.
How Much Space do Harlequin Rabbits Need?
As we discussed above, you won’t find an enclosure suitable for a rabbit at any big-chain pet store. Hutches are also almost always too small.
Here are some guidelines for a proper rabbit enclosure:
- Your rabbit must be able to jump. It’s not fair to restrict their movements, even for just part of the day. The enclosure must be tall enough so that your rabbit won’t hit their head or escape confinement if it’s open-topped.
- Make room for zoomies! Harlequins love to sprint around, uncoordinated, playing and getting out energy. This exercise is crucial and should also never be restricted.
Your bunny should not only have plenty of floor space in their enclosure but also a clear path to run in. A common mistake is to fill the floor space with large toys or hidey homes that restrict your bun’s movement.
- The enclosure needs to be comfortable. Cover gridded flooring to prevent paw and hock injuries, and pad any hard, slick surfaces so your bunny doesn’t slip while doing zoomies. Also provide plenty of hidey homes, beds, and other comfy napping areas.Your bun deserves to be able to snuggle up to plush surfaces, have padding beneath their feet to prevent injury, and have plenty of non-slip surfaces to run and play on.
- Never keep a bunny alone. No matter how much you and your bunny love one another, you can’t replace the enrichment and social impact another rabbit provides. Bunnies should always be kept in pairs or groups.
- Provide toys and enrichment. Give your bunny things to chew, tunnels to run through, and toys to toss around in their enclosure. This will stop them from getting bored and will engage their natural instincts.
- Supply constant fresh hay and water. Your bunnies should never be without these two things! If you’re leaving to go to work, sleep, or run errands, always ensure your rabbit has enough fresh hay and water to last them while you’re gone. (Dirty water dishes and soiled hay don’t count—your bun won’t consume them!)
Remember, your rabbit should always be given several hours of free-roam time a day. This provides important stimulation by giving your rabbit extra space and a new area to explore.
Just like you’d get stir-crazy staying in your house your whole life, your rabbit doesn’t want to spend their lives in an enclosure.
Rabbits aren’t easy pets, and they understandably aren’t for everybody—but if you have a bunny, you need to care for them properly.
Alternatives to Cages or Hutches
- Large dog exercise pens are great for containing rabbits, whether you want to contain them for most of the day or only while you’re away.
- C&C grids. C&C stands for cubes and coroplast. The cubes are storage grids that can be used to line a bunny’s enclosure. You may have to stack these to ensure they’re tall enough to keep your Harlequin inside.
- Free-roaming your rabbit, even in a single room, is the best way to house them. This gives them plenty of space, exercise, and enrichment. It also makes them easier to bond with because they can come right up to you if they want some attention!
How to Clean up After Your Harlequin Rabbit
Here are some daily and weekly checklists to keep your rabbit’s enclosure and your home nice and neat.
- Wash your bunny’s food and water dishes
- Refill the water bowl
- Scoop the litterbox
- Refill your rabbit’s hay supply
- Sweep or vacuum any stray litter, poop, or fur
- Wash and replace soiled items and bedding
- Scrub the litterbox with soap and water, then soak it in vinegar for 20 minutes if needed to remove pee stains
- Deep clean your rabbit’s enclosure or home base
- Wash all bedding and fabric items
- Vacuum and mop thoroughly
How to Free Roam Your Harlequin Rabbit
Free-roaming is very intimidating for new bunny owners! Understandably, you never want your rabbit to get hurt or ruin your home.
With proper bunny-proofing, however, this won’t happen! If you can’t rabbit-proof your entire home, even one room is a decent space for your rabbit to live in.
Many people keep their buns confined to their bedroom, living room, or their very own bunny room! Housing your bunny where you spend a lot of time is a good idea so that you two get to bond with one another.
Here’s how to bunny-proof your space:
- Litter train your rabbit. While most rabbits can’t be 100% litter trained, this will help to lessen the mess and ensure they don’t pee on your bed or couch!
- Place toxic items out of reach. This includes toxic foods, cleaning products, and many houseplants.
- Remove items your bunny could chew. Check your floor, bottom shelves, and other areas within your bunnies’ reach. You can block off these areas or move the items to a higher location.
- Cover furniture legs, baseboards, and cords. Use cord covers, furniture covers, and C&C grids to prevent destructive chewing.
- Block off dangerous areas. This includes stairways, doors to outside or non-bunny-proofed rooms, and beneath any furniture you don’t want your bunny to access.
- Set up a home base for your bunny. This should contain everything they need including their hay, water, food dish, and litterbox. You can contain your bunny here while you clean or have guests over, or leave it open 24/7.
- Cover hard, slippery surfaces with rugs, blankets, or fleece. This will allow your bunny to do zoomies and binkies to their heart’s content, without slipping and hurting themselves.
- Keep bunnies away from predator animals, like dogs and cats. While these pets can sometimes do well together, they should never be left unsupervised—even the best-behaved dog or cat may succumb to their natural hunting instincts!
Being around predators can also be very scary for bunnies, especially if they didn’t grow up around these pets to learn they are safe. A stressed bun has a chance of going into shock or having a heart attack due to the constant fear.
How to Litter Train Your Harlequin Rabbit
Rabbits naturally pee and poop in corners. This makes them incredibly simple to litter train!
Though many buns won’t ever be potty trained perfectly, you can get pretty close with very limited accidents outside of the box. A mat beneath the litterbox can help to make clean-up easier if your rabbit misses.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to litter training your Harlequin Rabbit:
- Spay or neuter your bun. Hormonal rabbits will mark territory, but this is less likely after spay or neuter surgery. This is crucial if you want a potty-trained rabbit!
- Create a home base if you haven’t already. This will allow you to enclose your rabbit in a safe area during litter training, keeping any accidents contained and easy to clean.
- Buy a litterbox. It should be large enough for your rabbit to hop inside and move around in, and shallow enough for them to climb into easily. Babies, seniors, and rabbits with health problems may need shallower sides so that the box is easy to use.
The right litterbox will also be topless to provide ventilation.
- Put the litterbox in a corner of the room. This is super important because it plays into your bunny’s natural instincts to potty in corners. We want to use this to our advantage, not try to work against it.
- Fill the box with a thin layer of rabbit-safe litter. Paper pellet litter, newspaper, and fresh hay all work well. Fresh hay will mean more hay waste, but also makes filling the litterbox simple and easy.
Never use puppy pee pads, clay litter, or clumping litter. These are dangerous if consumed by your rabbit.
- Place hay in the litterbox. Fill it all the way to the top on one side so your rabbit has plenty to eat! This may seem odd, but bunnies have very fast metabolisms that cause them to pee and poop while eating.
This makes litter training even simpler, even if it seems kind of gross to new bunny owners!
Refill the hay if it becomes stomped down or soiled, as rabbits won’t eat this hay. If you prefer not to keep piles of hay in the box, you can use a hay bag with large holes so that your bunny can pull out the hay easily.
Hay racks often make it too difficult for your bunny to get their hay—they should never have to work for this food!
- Place stray poops into the litterbox. This will teach your bunny where you want them to go next time, as it places your bunny’s scent inside of the box.
- Switch corners if needed. Some rabbits will choose an opposite corner to potty in, and it’s easier to go with it than to fight them.
- Don’t punish your bunny for accidents. These are normal and expected, especially as your bunny is first learning. Rabbits don’t understand punishments. They are prey animals who will only become afraid of you if you treat them harshly!
- Give litter-trained rabbits more space. Once you can trust your rabbit to potty in the litterbox regularly, it’s time to allow them outside of their home base area.
- Enclose them again if they regress. Sometimes bunnies need to be retrained, and it’s easiest to do this by containing them so that they don’t make messes all over your home.
- Clean the litterbox regularly. It should be scooped daily and rinsed out once a week. Rabbits won’t use dirty litterboxes, just like humans don’t like filthy public restrooms!
- Consider 2+ litterboxes. Some rabbits don’t like to share their litterbox with their companions, and a litterbox for each bunny is preferred. If your rabbit free-roams in a large home, you might also consider multiple boxes so that your bunny doesn’t have to go all the way across the house to access their hay and litter.
Can Harlequin Rabbits Live Outside?
Outdoors is no place for a domestic rabbit, and Harlequins are no exception.
Even in a properly-enclosed area, rabbits face many risks living outdoors and often live shorter lives. They may escape their enclosure, fall prey to predators, die from outdoor stressors, or become ill due to poor weather conditions.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the risks of rabbits living outdoors:
- Rabbits are sensitive to weather and temperature fluctuations. They can get heatstroke in hot weather, hypothermia in freezing or wet conditions, or become unsafely soaked by rain.
- Predators can kill rabbits, even indirectly. A pacing cat outside of your rabbit’s enclosure is incredibly stressful for your bun—even if the cat never touches them!
Remember, rabbits can die of stress. There’s also a great chance of predators breaking into your rabbit’s enclosure, even if you think it’s safe.
Even if your rabbit doesn’t die, the stress they feel from sensing predators nearby decreases their quality of life.
- Rabbits hide illness well. The best way to detect illness or injury in a rabbit is to pay close attention to their behaviors. This is much easier when your bunny lives indoors as part of the family.
- Bunnies get lonely. Even when living with other rabbits, a bunny who’s bonded to their human family will miss you when you’re away!
It’s much harder to spend time with your Harlequin Rabbit if you two live separately. By bringing them indoors, you’ll find that you have a closer bond and your rabbit will likely be happier as well!
A common misconception is that wild rabbits live outdoors and do just fine, so why can’t our pets? The truth is a bit more complicated than this, however.
First, Harlequin Rabbits are a domesticated species. They’ve been bred for hundreds of years by humans, and are much different than wild rabbits.
Sadly, wild rabbits also have shorter lifespans due to the threats they face. Many young, wild rabbits succumb to illness or are killed by predators.
They also live less healthy lives due to their exposure to harsh weather, parasites, and the stressors that come with living outdoors as a prey species.
When cared for properly, captive animals like pet bunnies live longer than their wild counterparts. They have us to keep them safe, fed, and healthy.
Considerations for Supervised Outdoor Time
Some bunnies love to go outside in the sunshine from time to time. It’s a great idea to try some supervised time outdoors and see if your rabbit enjoys it.
However, there are some things to think about first:
- Parasite prevention and vaccinations will keep your rabbit healthy, preventing them from catching parasites or illness while they’re outdoors. Your veterinarian can tell you how to keep your bunny safe, including common parasites or illnesses in your area that you should protect your rabbit from.
- Proper containment is a must. Bunnies can jump high and some of them are diggers! You don’t want them getting out and running away because you may not be able to catch them.
- Don’t use leashes. Collars and harnesses can injure your rabbit, as they were designed for larger, stronger pets like dogs and cats.
- Always supervise your rabbit outdoors. If your rabbit is left unsupervised, they face the risks we talked about above.
- Watch for threats such as intense sun, heat, freezing weather, rain, or predators.
- Consider your bunny’s personality. Some will love outdoor time, while others will hide in their hidey house, afraid the entire time. This should be a fun experience, so bring your rabbit back inside if they aren’t enjoying themselves.
Harlequin Rabbit Behavior and Training
Harlequin Rabbits are most known for their goofy appearance and personalities. These fun buns will keep you entertained as they play with their toys, race through tunnels, and binky around the house!
A Harlequin Rabbit who is comfortable in their home will be loving and sweet toward their human family.
However, it’s important to remember that rabbits are prey animals. They scare easily because they’re fragile creatures who can be hurt easily!
A rabbit who hasn’t been socialized well may run from people, hide, or even bite in fear. It’s important to know how to bond with your bunny to avoid these behaviors.
Bonding with your bunny will benefit your relationship and provide your bunny with a happy, fear-free life!
Bonding with Your Harlequin Rabbit
Rabbits survive in the wild by reacting quickly to things that scare them. They’re always on the watch for predators.
To them, humans are large and scary! Even though Harlequin Rabbits are domesticated, they haven’t lost the deeply-rooted fear response that kept their ancestors alive.
Here’s how to bond with and tame your Harlequin Rabbit:
- Don’t reach for them from above. This mimics a hawk sweeping them into the air—it’s terrifying to them!
- Get down to their level. Lie or sit on the ground. Stay still and hold some vegetables or fruit in your hands—you may be surprised how quickly your rabbit approaches!
- Bring food! This is the quickest way to your rabbit’s heart. It will teach them to associate you with good things, and over time they’ll learn you aren’t so scary after all. Feed your rabbit by hand if possible to better bond with them.
- Have patience. You two are strangers, and it’s going to take time before your rabbit warms up to you. You may feel immediately bonded to their cute furry selves, but most rabbits need time.
- Pet your rabbit slowly and gently. Once they’ve warmed up to you, try scratching your rabbit on their face and behind their ears. Let them sniff you first so that they see you coming.
Remember, don’t reach down from above when petting your rabbit, or you’ll scare them away.
How to Handle Harlequin Rabbits
Knowing how to handle your Harlequin Rabbit is an important part of rabbit care. You’ll need to be able to groom them, check them over for health problems, and trim their nails regularly.
You might also want to handle them for lap time or cuddles!
Picking up a rabbit can be tricky at first. Their bones can break easily, so you must handle them gently and never drop them!
This may sound easy, but wait until you have a squirming rabbit in your hands! The truth is, most bunnies never like to be picked up.
They like to bond with you and even be held, but many buns never make the connection that they have to be scooped up before this can happen. It feels scary and unnatural to them.
This is why it’s best not to give your rabbit much warning. Start by petting them gently, then bring your hand up under their belly. Set your other hand on their bum and lift them up.
Keep your rabbit close to the ground as you learn to pick them up, just in case they manage to squirm away.
Hold your rabbit securely, but don’t squeeze them tightly—you may injure them if you’re too rough. Support their full body so they feel secure in your hands.
When taking them out for cuddles or lap time, consider coaxing your Harlequin into a cuddle sack, upside-down hidey house, or pet bed. You can then lift this item, ensuring you support your rabbit’s full weight and block any exit routes.
It’s also a good idea to have a pet carrier on hand for trips to the veterinarian. While bunnies won’t care to travel regularly, you will need to bring them in the car for these appointments and if you ever move homes.
A carrier will keep them safely contained and not hopping around your vehicle.
Harlequin Rabbit Veterinary Care
Young, healthy Harlequin rabbits should see a veterinarian once a year for a check-up. This allows your veterinarian to learn your rabbit’s baseline health, which can help them to diagnose problems if something goes wrong.
If you notice worrying changes in behavior like your bunny’s sleep pattern, appetite, litterbox habits, or they’re just not themselves, bring them in for an appointment at this time as well.
Senior Harlequins should see the veterinarian once every six months since they’re more at risk of developing health problems.
Some illnesses to watch for include arthritis, parasites, rabbit snuffles, heart problems, and GI Stasis.
Adopting a Harlequin Rabbit
The four ways we recommend adopting a Harlequin Rabbit are the following:
- Rehoming from an old owner
- Rabbit or small animal rescues
- Animal shelters
- Reputable breeders
Never purchase a rabbit from a pet store or a breeder you haven’t vetted properly. This is essential so that you don’t support poor breeding practices like bunny mills and backyard breeders.
Rescuing a Rabbit in Need
Rescue is always our first recommendation! There are so many rabbits out there looking for a home that we guarantee you can find the right match for you.
Plenty of people don’t realize how much work bunnies are, and they then need to find new homes for them. This is where rehoming comes in.
You can adopt a rabbit from someone you know who can no longer keep their bun, or search listings from your local animal shelter, Craigslist, or PetFinder.
Be careful with online resources, as not everyone has the best of intentions. Always bring someone with you and meet in a public location for your own safety.
More reliable resources are your local animal shelter or rescue. Both small animal rescues and rabbit rescues will have bunnies for adoption.
Rescues and shelters that utilize fosters for their animals are especially awesome because their bunnies live in homes and receive individual care. Often their fosters get to know the bunnies’ personalities well, and can recommend a bun who is perfect for you!
If you’re less concerned with personality, shelters are also great places to adopt rabbits from. The reason your rabbit’s personality will be less reliable is because most shelter environments are quite stressful on bunnies, and shelter staff often don’t have time to get to know each animal individually.
Shelters do great work, and are often overcrowded—meaning that when you adopt a shelter rabbit, you’re likely saving their life!
Purchasing from a Breeder
Purchasing from a breeder is also a viable option, so long as you check them out to ensure they’re reputable. Never buy from a pet store or online.
Consider that Harlequins purchased from a breeder will be more expensive, since these rabbits are often bred for show. Rescues will typically charge a much lower adoption fee.
Here’s how to know a Harlequin Rabbit breeder is reputable:
- They know their breed. Backyard breeders may seem harmless, but they often breed unhealthy buns due to their own lack of knowledge.
- The bunnies are housed in a suitable location. It should be clean and provide everything the bunnies need including space, hay, water, and enrichment.
- All of the rabbits look healthy. This includes the parents! Never trust a breeder who won’t show you the parent rabbits, as this likely means they have something to hide.
- They have a clean bill of health. Veterinary paperwork should show that the rabbits are healthy, up to date on vaccines, and have been tested for any genetic health conditions.
- The breeder is open and honest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the breed, rabbit care, or anything else you’re curious about! A breeder not wanting to talk to you, or who lies when answering questions, is a massive red flag.
One of the most common lies breeders tell is that Harlequin Rabbits are 100% healthy with no health problems—this isn’t true for any breed!
- They don’t have several litters. A breeder should only have so many bunnies as they can realistically care for. They shouldn’t be housed in small cages, but instead should be given plenty of space, care, and attention!
A breeder with many litters is in it for the money, not the rabbits’ wellbeing.