Choosing meat rabbit breeds can be daunting when you learn just how many are out there. In this article, we will discuss the things you should consider before choosing which breed you want to raise and give an overview of 8 different meat rabbit breeds.
Things to Consider When Choosing Meat Rabbit Breeds
Before you start deciding which meat breed will best fit your rabbitry, there are a few things you should consider.
Meat to Bone Ratio
Different breeds will have different meat-to-bone ratios. This means some breeds have bigger bones and less muscle (meat), while others have smaller bones and more muscle. If a breed has a good meat-to-bone ratio they have a smaller percentage of bone and a higher percentage of meat, which makes them a good meat rabbit prospect.
When raising meat rabbits it is important to focus on the growth rate, no matter the breed. However, some breeds are more likely to have better growth rates than others. Additionally, you can selectively breed to increase the growth rate in your rabbitry. Having a high growth rate means you will be able to butcher sooner, which saves on feed costs and lowers your cost of production.
Mothering Abilities and Litter Sizes
If your doe rabbits can successfully birth and raise large litters, you will have more meat to harvest. So, considering the breed’s mothering abilities and litter sizes is important. While not all females in a breed will make exceptional mothers, some breeds excel in this category. These are also characteristics that you can breed for in your own rabbitry. By knowing when to cull rabbits, you can promote and increase good genetics.
Depending on where you are raising rabbits, you might want to consider the overall size of the meat rabbit breed. Although some have space for any size breed, others have limited space and a smaller breed would suit them better. Smaller meat rabbit breeds can have good meat-to-bone ratios and growth rates while maturing at a smaller size.
Before butchering rabbits you should have a plan for every piece of the rabbit. If you do not have an alternative use, these parts can always be composted to improve soil nutrition. But, if you are interested in making something from rabbit pelts, you should know that some meat rabbit breeds have higher quality pelts than others.
8 Meat Rabbit Breeds
Now that we have discussed the things you should consider before choosing meat rabbit breeds that best fit you, we can go over the different breeds. Although many of the breeds have similar qualities due to being bred for meat production, some excel in certain areas that might be preferable to you.
New Zealand rabbits are the most common breed raised for meat. They have exceptional meat-to-bone ratios and a fast growth rate. This being said, where you source your rabbits has a large impact on their characteristics. Some breeders focus heavily on breeding rabbits that will grow fast and make great table fare, while others do not care. Sourcing your rabbits from a breeder that strategically breeds for a good meat rabbit will be very influential to your own rabbitry.
This meat rabbit breed matures between 9 and 12 pounds and is known for having large litters. They also come in a large variety of colors and their pelt quality is average.
These mostly white rabbits are the second most common meat rabbit breed. They have a gentle temperament and mature at around 8-12 pounds. Litters usually range between 6 and 8 kits, which is about average. Californian rabbits are mostly white with dark points on their nose, ears, feet, and tail. The dark points can vary in color. Although Californians make good meat rabbits, they lack in the pelt quality department, having more coarse fur.
The Silver Fox rabbit is a heritage breed, which means they were around before industrial agriculture. In fact, they are the third oldest breed of rabbit developed in the United States. Silver Foxes come in many colors including black, blue, chocolate, lilac, and white. Each color is tipped in silver to produce a gorgeous pelt. Their pelts are unlike others in the fact that the hairs will stand upright when brushed in the opposite direction. This makes them favorable to people who like to tan pelts.
These rabbits have an excellent meat-to-bone ratio and mature around 10-12 pounds. They also have a friendly temperament and make great mothers. Litter sizes are on the smaller side with 4-8 kits.
Neauregard Farmstead states that Silver Foxes “make a great dual-purpose homestead rabbit”.
If you are looking for a cold hardy rabbit, Satins sit among the best options. They have a hollow hair shaft which helps with insulation and makes their pelts extra shiny. Between their lustrous coats and the many colors they come in, they are well suited for tanning projects. Different from others, it is normal for Satins to have small or large litters, ranging from 1 to 12.
Although Satins have a slower growth rate than some of the other meat rabbit breeds, they have a calm disposition, making them good family rabbits.
Rex rabbits have the widest array of colors. Not only that, they are especially sought after by tanners due to their velvety fur. Each hair, both the undercoat and outer coat, are the same length.
This breed is docile and has larger litters ranging from 6 to 12. Rex rabbits have slower growth rates than some of the other breeds but can be well-producing meat animals with the right genetics. Amanda Corey mentions that they have great personalities, which holds true.
Harlequins are another heritage breed and they mature between 7 and 10 pounds. The pelt patterns of this breed distinctly stand out due to their patterning. There are two types of Harlequins, Japanese and magpie. Japenese Harlequins have an orange base coat with a black, blue, chocolate, or lilac pattern on top. Magpie Harlequins have a white base coat with black, blue, chocolate, or lilac markings on top.
This breed has a good growth rate and average litter size, usually around 6 to 10 kits.
TAMUK stands for Texas A&M University-Kingsville and they are a composite breed compromised of seven different breeds. They were bred to make the ultimate backyard meat rabbit for warmer climates. Heat tolerance and high production are characteristics that the TAMUK breed stands out in.
This is a fairly new breed that is gaining popularity quickly.
This breed is capable of producing large, luxurious coats due to their size. Even though they are one of the largest rabbit breeds (reaching 9-15 pounds) they are not often used solely for the purpose of meat. This is because they have a slow growth rate and big bones, giving them a poor meat-to-bone ratio,
Flemish Giants typically have average litters containing 5-10 kits.
Once you have decided what your goals are for raising meat rabbits besides stocking your freezer with high-quality meat, you can begin choosing your breed or breeds. There are many meat rabbit breeds available, but the most crucial step will be finding a breeder who has similar goals. Starting with rabbits that have characteristics you want to tune in on will only benefit your rabbitry.