California rabbits are a distinguished breed prized for their calm temperament and attractive physical characteristics. Ideal for both showing and raising as pets, California rabbits catch both breeders’ and enthusiasts’ attention. This beginner’s guide aims to provide all essential knowledge you, as a breeder or enthusiast, would need to care effectively for California rabbits.

In the rabbit breeding community, California rabbits have staked a claim as a popular breed. Their versatility combined with their physical appeal makes them an intriguing choice for breeding and a delightful addition to the family as pets. Understanding and optimally caring for your California rabbit begins with knowing their background, habits, and requirements.

History & Breed Origin of the California Rabbit

The Californian rabbit, a breed synonymous both with commercial robustness and domestic charm, was developed in the early 1920s in Southern California, USA. The breed’s inception was the vision of George West, who sought to create a rabbit that excelled in both high quality fur and as an excellent meat rabbit. Utilizing a strategic cross-breeding approach, West initially combined the Himalayan and Standard Chinchilla breeds, aiming for a rabbit with a desirable physical build and coat.

Through selective breeding and a meticulous focus on desired traits, the New Zealand White rabbit was later incorporated into the mix. This genetic melding gave rise to the Californian rabbit, characterized by its distinctive color markings and size, setting a benchmark in rabbit breeding for both its utility and appearance.

The Californian rabbit was shown for the first time in 1928, then later accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1939. Its distinct white body with contrasting dark points on the ears, nose, feet, and tail, coupled with its muscular build, made it an attractive choice for both commercial purposes and as a show animal. The breed’s adaptability to a range of environments and its easygoing temperament further cemented its popularity among rabbit aficionados.

As breeding practices have evolved, so too has the Californian rabbit breed, with enthusiasts continually working to refine and maintain its distinct characteristics and health. The breed’s history is a testament to the dedication of those within the rabbit breeding community, displaying a commitment to enhancing and preserving the qualities that make the Californian rabbit both a productive livestock and a beloved pet.

Two normal California rabbits

Appearance and Size


California rabbits can readily be identified by their distinctive look and size. The breed is primarily recognized for its well-rounded body type and sturdy structure, giving it a robust and muscular appearance. There are no recognized sub-types within this breed; only one standard of California rabbit is recognized by ARBA. (A color variety of white with dark points) Meanwhile the British Rabbit Council (BRC) recognizes four colors: normal, blue, chocolate, or lilac points.

Color Varieties

The California rabbit’s striking coat is undeniably one of its most distinctive features. They possess a white body with dark points spread over their ears, nose, feet, and tail. This color contrast, reminiscent of their Himalayan heritage, permits them to stand out distinctly among other rabbit breeds.

Temperament and Personality

The temperament of California rabbits is generally docile. They are known for their friendly disposition and tenderness, traits that endear them to breeders and keepers alike. Their adaptable nature enables California rabbits to thrive in different environments, making them well-suited as house rabbits.

Despite their gentle nature, it’s essential to handle California rabbits with care. They can prove to be moderately active creatures that enjoy play, interaction, and exploration. It’s this blend of a calm yet lively temperament that makes these rabbits a versatile breed fit for an array of settings, from peaceful homesteads to active households.

California rabbit in a play area

Care and Feeding for your California Rabbit

A well-balanced diet is crucial for maintaining a California rabbit’s health. A diet primarily based on quality hay, such as timothy or orchard grass, promotes good digestive health and helps prevent obesity. Fresh vegetables provide essential nutrients, while a moderate amount of pellets offers a concentrated source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Always ensure fresh water is available, as hydration plays a vital role in their overall health.


Exercise is equally important for California rabbits. They require ample space to move freely, explore, and engage in physical activities, which supports their mental and physical well-being. Create a safe environment where they can exercise without risk of injury or escape.


Safe and comfortable housing is essential for your California rabbit. The enclosure, also known as a rabbit hutch, should protect them from harsh weather conditions and predators while being spacious enough to accommodate their exercise needs. Regular cleaning is necessary to maintain a healthy living space free from harmful bacteria and odors.


California rabbits, with their short, dense coats, are relatively easy to groom. Frequent brushing helps to remove loose fur and reduce shedding. During molting periods, you may need to brush them more often to prevent the ingestion of excess hair, which can cause digestive issues.

Spaying and Neutering

Spaying or neutering your California rabbit is advisable to prevent unwanted litters and minimize health risks, including certain cancers. It can also positively affect their temperament, making them calmer and more sociable companions.

Products we recommend to start with: (Chewy)

California rabbit exploring

California Rabbit Health and Common Issues

Routine veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection and prevention of common health issues. California rabbits may face problems like overgrown teeth, gastrointestinal stasis, and flystrike. Creating a clean, enriching environment and providing a nutritious diet can help prevent these issues.

Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI Stasis):

A potentially life-threatening condition where the digestive system slows down or stops. Symptoms include decreased appetite, lethargy, and a decrease in fecal output. Encouraging regular exercise and a diet high in fiber can help prevent GI stasis.

Dental Problems (Malocclusion):

Misalignment of teeth and overgrowth can lead to difficulty eating and weight loss. Providing a diet rich in hay can wear down their teeth naturally, preventing overgrowth. Regular vet checkups can make sure you are aware of any developing issues.

Respiratory Infections:

Occur due to bacteria or viruses affecting the rabbit’s respiratory system. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, and difficulty breathing. Good ventilation and cleanliness are crucial preventive measures.


Can lead to secondary health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. It’s essential to monitor their diet, offering high fiber and low-calorie foods, and ensure ample exercise.

Heat Stroke:

Rabbits are highly sensitive to heat. Symptoms of heat stroke include panting, lethargy, and dehydration. Providing a shady, cool environment and fresh water during hot days is vital is housing outdoors.


A condition where flies lay eggs on the rabbit, which hatch into maggots and eat the rabbit’s flesh. Keeping the rabbit’s living area clean and dry significantly reduces the risk. Regular brushing and checking their fur is vital to stay ahead of flystrike as well.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and Stones:

Display signs of pain, difficulty urinating, or blood in the urine. Access to fresh water always and a balanced diet helps manage and prevent UTIs and stones.

Myxomatosis and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD):

Viral diseases with high mortality rates. Vaccinations where available and strict biosecurity measures can prevent these diseases.

Being proactive and observant about your rabbit’s health, demeanor, and habits is vital. Any change could indicate a health concern, necessitating immediate consultation with a veterinarian experienced in rabbit care.

California rabbit kit

Breeding California Rabbits (Overview)

How to Breed

Breeding should be approached with responsibility and a thorough understanding of rabbit genetics, care, and welfare. Always ensure that the rabbits being bred are of sound health, good temperament, and quality lineage. It’s also key to have a clear purpose for breeding and a plan for the offspring.

Read our basic guide to breeding to get more familiar

How to Choose a California Rabbit

When selecting a California rabbit, assess its health, temperament, and conformity to breed standards. Healthy rabbits display vigor, clean and bright eyes, and a well-maintained coat. Consider both the rabbit’s physical and genetic health before making a decision.

What to Look for in a Breeder

A good breeder prioritizes the health, temperament, and genetic quality of their rabbits. Facilities should be clean, spacious, and well-organized, reflecting a commitment to the rabbits’ welfare. Healthy California rabbits are alert, active, and show no signs of distress or illness.

Bringing Home Your California Rabbit

Preparing the Home

Before bringing a new pet rabbit into your home, ensure that their environment is safe, welcoming, and meets all their needs. This includes securing cables and harmful substances, providing a suitable enclosure, and equipping it with essentials like food, water, and bedding. Remind family members to be gentle when interacting with your new rabbit.

Read more on what to do when you get a new rabbit

Introducing the New Rabbit

Introduce your California rabbit to their new surroundings gradually. Allow them time to explore and adjust at their own pace, always under your watchful eye. Remember, patience, spending time, and gentle handling during this period strengthen trust and form a solid foundation for your future relationship.

Products we recommend to start with: (Chewy & Amazon)

Training and Handling California Rabbits

Litter Training

California rabbits can be litter trained with consistency and patience. Place a litter box in their preferred corner, and encourage its use with treats and positive reinforcement.

Teaching Tricks

These intelligent creatures can learn tricks and commands. Engage them in interactive play and reward them for following instructions, fostering a stimulating environment that encourages learning.

Nail Trimming

Regular nail trimming is essential to prevent overgrowth and discomfort. If you are uncertain about performing this task, seek guidance from a vet or a rabbit-savvy groomer.

Read our short article on how to properly trim your rabbit’s nails

California Rabbit Showing

Participation in rabbit shows can be a rewarding experience for you and your rabbit. Familiarize yourself with the standards and criteria specific to California rabbits. Preparation and conditioning are key to a successful showing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Feed them twice a day with hay available at all times. Fresh vegetables and a small amount of pellets should be part of their daily diet.

While they can adapt to outdoor living, they must be protected from extreme weather and predators. Indoor living is recommended for closer interaction and bond-building.

A minimum of 12 square feet of living space, with additional space for exercise, is recommended.

With proper introductions and supervisions, they can coexist with other pets. However, individual temperaments and the nature of other pets should be considered.

Signs of a happy rabbit include relaxed body language, curiosity, and engagement with their environment and people.

The average lifespan of a California rabbit can be anywhere from 5 to 10 years with proper care.


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