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Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit

Nicole Cosgrove

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are some of the most adorable animals in the world, but they are sadly endangered, and you cannot own them as pets. As an adorably small undomesticated rabbit breed, they face a lot of challenges in the wild and captivity, such as predation and reproduction.

As an endangered species, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are not suitable as pets. Instead, these rabbits should be taken care of by experts, scientists, and professionals to ensure that the breed lives on. Although there are no more purebreds in existence, experts are pushing for numbers to increase.

To find out more about Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits, read on. Even though you cannot own one of these adorable rabbits yourself, you should not neglect learning about them. We might be able to save these adorable bunnies if more people are educated about them.

Let’s get started!divider-rabbitpaw1

Quick Facts about Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit

Species Name: Brachylagus idahoensis
Family: Leporidae
Care Level: Expert; not suitable for people who want to own them as pets
Temperature: Suitable in harsh environments
Temperament: Skittish and nervous
Color Form: Grayish brown with little variation between individuals
Lifespan: 3 to 5 years
Size: Under 1 lb. and 1 ft. long
Diet: Sagebrush and grass
Minimum Habitat Size: Not enclosed
Habitat Set-Up: Outdoors with tall grass and loose dirt for burrowing
Compatibility: Not suitable as pets

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit Overview

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit_Randy Bjorklund_shutterstock
Credit: Randy Bjorklund, Shutterstock

The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit is an endangered dwarf rabbit breed. These little bunnies weigh less than 1 pound and are native to Washington state and other surrounding areas, where they have lived for at least 100,000 years. Its breed is genetically different from other rabbits, making them standout from others.

On top of these rabbits’ small frame, they are incredibly cute because of their soft and fluffy fur. This fur allows them to stay warm during the winter season and cool during the summer. All Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits have a grayish brown coloration.

Another thing that makes Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits so unique is that they are the only US native rabbit that digs their own burrows. In other words, they will not live in a hole dug by another animal. As a result, they have claws that are ideal for burrowing so that they can hide from predators.

Even though there are no specific illnesses that endanger this breed of rabbits, they do not have a very long life expectancy. In the best case, their life expectancy is 3 to 5 years due to predation.

As of 2001, these miniature rabbits were listed as endangered with only 16 rabbits remaining in the wild. The last genetically pure Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, Bryn, passed away in 2009. Because of conservation efforts, Bryn’s offspring are starting to repopulate different parts of the world under supervision.

As an endangered species, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit is not suitable for owning as a pet. They require a lot of space and care that requires expert attention. Instead, you should look at the Mini Rex rabbit, Mini Satin Rabbit, or Netherlands Dwarf Rabbits as pets. They are cute and cuddly but not endangered.

How Much Do Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits Cost?

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are not for sale because of their endangered status. For this reason, we could not find a specific price for these rabbits. Anyone who sells Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are doing so illegally.

If you really want a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, you should look at other pygmy breeds instead, as we mentioned before. One of the more popular pygmy rabbit breeds is the Netherlands Dwarf Rabbit.

This rabbit will cost between $30 and $90, depending on the breeder and location. This is more expensive than other domesticated rabbits, but it may be worth it to someone who wants a mini bunny like the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

Given that Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are so small, they are known as being very skittish and nervous. In the wild, they try to stay as close to their burrows as possible so that they can quickly run and hide from predators.

This temperament makes a lot of sense because of their size. With the mortality rate of adult Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits being 88%, the breed is rather flighty around other animals, humans, and anything else they would consider a potential predator. Do not expect one of these rabbits to become comfortable around a human.

Appearance & Varieties

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are known for their incredibly petite size. They have round and compact bodies with small ears. A full-grown adult will weigh under 1 lb. Most are between 9 and 11 inches long.

Their legs are short but strong, complete with claws for digging burrows. These legs allow them to run at a moment’s notice. Their tails are so short that it almost looks entirely hidden. Interestingly, the females are slightly larger than the males., unlike other animals.

As an undomesticated breed, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits have a coat of soft and fluffy fur. This coat has specifically evolved to allow the rabbits to stay at a constant internal temperature during harsh environments and temperatures. Therefore, their coat will become denser in the winter and more lightweight in the summer.

Like other undomesticated rabbit breeds, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits do not have multiple color options. Instead, they are always grayish brown, but the shade will differ from rabbit to rabbit. Their coat will look grayer in the winter, and it sometimes looks like it has a pinkish tint. During the summer months, the coat will be browner.

Some of the most unique variations among Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits include light spots around the nostrils and white around the rim of their ears. Other than that, most Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits look the same.divider-rabbitpaw1

How to Take Care of Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits

As we have said many times throughout this article already, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are not suitable as pets. For this reason, you really should not be aiming to take care of one of these rabbits unless you are an expert working in the field.

Unlike other rabbit breeds, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit needs a lot of care and attention so that the entire species does not go extinct. Here is some information about how experts take care of Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits to keep them in the wild.

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit Foraging_Randy Bjorklund_shutterstock
Credit: Randy Bjorklund, Shutterstock

Habitat, Conditions & Setup

Today, the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) has breeding locations throughout their natural US environment. In these habitats, the experts have mixed Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits with other pygmy breeds to ensure that the line does not die while still retaining the most important characteristics of the rabbit.

From these breeding habitats, certain rabbits have been released into the wild, and they are monitored to ensure that they are surviving.  because of the efforts, most of the habitats are semi-controlled for both the wild and captive-bred remaining Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits.

As an endangered species, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit has rather intensive and specific habitat conditions and needs. This is yet another reason why Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits make such poor pets. Most people do not have the expertise or resources they need to live on.

As we already mentioned, this is the only US rabbit native that digs its own burrows. In the wild, these rabbits will dig holes and hide in their burrows to remain safe from their predators. Even captive individuals retain the instinct to burrow, meaning that all Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits must be given loose land for burrowing.

Pregnant females will need additional land to dig secret burrows, known as Natal Burrows, for their young. These burrows will be made a few days before giving birth. The purpose is to hide the newborns until they are old enough to go out into the wild with the mother.

Because of this unique burrowing characteristic, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits need an outdoor enclosure that allows them to burrow. They are not the ideal rabbit for a rabbit cage or small setup. Instead, they need a desert-like environment that they can burrow in.

More specifically, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits require the sagebrush (such as the kind found in the prairie) for their burrowing purposes. Just as their diet is almost exclusively made of sagebrush leaves, they create a lot of their shelter from these leaves as well.

To put all this together, experts provide as natural of an environment for Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits. This includes substantial land with sagebrush, grasses, and loose dirt for the rabbits to eat, burrow, and roam safely.

Do Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits Get Along with Other Pets?

No, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits do not get along with other pets. These small breeds will not cause a fight or try to attack other animals because of their flighty behavior and small frames. Instead, they will be stressed and scared when around other species.

Even though these rabbits will not start the fights themselves, you should not put them around other animals, even docile animals, because the pygmy rabbits will likely be scared of them. Given that there are so many animals that naturally prey on this species, they just do not like animals.

This is yet another reason why you should not have a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit as a pet. The rabbit will likely not like an environment with other animals, including yourself, humans, and pets.leaves divider leaf

What to Feed Your Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit

Most domesticated rabbits need a variety of Timothy hay, fruits, and vegetables. As an undomesticated breed, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits evolved to live in the sagebrush Prairie desert, meaning that they have a very specific diet.

Most of their diet is made up of sagebrush leaves. In fact, over half of their diet is made up of these bitter leaves. During the summer months, they will also eat grass and other plants. In other words, sagebrush leaves, grass, and hay are the biggest diet staple for this breed, and they do not require as many vegetable or fruits as other rabbits.

Keeping Your Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit Healthy

Even though these rabbits are in decline, they are a relatively healthy breed. The breed as a whole has no known breed specific illnesses or diseases that conservationist must be on the lookout for. So long as the rabbits continue reproducing and are given a healthy diet primarily made of hay and grass, the rabbits should remain healthy.

The biggest challenge to keeping a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit healthy is protecting them from their natural predators. Most adult pygmy rabbits run a huge risk of being attacked and eaten by a variety of other animals.

Some of their most common predators include badgers, bobcats, birds, coyotes, foxes, owls, and weasels. Since there are so many potential predators, nearly half of this breed will die before they are five weeks old while the mortality count jumps to 88% for adults.

Another issue that is affecting the health of pygmy rabbits is the loss of their natural environment. With fewer areas to hide, these rabbits become easier targets for their respective predators, leading to higher mortality rates.

Breeding

Rabbits are known to be prolific breeders to the point that they can over run a home, enclosure, or field with little to no effort. Despite this commonality among many breeds, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit is not a very prolific breeder, which is part of the reason why the line is endangered.

In fact, this breed of rabbit is so bad at reproduction that the line has been mixed with other pygmy rabbit breeds to ensure that their line lives on. Currently, conservationists are still trying to breed Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits so they can reintroduce them into the wild.Divider-rabbit2

Are Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits Suitable for You?

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are not suitable as pets. They are endangered and owning them as pets risks further decline of their population. Instead, these rabbits should definitely be left to the professionals who know how to properly care for and breed the adorable yet delicate species.

Nevertheless, knowing about Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits, even if you cannot own one yourself, can help with their problem. Just spreading the word about this daintily cute rabbit breed might be able to help the breed get back to a healthy population size.

This does not mean all pygmy rabbits are out of the question. There are a variety of domesticated pygmy breeds that would make perfect pets. Among these breeds, the Netherlands pygmy rabbit is one of the favorites among pygmy rabbit enthusiasts.

If you are interested in finding out how you can help out, you can contact the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office. This office has been highly active in breeding and ensuring that these rabbits can be reintroduced to the wild in healthy numbers.

Thanks to this office and others, the population has increased steadily over the last few years.

Check out a few other breeds who all make excellent pets:


Featured image credit: Randy Bjorklund, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.