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Gotland Rabbit

Nicole Cosgrove

May 21, 2021

The Gotland Rabbit is a rare breed that originated in Sweden and is currently listed as endangered. The breed developed naturally over centuries in Swedish forests, and there was no deliberate breeding program to develop them. However, there are now modern breeding programs underway to preserve and grow the remaining population.

The Gotland Rabbit has traditionally been used for meat and pelts, but since the 1970s, the breed has become a popular show animal too.  The Gotland Rabbit Society is leading the way in the preservation of the breed, and only animals born from parents licensed by the society are recognized as purebred.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at the behavior and care requirements of Gotland Rabbits, as well as a few interesting facts about this rare breed. Let’s get started!

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Quick Facts about Gotland Rabbit

Species Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus
Family: Leporidae
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Energetic, curious, friendly, social
Color Form: Almost any color and pattern variety
Lifespan: Up to 9 years
Size: Medium
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum Enclosure Size: 30 inches x 30 inches
Compatibility: Friendly and curious with other animals

Gotland Rabbit Overview

The Gotland Rabbit is an indigenous breed to Sweden, native to the small island of Gotland, from where they get their name, and is a local variety of the country’s oldest indigenous rabbit. They have long been a popular breed in the region due to their pelts, tasty meat, and high disease resistance, but unfortunately, they have become exceedingly rare in modern times.

Because of their wide use as farm animals, their health, productivity, and nursing instincts were selected over appearance. Therefore, the breed retained a large genetic diversity — largely the reason that they can be found in almost any shape, pattern, and color. The use of Gotlands as show animals steadily rose in popularity until the farm varieties were almost extinct. Luckily, a few remaining populations were discovered on the island of Gotland in the 1970s.

The modern Gotland Rabbit originates from these island populations, and despite the name, the modern Gotland represents the type once found all over Sweden, rather than just the island. These rabbits are hardy and exceedingly healthy and are highly adaptable to different conditions. They are happy to live outdoors, as well as indoors, and are known for their friendly nature and ease of care.

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How Much Do Gotland Rabbits Cost?

Due to the rarity of the breed and the fact that they are listed as endangered, it is almost impossible to find Gotland Rabbits for sale. Instead, adoption programs are the only way to possibly source one, and you will have to register as a caretaker. In the United States, however, even adopting a Gotland is exceedingly difficult.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

The Gotland Rabbit is known for their pleasant and even temperament, making them a great choice of pet and show animal. They are lively and active animals that love to explore their surroundings. They are social animals that should never be kept alone, as they thrive off having company both from other rabbits and humans. Without regular social interaction, these rabbits will swiftly become depressed.

They are curious animals by nature, and although they can happily live indoors, they will be far happier if given plenty of room to explore their surroundings. Even Gotland Rabbits that are kept exclusively indoors should be given a few hours a day outside in the sun and fresh air. This will make for a happier and healthier rabbit.

Appearance & Varieties

The Gotland Rabbit is a medium-sized breed that comes in almost every color and pattern combination imaginable, one of the few rabbit species that do. They typically have short, shiny fur with a thick undercoat, although some Gotlands have been known to have slightly longer, Rex-type coats too. They are muscular yet nimble animals with a narrow nose and erect, pointed, and slender ears. Males are typically more compact with a more rounded head, whereas females have a more elongated body and narrow head, but the weight is generally the same regardless of sex.

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How to Take Care of Gotland Rabbits

Because Gotland Rabbits are such hardy, healthy, and adaptable animals, they are generally easy to care for, and this was one of the main reasons for the breed’s popularity in their native Sweden. They can live outdoors year-round, as long as they are protected from the elements, and they do well in both cold and hot climates.

Outdoor housing

While Gotland Rabbits are fine living outdoors, their enclosure must be adequately protected from predators, other animals like cats and dogs, and extreme weather. The enclosure should have sufficient ventilation for the summer months and be well insulated to keep them warm during winter. Bedding like straw or hay is essential, and there should be plenty of space for them to exercise, dig, and play. While they should not be kept in direct sunlight because they can suffer from heatstroke, they should have access to plenty of sunlight and fresh air at all times. A small, comfortable hutch with a fenced-off play area, complete with small shrubs and places to hide away, is ideal.

Indoor housing

Even when kept indoors, your Gotland should still get at least 2-3 hours per day outside of their enclosure to exercise, preferably outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. Their cage should be at least 30×30 inches and will need to be bigger if you are housing more than one rabbit, but the bigger, the better. The floor should ideally be solid, with hay or straw bedding. Wire mesh flooring should be avoided because this can cause injury and be painful for them to walk on. A small hutch for sleeping, resting, and privacy is essential, as well as various toys for entertainment.

Most rabbits, including the Gotland, can be trained to use a litterbox. Just be sure that the litter you choose is non-toxic because they may attempt to chew and nibble on it. Paper litter, wooden pellets, and hay are the best choices.

Do Gotland Rabbits Get Along With Other Pets?

Gotland Rabbits are friendly and generally get along well with other pets, and they enjoy being petted and handled. They get along great with other rabbit species and are rarely aggressive, although they can become possessive and territorial during breeding. When bringing home a Gotland Rabbit, introduce them slowly to any other animals in the home, ideally over a few days or even weeks, as this will greatly reduce any chance of aggressive or territorial behavior.

Gotland Rabbit
Image Credit: Udo Schröter, Wikimedia Commons

What to Feed Your Gotland Rabbit

Gotland Rabbits, like all rabbits, are herbivores and feed mostly on grasses and hay. Because Gotlands are a natural landrace, they should not be given too many standard rabbit pellets, as these may be too rich and high in calories for their digestive tract. We recommend reserving these as occasional treats and sticking to a natural diet of high-quality hay and fresh greens. Dark leafy greens and occasional fruits and vegetables are a great addition, and clean, fresh water should be available to them at all times.

Keeping Your Gotland Rabbit Healthy

Due to the Gotland Rabbit’s history, they have maintained rich genetic diversity, resulting in an exceedingly healthy animal that suffers from no known genetic disorders. Still, they can be afflicted with parasites like ticks, mites, and fleas if kept outdoors, so they should be groomed daily as a preventative measure. A healthy, nutritious diet, comfortable housing, plenty of space to exercise, and prevention from stress will help your rabbit live a healthy and long-lived life.

Breeding

Due to the endangered status of the Gotland Rabbit, it is better to leave breeding to the Gotland Rabbit Society, which has taken the responsibility of preserving the breed. These rabbits are slow reproducers compared to many other rabbit species, as they are comparably slow-growing and slow to mature. The females average 6-8 kits per litter or rarely, up to 10, and are great mothers that are highly protective of their young.

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Are Gotland Rabbits Suitable for You?

If you are lucky enough to find one, Gotland Rabbits make fantastic pets. They are easy to care for and exceedingly healthy overall, making them ideal for novice rabbit owners. They are highly adaptable to living indoors or outdoors and are hardy animals that can thrive in a variety of climates and environments. They are social animals, though, and should never be kept alone because they can quickly become depressed. With loads of high-quality food, plenty of time in the sun and fresh air, and adequate exercise, they are long-lived animals that have few health issues.

If you manage to get your hands on a Gotland Rabbit, consider yourself extremely lucky, as they make wonderful companions!

Interesting in learning about other rabbit breeds? Check these out?


Featured Image: LNbjors, 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.

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