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Home > Breeds > Harlequin Rabbit Breed: Pictures, Traits, Facts

Harlequin Rabbit Breed: Pictures, Traits, Facts

male harlequin rabbit

Size: Medium
Weight: Up to 10 pounds
Lifespan: 5 – 10 years
Body Type: Commercial
Temperament: Curious and gentle
Best Suited For: Single rabbit owners, families with older children, first-time rabbit owners
Similar Breeds: Cinnamon, Rex, Satin

One of the most curiously colored breeds available today, the Harlequin rabbit easily stands out in a crowd! With its mysterious origin story and once sky-high prices, this breed has been a fascination for rabbit fanciers since its appearance in late 1800s France.

Are you curious to know more about this distinctive two-toned breed? In today’s article, we will be looking at the history of this gorgeous animal as well as giving helpful hints on how to care for one in your home. By the time you’re finished, you’ll know everything you need to consider before adopting a Harlequin rabbit!


History and Origin of the Harlequin Rabbit Breed

Harlequin Rabbit
Harlequin Rabbit (Image Credit: Lynn Gardner, Wikimedia commons CC BY 2.5)

The earliest records of what is now known as the Harlequin rabbit come from 1872 in Tokyo, Japan. In fact, the original name for this intriguingly colored breed bears witness to its origin: It was called the “Japanese” across the U.S. and England until the Second World War, when it received its current name.

Elsewhere in the world, this breed of rabbit is still known by its original name of “Japanese”. As early as 1890, an enterprising French rabbit fancier traveled to Japan to purchase a breeding pair. Upon returning to Europe, breeding commenced immediately and spread quickly. Reaching Chicago by 1917, they sold for an astonishing $40 each – the equivalent of nearly $900 today!

Inducted into the American Rabbit Breeders Association registry in 1914, they have been a fixture in rabbit competitions ever since.

General Description

Harlequins are most recognizable for their unique coloration. Viewed from the front, its face is divided evenly from top to bottom into two colors; each side of the body then features five to seven bands of alternating colors. Furthermore, its legs and ears will also exhibit this alternating color pattern.

With a well-muscled commercial body type, the Harlequin weighs in on the heavier size of medium rabbits, reaching up to 10 pounds fully grown. Though they once enjoyed great popularity in the United States, they are considered a rare breed to find today.

Nutrition and Health

A long history of complex interbreeding has lent the Harlequin a robust constitution with little in the way of health problems. Give close attention to their diet and exercise, and they will likely live up to a decade.

By feeding them a standard diet of plentiful fresh hay and filtered water, you will cover almost all their nutritional bases. Supplement this with a daily serving of dark, leafy greens to provide essential vitamins and minerals, and keep any sugary snacks as only an occasional indulgence.

Provide your Harlequin with plenty of space to stand, stretch, and explore inside of their enclosure. Also, consider litter training them so they can have free run of your house while you are around. An active rabbit is a happy rabbit!


Of all the rabbit breeds with distinctive coats, perhaps only the Harlequin requires little extra grooming to keep their fur in prime condition. Relatively low maintenance, a weekly brushing will suffice for most of the year. When their spring shedding season arrives, expect to increase this to three times per week to prevent any digestive problems from eating hair.


Owing partly to their long-time purpose as show animals, Harlequins are a gentle and perpetually curious rabbit breed. They love to roam and explore and should be encouraged to nose around your house under supervision. Because of their avoidance of conflict, they are better off only being paired with rabbits – not kept in the same household as cats or dogs.


Final Thoughts on the Harlequin Rabbit Breed

No matter what name you call them by, the Harlequin rabbit is immediately recognizable by its fascinating coloration. Mild-mannered and enjoyable to be around, they make fantastic house pets. Consider adopting a Harlequin if you are interested in a rabbit that will always draw loving stares from your friends and guests!

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Featured Image Credit: Corinne Benavides, Flickr

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