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Home > Rabbits > New Zealand Rabbit: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits, & Facts

New Zealand Rabbit: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits, & Facts

new zealand rabbit up close

If you’re looking for a friendly, docile, and easygoing pet rabbit suitable for first-time rabbit owners, look no further than the New Zealand rabbit. These rabbits are gentle and outgoing, making them the perfect pet rabbit. This large rabbit breed is sociable and easy to handle—they are also low-maintenance and are a generally healthy rabbit breed.

Let’s explore the New Zealand rabbit’s temperament, habitat, traits, and other valuable and interesting information.

Breed Overview




9–12 pounds


5–8 years

Similar Breeds:

Flemish Giant, Belgian Hare

Suitable for:

First-time rabbit owners, experienced rabbit owners, families with children and other pets


Outgoing, friendly, gentle, adaptable, social, easygoing

The New Zealand rabbit possesses traits that appeal to any rabbit owner, especially first-time rabbit owners. They adapt well to their environment and enjoy human interaction. Their large size aids in easy handling, especially for children, as opposed to smaller rabbit breeds.

The New Zealand rabbit is a mix of the Belgian Hare and the Flemish Giant. Despite their name, they are not from New Zealand—these rabbits are the first American rabbits to be developed to produce excellent meat and for fur production. It’s unclear where the New Zealand name originated from, but we do know they were developed in California in 1916.

New Zealand Rabbit Breed Characteristics



How Much Do These Rabbits Cost?

New Zealand rabbits generally cost $35–$100, depending on the breeder and your location. These rabbits are recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in four primary colors: white, red, black, or broken (a mixture of white and another color). You may find a blue New Zealand rabbit, but they are rare and not easy to find. White New Zealand rabbits are the most common color, and they have red eyes with an almost albino appearance.

These rabbits were developed in 1916 by a breeder from California with the intent of producing quality meat and fur production. However, within decades, these rabbits became more popular as pets, given their gentle nature and easygoing temperaments.

New Zealand rabbits have broad heads, short yet powerful hind legs, a large build, full cheeks (which makes them adorable), and thick, vertical ears.

New Zealand rabbit sitting in the grass
Image Credit: pritsana, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the New Zealand Rabbit

New Zealand rabbits have a laidback temperament and enjoy interacting with humans, which is a quality that makes them desirable pets. They are intelligent, which makes them easy to train and learn tricks, and they have a friendly disposition. They are not known to bite, nor are they aggressive; however, they may be a tad aggressive if they feel threatened, just like with any animal.

Do These Rabbits Make Good Pets? 👪

Yes! Regarding the rabbit world, the New Zealand rabbit is a popular choice for rabbit ownership. They make excellent pets and are easy to care for. They do very well when paired with other rabbits of similar temperament, and they are excellent with children. Ensure any children in the home respect the rabbit and handle the rabbit gently. Aggressive children will only frighten the New Zealand rabbit, which could cause stress. However, as long as children handle the rabbit respectfully, the New Zealand rabbit will love to be around them and enjoy the affection.

Does This Rabbit Get Along with Other Pets?

The New Zealand rabbit adapts well to living with other pets, as long as the other pets are not aggressive or threaten the rabbit. Well-behaved and well-mannered pets will enjoy being friends with this rabbit, and vice versa—they enjoy being part of a family and are social beings.


Things to Know When Owning a New Zealand Rabbit

Food & Diet Requirements 🥕

These rabbits require a diet of high-quality rabbit pellets and an unlimited amount of Timothy hay each day. The bulk of the diet should consist of 70% Timothy hay. Avoid alfalfa hay, as this type of hay has higher calcium and protein levels, which can have an undesirable effect on the kidneys and bladder in adult rabbits.

You should provide your rabbit ¼ cup of veggies for every 1 pound of body weight. Carrot tops, dandelion greens, radish tops, and romaine lettuce are excellent options for fresh veggies. Go easy on the carrots, as they have a higher sugar content.

They can also have selective fruits, such as melons, berries, pears, and apples—provide fruits sparingly and only feed 1 tbsp per 3 pounds of your rabbit’s body weight. Don’t forget to provide fresh water 24/7.

New Zealand White Rabbit
Image Credit: Ant Lees, Shutterstock

Habitat & Hutch Requirements 🏠

New Zealand rabbits are large, and they need adequate space to run around. Most hutches found in pet stores are not big enough for rabbits of large size—your rabbit should have ample room to hop around, and your rabbit should be able to stand up on his back legs comfortably. The enclosure should be four times your rabbit’s stretched-out length—at least.

Some rabbit owners use dog playpens because they allow for more room. A strong metal floor is recommended if you choose a cage because the wire might harm your rabbit’s feet. Be sure you clean the cage daily and remove any soiled substrate. You can use a vinegar and water solution or mild dish soap and water to clean stains and remove odors.

Exercise & Sleeping Needs 🐇

Your New Zealand rabbit will need to exercise each day to stay healthy. Aim for at least 5 hours of exercise per day outside of its cage. You can keep your rabbit in a safe room without a pen or cage and let them roam around freely; however, ensure electrical wires or other dangerous objects are put away and unreachable, as rabbits love to chew. You can allow your rabbit to play outside, but never leave your rabbit unattended, and provide a secured run large enough for hopping and playing.

New Zealand rabbits generally sleep for 8 hours per day. They are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. The bottom of the cage should be comfortable for sleeping with hay or soft straw. You can also use wood pellets or shredded paper for the substrate.

Close-up of a New Zealand red rabbit sleeping with eyes closed and lying on a beige rug
Image Credit: miss tutu, Shutterstock

Training 🥎

These rabbits are easy to train due to their intelligence, and they are even capable of learning tricks. You can teach them to play with toys for mental stimulation, and you can have fun playing hide and seek by hiding rabbit pellets for your New Zealand rabbit to find. Foraging games mimic their natural behavior, and they’ll appreciate the stimulation.

Ensure you provide them with safe items to chew on to keep the teeth from overgrowing, as their teeth continuously grow. You can allow them to chew on cardboard boxes, untreated wicker baskets, and safe rabbit toys. Providing access to unlimited hay also helps with their ever-growing teeth.

You can teach your rabbit to use a litter box and even train him to learn his name so he’ll come to you when called.

Grooming ✂️

New Zealand rabbits do not need baths because they groom themselves. However, you should brush their coat weekly with a bristle brush or slicker brush to prevent them from ingesting fur, especially during shedding season. The nails should be trimmed as needed, and check and clean their ears regularly.

new zealand red rabbit
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Lifespan and Health Conditions 🏥

New Zealand rabbits are generally healthy, but they can suffer from health conditions like any rabbit species:

Minor Conditions
  • Cataracts
  • Hairballs
  • Obesity
  • Ear mites
  • Worms
  • Overgrown teeth
  • Bladder issues
  • Arthritis
Serious Conditions
  • Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI): Signs are a gradual decrease in appetite and water consumption with decreased fecal production in a 2–7 day timeframe. The rabbit will stop eating entirely if left untreated, which can be fatal.
  • Bloat: A life-threatening emergency in which the intestinal tract fills with gas, leading to stomach distention—this condition is extremely painful for rabbits and is fatal if not treated urgently. Avoid feeding harmful foods to your rabbit that can cause bloat.
  • Myxomatosis: A deadly viral infection spread by mosquitoes and fleas from biting an infected rabbit.
  • Uterine cancer
  • RHDV1 (rabbit hemorrhagic disease): A fatal calicivirus that affects only rabbits; however, a vaccine is available for prevention.


Male vs. Female

A male New Zealand rabbit, called a buck, is typically calmer and friendlier than a female, which is called a doe; however, in general, both sexes are friendly. Females may also be more aloof compared to males.

3 Little-Known Facts About New Zealand Rabbits

1. They Are Used for Lab Testing

New Zealand rabbits are a popular choice for lab testing due to their good health and laid-back temperaments. They have been used to develop medications for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and even tuberculosis.

2. They Can Have Long Lives

The general lifespan of New Zealand rabbits ranges from 5–8 years, but domesticated New Zealand rabbits can live up to 10 years with proper care, which is quite long for a rabbit.

3. They Were Not Intended as Pets

New Zealand rabbits were developed for meat and fur production rather than for domesticated pets. However, once humans realized their docile, intelligent, and friendly nature, they became a coveted household family pet to own.


Final Thoughts

The New Zealand rabbit is a fun, easy-to-care-for rabbit that can provide you with years of entertainment. They are intelligent enough to train and learn tricks, and they love human interaction. They get along well with children and other pets, and they are beautiful, large rabbits that come in white, black, red, or “broken”.

Their large size makes them easy to handle as opposed to smaller rabbit breeds, and they may even cuddle in your lap. If you’re in the market for a pet rabbit, you can’t go wrong with owning a New Zealand rabbit.


Featured Image Credit:  Seberang Pintu, Shutterstock

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