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Pygmy Rabbit Breed

Jordin Horn

Teensy tiny, fuzzy, and near extinction, the Pygmy rabbit is peculiar in its size and in its situation. They’re so cute, you just want to pick one up and take it home with you. Sorry, these little creatures cannot be kept as pets. Once you learn more about them, though, you will want to help the cause of keeping this particular species of rabbit alive and thriving.

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Quick Facts about Pygmy Rabbits

Species Name: Brachyiagus Idahoensis
Family: Leporidae
Care Level: High
Temperament: Shy, scared
Color Form: Gray and brown
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Size: 1 pound
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum Cage Size: 4 x 2 x 2 feet
Cage Set-Up: Single-level
Compatibility: Low

Pygmy Rabbit Overview

Pygmy Rabbit_USFWS Pacific Region_flickr
Credit: USFWS – Pacific Region, Flickr

The Pygmy rabbit, also known as the Columbia Basin Pygmy, is the smallest rabbit breed found in North America, and this is it’s most well-known feature. It can only be found in the wild in certain areas of the state of Washington. They are listed as an endangered species at the federal and state levels.

Unfortunately, the Pygmy rabbit is facing extinction because it’s extremely sensitive to the effects of climate change. It depends on sagebrush as the majority of its diet, and the amount of sagebrush in Washington is quickly being burned up by wildfires or dried up from drought. The Pygmies are also not very prolific: they only have one litter of up to 8 kits each year.

Despite all this, the Washington Department of Wildlife is diligently working to get this species back up in numbers and into the wild again.

How Much Do Pygmy Rabbits Cost?

Pygmy rabbits are wild and should not be kept as pets, therefore they come with no price tag. If you would like something similar to a Pygmy rabbit, look up other dwarf rabbit breeds that can be kept as pets.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

As a wild animal, Pygmy rabbits are flighty and skittish, just like they should be. You could also call them homebodies: Pygmy rabbits never stray further than 200 yards away from their burrows.

Pygmy rabbits are the only breed of rabbit in the United States that burrows holes into the ground. This is so they can get away from predators very quickly and efficiently.

Appearance & Varieties

Pygmy rabbits are very tiny, only weighing around 1 pound, even as a full-grown adult. They’re shaped like a compact ball, with small ears that stick straight up or flat on their back. When they are fully grown, they can reach up to 11 inches long from nose to tail. You might think their tails are nonexistent, but they do have them (usually tucked away).

Typical for rabbits, this breed’s females are larger than the males. Pygmy rabbits have long claws to help them burrow. They can run speeds up to 15 miles per hour, which is pretty fast for a tiny creature!

The Pygmy rabbit comes in one color that changes with the seasons. Sometimes, they can have whitish spots around the nose and ears. In the winter, they sport a gray coat, and in the summer they swap that coat for brownish-color fur. Additionally, their fur is fluffy and thick in the winter. After they molt in the springtime, their fur becomes lighter and slicker for the summertime.

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How to Take Care of Pygmy Rabbits

Though they are so tiny and adorable, Pygmy rabbits are an endangered species and only the pros should handle them. In some special circumstances, the rabbits might need your help.

Here’s what to do if you find you are in care of a Pygmy rabbit:
  • If you see them at all in the state of Washington, use the WDFW Wildlife Reporting Tool or email the state at [email protected] to share the precise location that you saw one, and include a photo if you can.
  • If you find a bunny or bunnies, leave them alone! Mother Pygmies feed their young once a day, so she will probably come back later or tomorrow. If the bunnies have been taken from their nest and you know where they came from, put them back and cover them up with whatever brush they were covered up in before.
  • If you see an injured Pygmy rabbit, call the vet or the local wildlife department for the next steps.

Do Pygmy Rabbits Get Along with Other Pets?

Pygmy rabbits are wild and incredibly timid, so any interaction with another animal will cause it to flee. In fact, cats and dogs have an inborn instinct to attack small creatures like rabbits. It’s best to keep any other pets away from Pygmy rabbits. The only species suitable for Pygmy rabbits to cohabitate with is its own species.

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What to Feed Your Pygmy Rabbit

If you find you are in temporary care of a Pygmy rabbit, be sure to contact the local wildlife agency to know exactly what to do. Chances are, if you try to feed a wild Pygmy rabbit, it will be so incredibly scared of you that it will not eat.

However, in the wild, Pygmy rabbits eat mostly sagebrush in the winter. In the summer, they continue to eat sagebrush, but a third of their diet is replaced with grass.

Keeping Your Pygmy Rabbit Healthy

The healthiest Pygmy rabbit is one that’s in the wild with plenty of sagebrush around and no forest fire nearby. When you see a Pygmy rabbit in the wild, you can notify the wildlife department and be content that it has everything it needs to survive on its own.

Breeding

Pygmy rabbits mate in the spring and summer months, with a litter born around June or July. Their litters are between 4-8 bunnies. When these bunnies are born, the mother bunny covers them up in a shallow burrow of her own making. Once they are 2 weeks old, the small rabbits begin exploring life outside this burrow.

Conservationists have been breeding Pygmy rabbits in captivity and releasing them back into the wild in order to try to preserve this species. This breeding typically happens at Washington State University, the Oregon Zoo, and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.

Because of wildfires and other unknown reasons, many reintroduction efforts have failed, but conservationists are not giving up.divider-rabbitpaw1

Are Pygmy Rabbits Suitable For You?

Since 1990, conservationists have been fighting to keep this breed in existence. Leave the Pygmy rabbit-keeping to the pros. This animal should not be kept as a pet. They are made to be wild and will not make good pets because of their specific needs and their temperaments.

Check out these rabbit breeds that do make good pets:


Featured image credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Flickr

Jordin Horn

Jordin Horn is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, CBD, and parenting. Over the years, she has moved around so much that there's been no time to settle down and own a pet. However, as an animal lover, she dotes on and cuddles any pet she happens upon! She grew up with and dearly loved an American Eskimo Spitz named Maggie and a Pomeranian/Beagle mix named Gabby. She calls Colorado home, but has also recently resided in China, Iowa, and Puerto Rico Jordin does not like to settle for the "easy answer" when it comes to living life with your pet. She loves to research the best methods and products out there and cut through the jargon so you can see plainly what something is or how something is done.