Harlequin Rabbit Characteristics, Origin, Uses

The Harlequin rabbit is one of the oldest breeds of rabbit, which was developed in France in the 1880s. It is a colorful breed based around the coloration and markings, rather than fur and body type.

The Harlequin rabbit was developed by putting together the semi-wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbit with truly wild rabbits. The Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbits were very popular during that time.

In 1887, the Harlequin rabbits were first shown at International events in Paris and the breed made it’s way to England shorty after that. Because of their unusual markings, the breed was a popular show animal in England. And during the World War II the breed also became popular as a meat animal.

Some fanciers suggest that the Harlequin rabbit is actually not a breed. Rather it is simply a color type. But others argue that it is a breed of rabbit with that color scheme.

The Harlequin rabbit has been recognized in the United States since the 1920s. Probably the original name of the Harlequin rabbit breed was the Japanese. But that name was dropped rapidly during the World Wars.

Today, Harlequin  breed is recognized by both American Rabbit Breeder’s Association and the British Rabbit Council. Read more information about this rabbit breed below.

Harlequin Rabbit Characteristics

The Harlequin rabbit comes in two varieties; Japanese and Magpie. The Japanese Harlequin rabbits are generally orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac.

And the Magpie Harlequin rabbits are white instead of orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac. Both varieties are medium in size with a roundish shaped head. Their ears are of medium length and stand erect.

A perfect Harlequin rabbit will be split between the two colors on the head, feet, ears and body. It kind of looks like a perfect stripe between the two colors.

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Some Harlequins will have orange or white bellies. It is a small rabbit breed. Their average body wight is between 2 and 3 kg. And like most other rabbit breeds, the does are heavier than the bucks.

Main colorways of the Harlequin rabbit are blue, black, lilac, chocolate (all mixed with orange) and black, blue, lilac, chocolate (all mixed with white). The breed is usually short haired. And the coat is very soft and dense. Photo from Wikipedia.


Currently the Harlequin rabbit is mainly kept as a show animal. But they were once popular for meat production. And very good as pets. Even the breed is very suitable for children.

Special Notes

This is a clever, docile and playful rabbit breed. It is relatively a good-natured breed. It is calm in temperament and considered as ideal pets for kids.

The Harlequins are very intelligent and can be trained to learn their name. They are known to be more intelligent than the guinea pigs and hamsters. They are playful and need things to climb on, crawl through, dig and chew.

Although the breed is easily handled and safe for children, but an adult should supervise the care and handling of the rabbits. The average lifespan of the Harlequin rabbit is up to 5 years. Review full breed profile of this breed in the chart below.

Breed NameHarlequin
Other NameJapanese, Magpie
Breed PurposeMainly kept as a show animal, also suitable as pets.
Breed SizeSmall to Medium
WeightAverage body weight is between 2 and 3 kg
Suitable for Commercial ProductionYes
Good as PetsYes
Climate ToleranceAll Climates
Color VarietiesThe Harlequin rabbits are usually black and orange in color. They can also be lilac, blue, brown, black, chocolate and black magpie.
Country of OriginFrance

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