Lionhead Rabbit Characteristics, Uses & Origin

The Lionhead rabbit is a pretty new breed of domestic rabbit. It is very beautiful and one of the very cute rabbit breeds. The Lionhead rabbit originated in Belgium. The breed has been developed by following a genetic mutation that causes the growth of a longer ‘mane’ of hair around the head.

Mutations are frequent in nature. And many breeds have been developed from a mutation that is fixed through a selective breeding program. The first major mutation is the ‘Lionhead gene’ in rabbits since the Satin in 1932. And it is dominant unlike other fur gene mutations.

This means, a Lionhead rabbit crossed with any other normal rabbit will still pass on the ‘mane’ gene to some offspring which will produce more Lionheads.

The first Lionhead rabbit was created in Belgium by crossing two different dwarf sized breeds. Although the debate of which two breeds were exactly used, has left many scratching their heads in wonder.

Some sources say the Lionhead rabbit is a result of crossing Swiss Fox with Belgian Dwarf rabbits for creating a long coated dwarf rabbit, with the progeny then bred with the Dwarf Angora rabbit.

Other sources say the mutation simply occurred in a litter of pure-bred Dwarf Angoras, with the dominant Lionhead gene spreading through the Dwarf Angora breed in Europe. Some sources also say that the Lionhead rabbit has been bred from a Netherland Dwarf and a Jersey Wooly rabbit.

The breed is not recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, but recognized by the British Rabbit Council. In United Kingdom the Lionhead rabbit is recognized by the British Rabbit Council since 2002.

But in the United States the breed has recently passed the American Rabbit Breeders Association presentation process. And also has been accepted as an ARBA recognized breed in the varieties of Tortoise (Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac) and Ruby Eyed White. The breed is gaining popularity as pets throughout the world day by day.

Physical Characteristics of Lionhead Rabbit

The Lionhead rabbit is a small breed of fancy rabbit. It has a small and compact body with well-rounded frame. Their head is bold, yet not quite round from all sides, with well developed muzzle.

The legs of the Lionhead rabbits are medium in length and they are of medium bone. Their mane is to be at least 2 inches long. And the mane is to form a full circle around their head, extending to a ‘V’ shape at the back of the neck. Their neck is not visible.

Their hindquarters are broad, deep and well rounded. Their ears are not to exceed 3 inches long and are well balanced with the head and body. They have upright open ears which are well covered, of good substance but not furnished as an Angora.

The Lionhead rabbit has bold and bright eyes. White coated Lionhead rabbits have red or blue eyes and the eyes of any other color are as per color standard. There are many color varieties of this rabbit breed.

The United States recognizes these colors; Blue, White, Black Otter, Tortoise, Blue, Tan, Blue Otter, Sable Martin, Chestnut, Squirrel, Chinchilla, Sable Point, Chocolate, Smoke Pearl, Fawn, Siamese Sable, Frosted Pearl, Red, Golden, Orange, Lilac, and Opal.

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And the colors recognized in the United Kingdom are; Agouti, Tortoiseshell, Black, Tan, Blue, Steel, Butterfly, Smoke Pearl Marten, Chestnut, Squirrel, Chinchilla, Silver Martin, Chocolate, Siamese Smoke Pearl, Fawn, Siamese Sable, Fox, Sable Point, Lilac, Sable Marten, Lynx, Otter, Orange, Opal, White (red or blue-eyed). Average body weight of the Lionhead rabbit is between 1.1 and 1.6 kg. Photo from Wikipedia.


Lionhead rabbit is a small breed and not suitable for meat or fur production. The breed was originally created as a show breed. But recently, the breed has become a very popular domestic pet rabbit.

Special Notes

The Lionhead rabbit is a relatively new breed and still in the development process. So their behavior and temperaments can vary between breeders depending on the parent breeds used to produce each line.

But in most cases, the Lionhead rabbit has a very good, playful nature and is very friendly. Most of the Lionheads are lively, sociable and gentle. They are quite timid as compared to some of the other small breeds of rabbit like the Netherland dwarf rabbit.

However, despite having playful nature, the Lionhead rabbit is not recommended as a pet for the children. Because they need careful management and they may become frightened and aggressive if handled incorrectly.

When cared for correctly, the average lifespan of the Lionhead rabbit is about 7 to 9 years. Review full breed profile of this rabbit breed in the following chart.

Breed NameLionhead
Other NameNone
Breed PurposeKept as pets and show animal
Breed SizeSmall
WeightAbout 1.1 to 1.6 kg
Suitable for Commercial ProductionNo
Good as PetsYes
Climate ToleranceAll Climates
Color VarietiesVaries by country. All colors found in other breeds are recognized in the United Kingdom. And the American Rabbit Breeders Association recognize the Lionhead rabbit in Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac and Ruby Eyed White color.
Country of OriginBelgium

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