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Vic Dillinger's Favorite Bunnies: Netherland Dwarf

By Edited Oct 20, 2016 10 16

Snuggliest Bunnies

Christopher Hoppen, Bunny in a Blanket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s pretty much no secret I love bunnies (as well as Latinas).  Though I have shared the good company of several Latinas, I never owned them; I have, however, owned my share of rabbits for pets. 

And I have found personal favorites among the different kinds of rabbits I’ve kept.  All have their distinct physical characteristics that typify a specific breed.  Personality traits vary (and yes, bunnies, just like any other animal, have “personalities”, distinctive behaviors specific to either the breed or the individual rabbit).  For example, the newer Lion Head breed tends to be a bit aggressive.  Angoras are majorly curious and get into everything if left unattended.  English Spotted can be very rambunctious.

But for a cuddly little bundle of “personality” that will fit cupped in your two hands and that is very affectionate, you could do with having a Netherland Dwarf bunny in your home. 

Bunnydom
Once thought to be a member of the rodent family rabbits were reclassified and are now differentiated from rodents scientifically.  Rabbits belong to their own genus, distinct from any other animal.  They have several features that separate them from hares, as well (one of which is that their young, unlike that of the hare, are born naked, blind, and helpless).  All of today’s domestic rabbits share the Old World rabbit of Europe and Asia (Oryctolagus cuniculus) as their common ancestor.

Rabbit breeders and rabbit fanciers, over many decades, have created or otherwise enhanced a wide variety of bunnies.  Some, such as the Angora, are raised for their silky-fine, flyaway longish hair from which Angora yarn is made (turned into, among other clothing items, the classically hyper-sexy Angora pullover in which many a heavy-racked dame has shown off her sweater puppets).   Other bunnies, such as the Flemish or Belgian Giant (and they are huge, with most adults bigger than some midsize dogs!) were meant as meat sources.  Though people do keep them as pets they were not bred to that purpose

Flemsh giant, Runt, with Shetland Sheepdog, Paxie

Just a Baby
Other breeds became popular with hobbyists as pets or for showing. And at the other end of the size scale from the Flemish Giant is the Netherland Dwarf.

Chesnut colored Netherland Dwarf

This type first developed as a result of a mutation seen in the Dutch breed of rabbit in the 1880s.  After a relatively long period of inadvertent, and increasingly purposeful, cross-breeding efforts spanning several countries and decades in Europe, the kind known today as the Netherland Dwarf was firmly fixed with its show standards by the 1950s.  They were first imported to the US in the mid 1960s from England (where they were popularized in the post-World War II years).   

Of the roughly four dozen rabbit breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association the Netherland Dwarf is the smallest.  A healthy adult might weigh up to a little over 3 pounds (a bit over a kilogram), but preferred show weight is around 2 pounds (less than a kilogram).

It also has the most color variation of any type, with over 24 different configurations ranging from solid to shaded (as in the “otter” coloring, a sable base color with tawny highlights on the face, belly and shot throughout the main color).

One of the reasons for their popularity is they retain a certain “babyish” quality in appearance.  Their ears are short and tiny; they have chubby little cheeks, short legs, and cobbie bodies (about the size of a softball) with nearly perfectly round heads.  Rabbits do not have foot pads (as dogs and cats do); the Netherland Dwarf’s paws are covered on the bottoms with enough fur that their bunny feet look like little snowshoes.

Meet Christopher Hoppen
The Internet-ism “SQUEEEE” applies here. 

This is Christopher Hoppen, an otter-colored Netherland Dwarf.  He is ten months old (as of this writing), and his name is a play on the name of actor, Christopher Walken (cuz our Christopher is hoppin’, see, not walkin’). 

Also, like many people do with their pets, a “voice” has been assigned to Christopher Hoppen—magically when he “talks” he sounds just like Christopher Walken (“I need more cowbell!”; “Don’ make me stick you in the eye with a soldering iron!”).  [Obviously, I do the voice—bunnies can’t talk, whatta ya, freakin’ nuts or somethin’?]

Christopher Hoppen & Christopher Walken
Rabbits from good breeders are generally not sold any younger than six weeks of age (to insure they are weaned and healthy).  We bought Mr. Hoppen at that recommended age in January 2014—he is now at his full adult size (rabbits are pretty much fully grown by six months).
Christopher Hoppen (6 weeks old, Jan 2014)

He cost us $50 to buy.  The accoutrements (hutch, housing, food and water dishes, a coupla start-up toys, his personal masseuse, etc.) set my wife and I back another C-note.  As it is strongly recommended both for the bunny’s longevity and to scale back on aggression (should another rabbit be brought in as a playmate) we had him neutered when he was four months old (a proper age according to our veterinarian).  That was another $45, but worth it.

Christopher lives indoors.  I am not a fan of keeping animals outside exposed to the elements unnecessarily.  He has a friend who lives with him (acquired a couple of months after we got him).  Her name is Nancy Bunatra (cuz her boots were made for hoppin’, see?), and she is a broken chocolate Mini Satin.  

Christopher Hoppen (in his beehive)

Rabbits are inquisitive, and they do express opinions.  Early on, Christopher decided he didn’t like the way I had his new cage furnished, and he re-arranged everything (his “beehive” house, and his food and water bowls) to suit his man-of-the-world image (I’m guessing).  He also grunts disapprovingly when he isn’t getting his way.

Temperamentally, he is very gentle, and doesn’t mind being handled, held, or played with.

He also clearly understands when it is about time for him to eat. 

Bunnies throw little tantrums of sorts from time to time.  Mostly, it is play: they bounce around, toss their toys, stamp their back feet. 

But sometimes they can get downright indignant.  These little displays of pique are called “binkies” or “throwing a binky”.  If Christopher knows it’s feeding time, and no one is paying attention to that little fact, he will start chucking his food dishes around inside his hutch.  The racket alone is annoying enough you want it to stop. 

Neither he nor Nancy is always caged up.  He gets out in a safe pen; he’s also been out in the back yard on a harness (that goes around his midsection, not a collar) with a leash.  Because Netherlands are so small, the back yard can seem overwhelming, so it is best to make sure the animal is supervised. 

Many nights my wife will get him out to play.  His favorite place is the sofa—he likes to perch on the back of the couch or run back and forth along the seating area.  His favorite spot, though, is my wife’s shoulder; he will sit there like a pirate’s parrot and lick her face, or the tip of her nose, or give her bunny kisses (which she loves).  He will, however, occasionally nip her (and my) skin—these are not meant as true bites, but are more affectionate in nature.  These “love bites” do not hurt, they merely startle (but, in all fairness, be advised a rabbit’s front teeth are very strong and sharp, and if so inclined one of them could really bite hard enough to break the skin).

Netherland Dwarf Care
As with all animals, not just rabbits, a decent-sized domicile is necessary.  Christopher shares a hutch with a buddy and there is room for them to run and bounce around as they see fit.  They also like enclosed spaces, so a small wooden house is in the caged area for one or both to hide out in.

They will molt, usually after reaching adulthood for the first time, or seasonally.  This makes their coat kind of clumpy looking; gentle brushing or plucking the loose fur helps get rid of the excess and returns them to normal.

They groom themselves as cats do, licking their front paws and washing their faces and ears.  Additionally, they nuzzle and groom each other as well.  [Nancy Bunatra, about twice his size, will actually place a paw on top of Christopher’s head, in effect pinning him in place while she licks his face, neck, and back.  He doesn’t seem to mind, though, and does not struggle to get away.]

Rabbits have two sets of incisors, one behind the other, and their teeth grow continually.  They need to have things to chew on to keep their teeth from growing too long and affecting their ability to eat.  And since bunnies love to chew make sure whatever goes in the cage is safe for them to gnaw on. 

A simple toy, and one that Christopher loves, is the empty cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll.  It is light enough for him to throw around his cage, he chases it, throws it around some more, and chews on it, too.  He also likes a paper towel: he can throw it around, drag it, and shred it to his heart’s content. Finally, if any bunny is out of his/her hutch make sure to watch them at all times—indoors has many bunny hazards (electrical cords, for example, that they won’t hesitate to gnaw, etc.). 

Christopher Hoppen as Abrabun Lincoln
He is fed twice a day (measured quantities of blended rabbit food—seeds mixed with the standard pellets—in addition to small amounts of timothy hay, and occasional treats such as baby carrots and fresh kale).  And one more thing: make sure there is plenty of fresh water—man, bunnies drink a lot of water!  Christopher won’t drink from one of those hanging, drip-style water dispensers though—he has a water bowl that sometimes he’ll toss a toy into, probably just to annoy me.

In all seriousness, the Netherland Dwarf is an adorable little addition to a home.  Their diminutive size means they don’t need a lot of space so long as the owner insures plenty of “outside” time (out of a cage or hutch) for them to run and play.  They can be litter trained (using a box with bunny safe litter in it; by putting some of their droppings in the box so it has their “scent” they learn to “go” there).  Children like this small breed of pet because of their baby faces, their tiny size, and little features.

My wife says Christopher has “little tiny potato chip ears”.  Also, he will let you put an Abraham Lincoln hat on him.

SQUEEEEE!!!

***

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Because Nancy Bunatra is so big and domineering over tiny Christopher Hoppen we had to make some changes.  Nancy was bustin’ and a humpin’ on him too much, and he is so small and docile he didn’t fight back.  So, we got a Flemish Giant, named Regis Philbun, and the largish Nancy is now his buddy. 

To keep Christopher Hoppen company, as an early Christmas gift for my wife, we got another Netherland Dwarf on December 8, 2014 (cost was $60 because females have potential as breeding stock).  She is a fawn-colored 5-month-old, and weighs less than a kilo.  Her name is Amelia Earhop: she is an aviatrix from da Bronx what din’t get lost at sea!

Amelia Earhop (fawn-colored Netherland Dwarf)

Anyway, Amelia, like damn near any Netherland Dwarf you’d find, is a total sweetie, she sits quietly on your lap for an hour or more, and is so damn cute you almost can’t stand it! 

SQUEEEEE!!!

the classic bunny odyssey

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Comments

Oct 24, 2014 8:05pm
shar-On
Great fun read, and informative for those wishing to keep a rabbit as a pet. We have had two rabbits as pets over the years. The first one was actually a wild rabbit that somehow came to us and never left, that is until one day he just disappeared.
The other one we bought which was a white rabbit. Occasionally he disgraced us by peeing on someone that he did not like handling him.
We used to catch and kill rabbits on the farm (sorry Vic) but they made a lovely meal. I know rabbits bought in the shops these days definitely do not taste the same as bush grown ones. They were very tasty. rated up
Oct 24, 2014 9:19pm
vicdillinger
I don't blame you for eating bunnies; they look kind of tasty though I could never bring myself to eat one. Thanks for looking at this.
Oct 25, 2014 12:39am
LittleTwoTwo
I pulled a Nancy Bunatra and 'pinned' the post. Great introduction to your bunnies ...though, I totally want that giant Flemish Bunny.
Oct 25, 2014 1:24am
RoseWrites
Enjoyed learning more about Christopher Hoppen. I'm glad you mentioned they need to gnaw on things (and to keep electrical cords out of their play area). I love how tiny they are and I find it cute that they throw little tantrums. Looking forward to reading about Nancy Bunatra. Thumbs up and pinned, etc.
Oct 25, 2014 1:24am
RoseWrites
Enjoyed learning more about Christopher Hoppen. I'm glad you mentioned they need to gnaw on things (and to keep electrical cords out of their play area). I love how tiny they are and I find it cute that they throw little tantrums. Looking forward to reading about Nancy Bunatra. Thumbs up and pinned, etc.
Oct 25, 2014 7:05am
vicdillinger
You have to be careful with bunnies, they do tend to get into stuff if you don't watch them.

There's a fun site called "Bunny Shaming" where rabbit owners take pics of their bunny's "bad" behavior and post them online. They're pretty funny.

Seriously, you gotta watch 'em. By not doing that I had a house rabbit die on me about 30 years ago. She was out thumping around my apartment, and I was getting ready to take out the trash bag from the kitchen. For whatever reason I set the bag down near the back door and left it unattended for several minutes. In that time my Angora had run down the steps and had eaten several plugs out of the plastic garbage bag. The plastic blocked her intestines and she died several days later. I was devastated, and it WAS my fault for not watching her. Lesson learned.

Thanks for reading. More bunny adventures to follow.
Oct 26, 2014 3:54am
mommymommymommy
Vic, what a wonderful read and peek into your life with bunnies (it takes away some of your "tough guy" persona). I am sending this article to my friend who owns a bunny. Love the names of your pets! Thumbed up!

Sorry about your loss of your pet years ago. In many ways, pets are like little kids and you have to watch them or else they will do what they want,

Looking forward to more adorable photos and bunny adventures!
Oct 26, 2014 4:35am
vicdillinger
Yeah, that one dying was tough as it was my fault. And I have a soft spot for wimmen--and bunnies! These Netherlands DO make good house pets, so thanks for checking out Christopher Hoppen!
Nov 12, 2014 7:21am
Philomena
Squee! Squee! That's my little baby bunny, Christopher! He is so fun. Yes, he does have little tiny potato chip ears. He looks smashing in his top hat too.
Nov 12, 2014 9:59am
vicdillinger
He's the big boy!!
Nov 17, 2014 6:29am
southerngirl09
So adorable and lovable! Thanks for sharing Christopher Hoppen and Nancy Bunatra's story's with us. Years ago, my sister and her kids had a pet bunny, and I have often thought of getting one myself. What is the typical lifespan of a bunny and what do you do when you travel? Do you have someone come in to care for them, or do you board them at the vet?
Nov 17, 2014 6:39am
vicdillinger
We just got a new bunny last week. He's a Flemish Giant (I'll be writing about him soon) he's six weeks old and he's already around 7 pounds (bigger than Christopher and Nancy combined). His name is Regis Philbun: you might know him better as the host of that game show, "Who Wants to be a MillionHare" (I know, I know, boo, hiss!).

Anyway, rabbits (with proper care) can live for anywhere from 5 to 10 years with some living longer (my sister had one who lived to be 15!)

As for care while you're away: that's a tough one. I've never boarded a rabbit, and because I usually almost always had a live-in girlfriend any time I had to be out of town for my job(s) it fell on her to take care of any bunny I might have had. However, there were a couple times my second wife and I had to go off as a family; at those times my brother (who lived with his wife in the same city) was gracious enough to come around and feed and water them while we were gone.

Boarding, I think, would best be done after getting a recommendation from your local vet or from a quality and reputable breeder. Either could get you pointed in the right direction.

As always, SG, thanks for reading (and we haven't seen you in awhile!!)
Nov 17, 2014 7:01am
southerngirl09
I can't wait to hear more about the newest addition to your household - - and I love his name!
I have been reading the Forum, when possible, and I hope to be more active soon. I want to update and/or delete some of my old articles and begin publishing once again. This article was my first read in a while, but I hope to go back to my old habit of reading at least one article a day. I enjoyed our visit today, take care and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Nov 18, 2014 1:34pm
vicdillinger
That piece about Flemish Giants is up!
Apr 6, 2015 7:38pm
TanoCalvenoa
I am going to get my kids a bunny sometime. You helped me to decide that a Netherlands dwarf would be an excellent choice, and for that I thank you very much.
Apr 6, 2015 9:24pm
vicdillinger
Netherlands are really good "starter" rabbits for children. They are playful and very easy to handle. I would personally recommend a male because it is less costly to get them neutered (vs. the cost of getting a female spayed). And they are very personable. Just make sure, whichever you choose, that it is well cared for and has plenty of outside-the-cage play time. Good luck, have fun, and thanks for reading!
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Bibliography

  1. "rabbit." Britannica Ready Reference 2003. 2002.
  2. Corinne Fayo " Netherland Dwarf Rabbits "The Gem of the Fancy"." nendrc.com. 24/10/2014 <Web >
  3. "Netherland Dwarf." wikipedia.org. 24/10/2014 <Web >

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