While I had seen many white rabbits at my local pet store, I had not seen these white buns with strange red eyes at the park or on a trail hike.
Albino rabbits are the result of a mutation of certain genes, and in nature, mutations rarely live long.
Since wild albino rabbits are easily caught by predators, it is not easy to tell how rare they are as a breed.
Curious, I phoned my local vet for some answers as I wondered if my own red-eyed white bun was something of a rarity after all.
Are Albino Rabbits Rare (Wild / Domesticated)?
Wild albino rabbits are very rare, and most of these rabbits rarely live long as predators easily hunt a white rabbit that can’t blend in against the grasses or stones of the wilds.
Domesticated rabbits have often been bred to create full or partial albinism that has become a breed characteristic in the Florida white and New Zealand white rabbit breeds.
What Is Albinism in Rabbits?
In nature, albinism is the absence of a certain pigment known as melanin.
This pigment creates unique colorless hair and skin cells.
These cells appear white due to the cellular structure, and the skin may look pink due to blood vessels.
With albinism in rabbits, the rabbit may have blue or red eyes, depending on how the lack of pigmentation has influenced the presence of cones or rods in the albino rabbit’s eyes.
Albino Rabbits—Wild and Domesticated
Wild albino rabbits are born through a freak mutation and are not the result of intentional breeding.
In the wild, white or albino rabbits are rare as predators easily spot, hunt, and kill them.
If you happen to see an albino rabbit in the wild, chances are they were not wild-born and are a domestic albino rabbit that has been released into the wild.
Traits of Albino Rabbits
I wondered if a white rabbit was always an albino rabbit, and the vet assured me that white rabbits and albino rabbits aren’t the same things at all.
A white rabbit has the pigmentation to make their fur white and they usually have brown eyes or gray eyes.
Since the lack of pigmentation of a full albino or the partial lack of pigmentation in a partial albino rabbit influences their eye color too, albino rabbits have either blue or red eyes and their fur coloring is extremely white.
Domestic rabbit breeds like the Florida white are rabbit breeds that are the result of a gene for mutation of pigmentation.
Albino rabbits are completely white.
They have a complete absence of pigment in their skin. From their noses, the inside of their ears, their lips, and their skin to their eyes, there will be no normal skin coloration.
Albino rabbits aren’t a breed on their own.
Instead, they carry the gene for albinism.
To achieve the super white fur genetics, many breeders have incorporated albino rabbits into breeding other rabbit species.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recognizes several breeds that include albino genes in their ancestry such as the Flemish giant, rexes, and mini rexes.
Special Considerations for Pet Albino Rabbits
If you own an albino rabbit, you would need to take certain precautions to protect your rabbit and ensure they live a healthy life.
Unpigmented skin is fragile and tends to have very little UV protection, which means your albino rabbit will have burnt skin on a hot and sunny day.
Keeping your albino rabbit protected from harsh light can help limit the damage they may suffer from UV rays.
Albino rabbits burn easily on their noses, eyelids, inside of their ears, and even their whole body too.
Even your albino rabbit’s eyes will be light-sensitive, and while your rabbit can’t speak, I can imagine the headaches they must get from full light exposure when their eyes are burning from the UV rays.
Though you can’t put sunglasses on your rabbit, you can definitely keep them indoors during the hottest part of the day.
If your albino rabbit has an outdoors hutch, you can cover part of the hutch and ensure there is plenty of shade in the rabbit run.
This will help keep your bun out of the worst light.
Reasons for Different Albino Types of Rabbits
You may wonder why some rabbits are completely albino while others aren’t.
Some rabbit species have traits of albinism, but they aren’t completely free of pigmentation.
When I asked the vet about the reasons behind the full or partial albinism, he explained that rabbits have a mutation of one of the genes at the C locus, which is where all animals’ skin colors are determined.
With rabbits, one of their five C locus genes can be mutated.
The five genes at the C locus are:
- The dominant C gene usually overrules all the other genes and dictates the rabbit’s coloring based on their breed characteristics.
- Two other genes cch3 and cch2 are responsible for color variations between shades of brown, chestnut, and gray.
- The cch1 gene is responsible for partial albinism. When this gene becomes dominant through mutation, melanin is only produced in the cooler parts of the body such as the rabbit’s back, head, and ears. This is how rabbits develop a top-dusted appearance while they are completely white along their belly and under their arms or tail.
- Finally, the C gene is a full albinism. When gene mutations overrule the C gene, the C gene becomes active and prevents all production of melanin, leading to full albinism.
Some Common Questions about Albino Rabbits
Below are some common questions people have about albino rabbits
How rare is a wild albino rabbit?
Wild albino rabbits are rare since they are so easily spotted and can then be easily hunted by predators.
White albino rabbits in the wild are often domestic rabbits that have been released or that escaped their cages.
Would a wild rabbit doe reject her albino kit?
Animals don’t see skin color, and since an albino kit is exactly the same as other baby rabbits, there is no reason for the doe to reject her offspring.
What causes albinism in rabbits?
An albino rabbit can be either a half mutation where areas of the rabbit are mutated into white or areas of no pigmentation, or it can be a full mutation where the C gene becomes dominant, leading to the lack of melanin.
Final Albino Rabbit Thoughts
I love my little Albino rabbit, but she certainly isn’t for everyone.
After my call to the vets, I was quick to cover up the outside hutch and draped a towel across the rabbit cage.
Albino rabbits are as strong and resilient as other rabbits.
The challenge is in keeping them free from sunburn and keeping their cage in a safe spot that is also well-ventilated.
Albino rabbits are still rare, but they are often bred by breeders to enhance a new breed they are designing.
The traits of albino rabbits can be really pretty to look at.
However, without genetic testing, there would be no way to know for sure if you are breeding a full albino rabbit or if the resulting kits will be partial albinos.
If you do own an albino rabbit, be sure to keep them safe.
Albino rabbits can be seen a mile away, so keep your outside run and hutch secured from predators and make sure your rabbit has enough shade to cool under in the afternoon.
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