Harlequin Rabbit (Size, Color, Temperament, Behavior)

Children love Harlequin rabbits. Their coats of orange or white marked with black, blue, chocolate, or lilac make them more colorful than a Raggedy Ann doll.

Their endless curious nature makes them great playmates for children playing on the floor or in make-believe forts and indoor tents.

Harlequin rabbits have the “commercial” body type. They are chunky, cylindrical, and sturdy.

They are large enough to be comfortable around children but not so large that they are costly to feed and maintain.

Essential Facts About Harlequin Rabbits

Scientific nameOryctolagus cuniculus domesticus

Care level, compared to other rabbits: Needs lots of socialization as a bunny to become a calm, confident explorer as an adult. Extra precautions are needed to prevent escapes.

Temperament: Clowinish, curious, friendly.

Color: Black, blue, chocolate, or lilac on orange, or black, blue, chocolate, and lilac on white.

Lifespan: 5 to 8 years.

Maximum size: 6.5 to 9.5 pounds (3 to 4.5 kilograms). Does are usually larger than bucks.

Dietary requirements: Nothing special. Seventy percent of the diet should be clean, dry hay. Always needs to have fresh water available.

Compatible breeds: Gets along with other large rabbits,

Cage size: Like most other rabbits, Harlequins need cages about four times as large as their bodies. Larger is always better. A Harlequin rabbit needs a cage or kennel with 24 inches by 36 inches (609 cm by 90 cm) floor space and 14 inches (35 cm) clearance of its head. An outdoor hutch with an enclosed play space is ideal.

Large enough not to have a problem with other pets. Not a good choice for an indoor rabbit.

History of the Harlequin Rabbit

The Harlequin rabbit has a colorful and fascinating history, dating back to the 1880s. Its origins can be traced to France, where it was created by breeding the semi-wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbit with truly wild rabbits.

These unique and eye-catching rabbits were first exhibited in Paris in 1887.

Within a short period, they made their way to England, where they gained even more popularity.

The original name for the Harlequin rabbit was the Japanese rabbit. However, this name was dropped during the World Wars.

In the 1920s, the breed made its way to the United States, where it became known as the Harlequin rabbit.

The Harlequin rabbit can be found in two main varieties:

  • Japanese Harlequin Rabbit: This variety is the most common of the two and is characterized by its stunning mix of colors, such as orange and black.
  • Magpie Harlequin Rabbit: This variety is slightly less common and features a color combination of white and black or blue, giving it a striking appearance.

Appearance of Your Harlequin Rabbit

No other breed of rabbit looks quite like a Harlequin.

Japanese Harlequins have a base color of orange with black, blue, chocolate, or lilac markings.

Magpie Harlequins have a base color of white with black, blue, chocolate, or lilac markings. The markings may be bars, bands, or both.

Some Harlequins will also have orange or white bellies. The markings on a Harlequin rabbit can be of two types: bars and bands.

Bars refer to vertical stripes, while bands represent horizontal stripes.

The American Rabbit Breeders Association has a “standard of perfection” for Harlequin rabbits.

Harlequin Rabbit

There are two colors on the face, alternating with the ears. The front legs and chest are divided into two colors, matching the ears and alternating with the face.

The colors on the hind feet alternate with the colors on the front feet. Body markings can be bars, bands, or both.

Body Type

These rabbits have a compact and somewhat elongated body, with strong, medium-sized legs.

Their head is round shaped, and their ears are of medium length, standing erect on top of the head.

Temperament of Your Harlequin Rabbit

Harlequin rabbits can become friendly, sociable, clownish little animals that love petting.

But for your Harlequin to develop a personality that you will love, you will need to invest a lot of time socializing it.

Any rabbit is naturally going to be cautious in a new home.

It is important that your new Harlequin bunny be protected from dramatic encounters with other pets, children who don’t know how to handle rabbits, or household commotion the first few weeks it is in your home.

You will need to make sure your rabbit is comfortable being petted while it has all four feet on the ground before you encourage it to cuddle on your lap.

And you will need to supervise any and all encounters with other household pets, never leaving them in the same room with another pet that instinctively eats rabbits.

Here are some key points about their personality:

  • Playful: These rabbits enjoy hopping around and exploring their environment. They love to interact with their surroundings and play with various toys, making them a joy to watch.
  • Curious: Harlequin rabbits are naturally inquisitive creatures. They tend to explore every nook and cranny of their living space, intrigued by what they might find.
  • Docile: These rabbits are generally calm and well-mannered, making them suitable pets for families with children or first-time rabbit owners.
  • Intelligent: Harlequin rabbits are quite smart and can learn to respond to their names or simple commands with proper training and patience.
  • Friendly and Outgoing: They’re fond of human interaction and enjoy receiving scratches on their heads or back, bonding with you quickly.
  • Independent: Although they enjoy socializing, Harlequin rabbits can also manage their personal space when needed. They appreciate having the freedom to roam and explore without being constantly supervised.

Care of Your Harlequin Rabbit

There is one way that caring for Harlequin rabbits is different from caring for other breeds: They are constantly curious.

Harlequin rabbits won’t explore a place once. They will explore and play in it over and over again.

This means that you need to keep their play area free of insulated wires, wicker furniture, and children’s pus that they might chew on.

You also need to keep them away from flowers and ornamental plants that are poisonous to them, such as lilies, azaleas, rhododendrons, dieffenbachias, and cycads.

Harlequins are the escape artists of the rabbit world. Your Harry Houdini Harlequin will find gaps in and under backyard fences that allow it to explore your neighbor’s yard and the street.

Always keep your Harlequin rabbit in a safe enclosure. If you give your Harlequin rabbit a rabbit run, enclose it completely with mesh wire.


Harlequins don’t have any unusual dietary requirements. Like all rabbits, they eat a lot of dry hay.

About 70 percent of the size (not weight) of their body is enough.

Harlequin rabbits thrive on high-fiber green vegetables. A carrot or some berries as a treat is fine (and very useful as a reward for good performance when you are training your rabbit).

Pellets should not be more than 10 percent of calories. Avoid pellets that contain molasses or other sugars.

Young rabbits do not make the enzymes they need to digest these kinds of sugars.

Cage and Hutch

With Harlequins and all other medium-sized or large rabbits, the rule on cage size is simple: Bigger is better.

Your rabbi needs a cage that is at least 36 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 14 inches tall (90 cm by 60 cm by 36 cm).

You should not keep your rabbit in its cage except for protection at night.

During the day, let it roam around the house (after housetraining!).

Even better, provide it with an outdoor hutch in a protected backyard, and only take your rabbit indoors during exceptionally cold or hot weather.

Health Concerns

One of the most important things you can do to keep your rabbit is to make sure it never comes in contact with wildlife.

Predatory animals, of course, can kill or injure your rabbit. Contact with urine from dogs or raccoons can transmit leptospirosis to your rabbit, which it can give your other pets.

Contact with fleas can transmit hantavirus. Wild rodents can give your rabbit a variety of bacterial and viral infections.

The other thing you need to do to keep your Harlequin healthy is to make sure it gets lots of high-fiber food.

Chewing on fiber foods keeps your rabbit’s front teeth from growing too long. It also keeps your rabbit regular and prevents intestinal blockages.

Always make sure your rabbit has lots of fresh water and fresh hay, and give it an opportunity to “reprocess” soft pellets from its litter box.

You can keep a Harlequin rabbit indoors if it has a room of its own.


Despite the fact that your Harlequin rabbit will have a dense coat, it won’t shed a lot.

Brushing your rabbit once a week is enough. Don’t bathe your rabbit (always in warm water, never with soap or shampoo designed for people) unless it becomes caked in dirt, feces, or debris.

During the spring and fall, expect major shedding, as they molt twice a year. During these periods, a more frequent brushing routine may be necessary.

Keep in mind that rabbits find getting a bath a traumatic experience.

Nail Trims and Dental Care

Regular nail trims are essential for your rabbit’s overall health. Check your rabbit’s nails every few weeks and trim them as needed.

Ear cleanings are also important to keep your rabbit’s ears healthy and debris-free.

Tooth trims may be required, depending on your rabbit’s specific needs.

Litter Box and Bedding

Providing a clean living space for your Harlequin Rabbit is essential.

A litter box should be placed inside their cage, and you need to clean it regularly to maintain a hygienic environment.

Use a rabbit-safe bedding material like paper pellets, wood shavings, or hay for the litter box.

Exercise and Toys

To stimulate your Harlequin Rabbit physically and mentally, provide ample space to exercise and play.

Provide toys like wooden blocks, cardboard tubes, or rabbit-safe balls. Encourage your rabbit to explore and play on a daily basis to promote their overall well-being.

Remember, maintaining a consistent care and grooming routine will help ensure that your Harlequin Rabbit stays happy and healthy.

Regular attention to these various aspects of care will make life more enjoyable for both you and your furry friend.

Pros and Cons of Keeping Harlequin Rabbits as Pets

Pros of keeping Harlequin Rabbits as Pets

Harlequin rabbits can make great pets for a few reasons:

  • Personality: These rabbits are known as the “clown of rabbits” due to their unique colors and markings. They tend to be social and playful, making them fun companions for you and your family.
  • Size: With a commercial body type, Harlequin rabbits usually weigh between 6.5 and 9.5 pounds. Their medium size makes them suitable pets for most households.
  • Fur maintenance: Harlequin rabbits have short rabbit fur that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance to keep clean. This means you won’t need to spend too much time grooming them.
  • Low allergens: Rabbits, in general, are considered low on allergens, making them a suitable choice for those with allergies to other animals like cats and dogs.

Cons of keeping Harlequin Rabbits as Pets

However, it’s important to be aware of the challenges that may come with owning a Harlequin rabbit:

  • Space and attention: These rabbits require more space and attention than some people may expect. Providing a suitable environment for them to live comfortably is essential.
  • Life expectancy: Harlequin rabbits have a relatively short life expectancy compared to other pet rabbits, typically living between 5 and 8 years.
  • Diet: To keep your Harlequin rabbit healthy, you’ll need to provide them with fresh vegetables every day. This can become time-consuming and expensive in the long run.
  • Social interaction: Rabbits are social creatures and need a lot of interaction. Sometimes, this may mean getting a second rabbit for companionship. In addition, they may require more time and attention from you compared to other pets.

Popular Bunny Names for Harlequin Rabbit

Here’s a table with popular Harlequin rabbit names reflecting their breed characteristics.

The Harlequin Rabbit is known for its distinctive multicolored fur, forming a pattern similar to a jester or harlequin’s costume.

Many of these names are inspired by their unique appearance and playful nature.

Boy Bunny Names for American Chinchilla RabbitGirl Bunny Names for American Chinchilla Rabbit

These names emphasize the unique patterned fur and playful personality of the Harlequin Rabbit breed, making them fitting choices for your rabbit.

Also read: Popular Pet Rabbit (Bunny) Names (Girl/Boy)

Frequently Asked Questions About Harlequin Rabbits

Q. Where can I buy a Harlequin rabbit?

You can find Harlequin rabbits at backyard breeders, in flea markets, at animal rescue centers, from pet shops, and from dedicated rabbit breeders.

We generally do not recommend buying your Harlequin rabbit at a pet shop, because they usually do not have the expertise in taking care of rabbits you can get from a dedicated breeder.

One place to find experts in Harlequin rabbits who will sell you healthy animals is the American Rabbit Breeders Association.

Q.Is there any downside to adopting a Harlequin rabbit from an animal shelter?

You can be confident you are getting a healthy animal when you adopt your Harlequin from an animal shelter.

Most of the time, rescue pets will be spayed or neutered.
But you should not take a reproductively intact rabbit from a rescue shelter for breeding stock or for a show animal.

Q. Do Harlequin rabbits need any vaccinations?

If your rabbit in going to be interacting with other rabbits at shows or at playtime, or if you are keeping multiple rabbits, it will need shots for rabbit calicivirus (rabbit viral hemorrhagic disease, also known as RVHD) as well as for a bacterial infection called myxomatosis.

These vaccinations are particularly important if you also have a rescue cat or a rescue dog

Q. What should I expect when I visit a dedicated Harlequin rabbit breeder?

All professional rabbit breeders welcome visits from families looking to adopt a rabbit.

They will want their rabbits to go to homes that are ready for them.

They may ask you some questions to make sure that you will have pet health insurance for your rabbit, and that you will be able to give it the food, cage, hutch, and attention it needs.

You will want to get to know your bunny before you buy. Ask to see the parents.

If they are friendly, chances are that you can socialize your rabbit to be friendly, too.

Any rabbit you take home will need to have been weaned. That means it will need to be at least eight weeks old.
Make sure your breeder keeps reproductively mature rabbits in separate cages, so you will not bring home a
pregnant rabbit.

Other articles you may also like: