Harlequin Rabbit: Appearance, Lifespan, Temperament, Care Sheet

You are about to learn interesting things about a peculiar rabbit breed— the Harlequin rabbit. Its distinctive markings and colors gave it the nickname “clown of rabbits.”

Shortly after it was introduced, the Harlequin rabbits were imported and became popular in animal shows due to their distinctive colors and body markings.

It even has a large well-muscled body type that makes them more attractive for shows. That’s why there is no doubt that it is one of the oldest show rabbits.

But even so, the Harlequin rabbits are certainly bred for shows; it has proven to be an affectionate companion to a household. Harlequin rabbits are docile, friendly, and playful; it brings laughter and warmth to your home.


 Oryctolagus cuniculus



Color form

 Black, blue, orange, chocolate

Average size

Medium to large

Average weight

6.5 lbs to 9.5 lbs (2.9 kgs to 4 kgs)

Average lifespan

5 to 8 years

Level of care


Minimum tank size

 44 sq. ft.

Tank set-up

 Spacious, comfortable


 Active, affectionate, curious, playful


 Vegetables, high-quality hay

Moreover, harlequin rabbits are easy to take care of. They are easy to train and get along well with people.

Continue reading this article. We will talk about everything you need to know about the harlequin rabbit breed. Let’s learn more about the clown of rabbits and help you decide if this rabbit breed is the right fit for you.

Background and History of Harlequin Rabbit

Background and History of Harlequin Rabbit

There is a long history of interbreeding that has made Harlequin rabbit a unique and healthy breed. The first record of this breed was in 1872 in Tokyo, Japan, that’s why this breed was first coined as the “Japanese” rabbit.

The Harlequin rabbit was a genetic combination of tamed wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbits. Although, at first, the result looks like a badly colored and marked Dutch rabbit after subsequent tries, its unique markings and colorations were recognized.

After the rabbits were introduced in Paris in 1887, they were imported to England. By the early 1910s to 1920s, “Japanese” rabbits were introduced in the United States.

In the advent of World War II, the rabbits were slaughtered for their meat. Shortly after, its name changed to Harlequin. The name was an adaptation from a court jester who has the same appearance.

Today, the Harlequin breed is recognized by the British Rabbit Council and American Rabbit Breeders Association. These rabbits were popular in the United States back in the day, but now they are considered rare.

Moreover, unlike other rabbits, the Harlequin rabbit breed is not distinguished by body type and fur but by coat coloration and markings.

Let me tell you how unique their breed standard and appearance are.

Breed Standard and Appearance of Harlequin Rabbit

Breed Standard and Appearance of Harlequin Rabbit

Among the rabbit breeds, Harlequin is easily recognizable because of its peculiar color and markings. If you look at them from their face, you will notice the top and bottom are evenly divided into two colors.

These two sections have different colors and body markings in bands or bars of five to seven alternating color patterns.

Coat Color

Body markings of Harlequin rabbits are included in the American Rabbit Breeders Association Standard of Perfection qualifications.

Harlequin rabbits must have three color alterations, and it is visible on their face, ears, and belly. The colors of a harlequin rabbit’s belly are a distinguishing factor of their variation: Japanese and Magpie.

Japanese harlequins have an orange belly, while their band or other parts are black, blue, lilac, or chocolate. Meanwhile, Magpie harlequin rabbits have a white belly in combination with either black, chocolate, lilac, or blue for their brands.

Coat Texture and Uniformity

Harlequin rabbits have short and uniformed fur that does not need high maintenance to keep it clean. You can simply brush their fur with a wire-bristled brush weekly to help its shedding.

If your harlequin rabbits spend mostly outdoors and have some dirt on their cat, it is best to clean the spot with a damp towel rather than giving them a bath which may cause them stress and lead to serious health conditions that may result in death.

Quick Fact about Harlequin Rabbit

We have emphasized how harlequin rabbits were bred for animal shows, but do you know it is one of the trickiest rabbit breeds to judge in a rabbit show competition? The distinctive color and markings on its head, belly, feet, and ears must be meticulously examined.

That’s why planning to have a harlequin rabbit for shows, or competitions needs guidance from expert rabbit breeders. They know how to identify traits, colors, and markings for the offspring; these are the most crucial consideration for rabbit shows.

But, if your sole purpose is to have an affectionate companion at home, there’s no need to worry about their color and coat texture. All you need is to have a healthy harlequin rabbit.

Now, we know the history and beauty of the harlequin rabbit. Let’s take a look at what living with them is like.

Personality and Temperament of Harlequin Rabbit

Personality and Temperament of Harlequin Rabbit

Harlequin rabbits love to explore and expect around their surroundings; they are quite curious animals. You have to keep an eye on them when they are roaming around. If there are any wears or tears on the cage, you have to repair the damage before the rabbits escape.

Aside from that, harlequin rabbits are affectionate and playful. You will certainly enjoy the moments playing with them. However, no matter how laid-back the rabbits are, it is important to give them respect and personal space, especially when they are still in the adjustment phase.

Other Characteristics

Their playful and docile nature makes it an excellent choice for family pets. Harlequin rabbits are intelligent, and they are easy to train. You can potty train them to lessen your house clean-up. It gives you a choice to keep them inside or outside your home; if you have enough room for them to hop around inside the house and not be confined inside their cage all the time, why not?

Common Health Issues of Harlequin Rabbit

Common Health Issues of Harlequin Rabbit

It is fortunate that the harlequin rabbit does not have breed-specific health issues. But, they are not safe from common rabbit health issues. Like other rabbits, harlequin rabbits may experience these:

Fur pests infestation

Have you seen your harlequin rabbit shaking their head aggressively? They might be experiencing pest infestation. Hold them and check for fur or ear pest infestation; the most common ones are ear mites, fleas, and ticks.

If the infestation is serious, it may have spread around the surrounding areas (abdomen, head, neck, and genital regions).

Pest infestation is highly contagious among fur pets. They might have it from other pets they live or interact with, unkept cages, or poor hygiene. If you notice your rabbit is experiencing a pest infestation, visit the vet to treat it and get ready to clean up its surroundings.

Pressure sores

It is common for rabbits to experience pressure sores on the bottom pads of their feet; this is also called a sore hock. You can prevent it by ensuring their cage habitat is safe for them.

If the cage bottom is made of wires, it irritates their paws. In addition, monitoring their diet and maintaining their healthy weight prevents them from experiencing pressure sores.

Sensitive digestive system

There are rabbits with a sensitive digestive system; your harlequin rabbit may be one. Common digestive issues for rabbits are gastric enteritis, stasis, and bloating.

It may be visible that they suffer from serious digestive issues; this is when they have lost their appetite, have small or no fecal pellets, and are lethargic. Bring your harlequin rabbit immediately to the vet for treatment.

Overgrown teeth (Malocclusion)

Unlike humans, rabbit teeth do not stop growing. Although their overgrown teeth wear down when they chew hard foods or high-quality hay, it is not guaranteed that they will not suffer from overgrown teeth or malocclusion.

Malocclusion happens when their upper and lower teeth become misaligned due to overgrown teeth. It affects their normal chewing process and is severely painful for them.

If you notice your harlequin rabbit with loss of appetite, drools around its mouth, or has become sluggish, they might be experiencing overgrown teeth. Bring them to the vet to treat their overgrown teeth and the possible infection with antibiotics.

You can prevent overgrown teeth by regularly monitoring their mouth. Moreover, give them high-quality hay to grind their teeth.

Mental health

The same with humans, harlequin rabbits, have mental health that you have to give attention to. Mental health issues are not quite visible. But, you can prevent them from suffering by giving them time to socialize and roam around.

If your rabbits cannot interact or exercise, they become unhappy, lethargic, and may lead to serious health issues. That’s why it is important to show affection through petting, socializing with animals or interactive toys, and letting them run around.

Bring your harlequin rabbits to vet checkups regularly to detect health problems early. You may also keep your rabbits healthy by following this care guide below.

How to Take Care of Harlequin Rabbit

How to Take Care of Harlequin Rabbit

Although we have discussed the possible health concerns of harlequin rabbits, and they are a healthy breed and do not have specific diseases, they still have to be correctly taken care of to live a happy and longer life.

Moreover, Harlequin rabbits have a short life expectancy than other rabbits; their average lifespan is between 5 to 8 years.

Enclosure Habitat

Rabbits must have enough space for their enclosure habitat because they spend most of their time in their cage.

If you plan to have an indoor cage for your harlequin rabbits, ensure that its bottom is made of a solid surface to avoid pressure sores. You can install soft bedding to make it more comfortable, but you have to spot-clean the bedding every day and replace them weekly.

Meanwhile, if you want an outdoor enclosure for your harlequin rabbits, it is best to make a fenced enclosure.

Although it is best to keep them inside their enclosures, giving them enough time to hop around and bond with you is best. Ensure that the place is rabbit-friendly before you let them out of their enclosure.


Harlequin rabbits have the same diet as other rabbits; their diet is primarily high-quality hay, a mix of pellets, vegetables, and fruits. Before you feed them with fruits and vegetables, you have to ensure you have already researched what foods are dangerous and healthy for them.

Some foods that may be fine for other pets are harmful to rabbits, such as mustard greens, lettuce, chives, onions, and leeks. There are several options of vegetables and fruits that you can feed them, just ensure that they are safe.


The beautiful fur coat of harlequin rabbits does not require high grooming maintenance. Unlike other rabbits, harlequin rabbits only shed minimally.

You can brush them once a week or as necessary to remove their excess fur. Do not forget to file the claws of the harlequin rabbits, it might cause you harm and injury while you are playing with them.

Overall Health

De-worming is a major health concern of rabbits. They have to be dewormed during the spring and fall. You can bring them to the nearest vet or administer the de-worming medicine on your own by gently placing the de-worming paste inside the rabbit’s mouth.

Always monitor them for any signs of illness, such as nasal and eye discharges, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, unsteady gait, restlessness, or lethargy. Any of these signs is a sign of illness.

Summary: Are You Ready to Adopt a Harlequin Rabbit?

Now, you might be excited to adopt a harlequin rabbit. These rabbits are well-mannered when trained and enjoyable to have around. Moreover, harlequin rabbits are easy to take care of, making them a great pet.

You can have a harlequin rabbit from a reliable breeder or retailer. But, do not forget to check first the animal shelters or rescue centers near you; they might have a harlequin rabbit up for adoption.

2 thoughts on “Harlequin Rabbit: Appearance, Lifespan, Temperament, Care Sheet”

  1. I am new to rabbit husbandry, however, I have had two litters that have harlequin colored kits. From two separate does and one buck, are these true harlequins due to their color? Please advise.

    • Hi Ruby,
      It’s possible that your kits with harlequin coloring are true Harlequin rabbits, but color alone isn’t definitive.


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