What to Know About the English Spot Rabbit

Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 29, 2022

English spot rabbits are a popular and pretty breed of rabbit. They were created by breeders in 19th-century England. They're frequently kept as pets. They’re also bred on commercial rabbit farms, used in educational programs, and studied in scientific research. These versatile bunnies have a lot to offer the world.

English spot rabbits were first introduced to America in 1890. They quickly became a popular breed among pet owners for their pretty looks and pleasant personalities. 

Today, they’re a great educational model. English spot rabbits are frequently raised by children in programs like 4-H and those run by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). They’re even exhibited at professional rabbit shows. 

They’re also one of the species used in the commercial rabbit industry. Each year, hundreds of thousands of rabbits, including the English spot, are grown and sold in the U.S. They’re grown for their fur and as a source of white meat — which some people consider a delicacy.   

Examples of other types of rabbits used in commercial settings include: 

  • Angoras
  • Flemish giants
  • Silver martins

The average English spot rabbit lifespan is six to eight years.

The typical English spot rabbit size depends on the animal's purpose. They’re considered a medium-sized breed. Healthy pets should weigh a maximum of 8 pounds. But when they’re used for commercial production, they can get as big as 13 pounds.   

English spot rabbit characteristics also include short, soft coats with distinctive color patterns. These patterns are prized in show environments. An English spot rabbit's unique patterning includes: 

  • Butterfly nose markings
  • Dark rings that completely surround their eyes
  • Colorful ears
  • Spots on their cheeks
  • Chains of spots along their sides

These patterns come in colors like gray and black, always set against a white background. 

Some of the coat patterns are linked to a part of the rabbit’s genome known as the English spotting locus. A rabbit’s genome contains all of the information that its body needs for growth and development. 

All rabbits have two copies of their genome. They get one from their mother and one from their father. To have their distinct patterning, English spot rabbits need one normal copy of the English spotting locus and a modified — or mutant — copy. 

This means that breeding one English spot rabbit to another can produce babies with different patterns. For example, some could be entirely white. This is an important fact for breeders to keep in mind.

English spot rabbits are an energetic breed. At rabbit shows, for example, they’re exhibited as a type of running breed. This means that they’re out moving around while judges observe them, not sitting sedately on a table. 

English spot rabbits have mild, even temperaments that make them highly suitable house pets. Rabbits don’t generally like to be held. This can make them bad pets for young children. Luckily, English spot rabbits are one of the better breeds for kids.

Make sure your pet rabbit gets lots of activity as well as attention. Don’t get a rabbit as a pet unless you plan on spending time with it and giving it time to exercise. 

English spot rabbits are naturally social creatures that are happiest when other rabbits are around. For the sake of your pet’s mental health, consider getting one male and one female — just make sure that they’ve both been spayed or neutered so they won’t have any kids.     

Some of them can get along with dogs and cats, but you’ll need to choose all of your animals very carefully. Lots of dogs and cats will view your rabbit as prey or a toy. 

Keep in mind that the personality of your rabbit can change throughout its lifetime. This is particularly true if you don’t get it spayed or neutered. If your rabbit is over six months old and has suddenly become more aggressive, you should bring it to the veterinarian for one of these procedures. Getting spayed or neutered should make your rabbit happier and less territorial.

The main food source for English spot rabbits in captivity is a type of commercial pellet. Find a brand of rabbit pellet that your pet enjoys and give a fixed amount each day. 

You should also include a regular supply of hay. Timothy hay is the recommended kind. This is a great source of dietary fiber and is fun for your pet to chew on. Plus, the chewing helps rabbits grind their teeth. Rabbit teeth never stop growing — so they need chewable foods to keep their teeth at a healthy length.  

They also like the occasional treat in the form of fresh salad mixes and cut-up vegetables and fruits. Introduce these foods into your rabbit’s diet gradually so its digestive system doesn’t become overwhelmed with a new food group.  

Make sure that your pet has a constant supply of water. You can find special rabbit water bottles that attach to the sides of most cages.

Before bringing an English spot rabbit home, make sure you’ve created a safe, healthy environment where it can thrive. First, you have to decide if you want your rabbit to freely roam throughout your house or a particular room. Otherwise, you need to create a suitable enclosure for it. 

If you let it freely roam, provide plenty of pee pads in the corners of the room. Over time, you can train it to only use these pads — or even a litter box. Keep any small, dangerous objects out of reach. And provide plenty of toys so it won’t chew on your furniture. 

If you’d rather keep it in an enclosure, make sure to provide: 

  • Lots of space so your rabbit has room to move around
  • An area where it can go to the bathroom — this could be an in-cage litter box
  • A feeding dish
  • A water bottle
  • Toys 

You can line the cage with newspapers for an inexpensive and relatively easy cleanup. 

Even if you have your pet in a large enclosure, it still needs to get out to run around every so often. You can try putting it in a playpen if you don’t want it on your floors. 

Besides a clean, safe environment, your English spot rabbit also has some grooming requirements. You should brush its fur regularly and trim its nails when they get too long. You can use basic toenail clippers for this. Other than that, the only thing it needs is lots of love and attention. 

English spot rabbits can be great pets, but they’re not for everyone. Make sure to do your research before choosing to bring one home with you.

Show Sources

American Rabbit Breeders Association: “English Spot.” 
House Rabbit Society: “Living With a House Rabbit.” 
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals: “English Spot.” 
Penn State Extension: “Rabbit Production.”
PLoS One: “The KIT Gene Is Associated with the English Spotting Coat Color Locus and Congenital Megacolon in Checkered Giant Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).”
Utah State University Extension: “Discover 4-H Rabbits Club.”

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