The Belgian Hare is responsible for the domesticated rabbits you see in homes and pet stores throughout the United States today. These domestic rabbits came from Belgium in the late 1800s and were first imported to America in 1888.
Hares are typically known to be wild, but the Belgian Hare is a domesticated breed that is often kept as a pet or for show purposes.
Belgian Hare Characteristics
Belgian Hares have unique characteristics that set them apart from other domesticated rabbits. They resemble wild hares, and these two breeds can sometimes be confused with each other. Like wild hares, Belgian Hares have black markings across their fur. They have fine-structured, slender bodies and long, sturdy legs. Its forefeet are long and flat, and its hind feet are arched with well-rounded hindquarters, helping it move quickly. This breed is known as a rabbit racehorse due to their agility and speed.
The Belgian Hare has many color variations. The most common is a deep, silky red with black markings, but they also come in colors such as black and tan.
The Belgian Hare size is rather large, reaching around 6-9 pounds. They have a coat type similar to wild hares, long ears that stand up, and medium sized brown eyes.
These rabbits are not hypoallergenic, so those with allergies should use caution when handling them.
Belgian Hare temperament. The Belgian Hare is high-strung. They are fit, agile animals that need to be stimulated. Most rabbits aren't as smart as animals like dogs or cats, but what they lack in intelligence, they make up for in instincts and decent senses. The Belgian Hare, however, is intelligent and can be trained to respond to their name and come for food. Belgian Hares can also be crate trained, housebroken, and taught to walk on leashes.
Belgian Hares should be handled with care. While these animals can be friendly, the Belgian Hare personality is highly sensitive and nervous, and they can kick on instinct when mishandled. Because of their nervous behavior, these rabbits do not make good pets for children or inactive people. They're primarily kept as outdoor pets or used in rabbit shows.
Belgian Hare Care
If you decide to bring a Belgian Hare into your home, you should carefully consider the type of home you have, if there are children present, and the care you'll need to provide.
Belgian Hare habitat. The Belgian Hare is typically kept in wooden hutches with wood shavings and straw bedding. They are not the hardiest rabbit and require an environment free from high humidity and hot temperatures.
Belgian Hares require spacious environments that allow ample exercise. They should be housed in an enclosure that is at least 24 inches tall with a 24x60-inch floor. Pregnant does need even more space.
Include plenty of stimulation through toys and activities in their enclosures, and make sure to add rough chew toys that can help keep their teeth from overgrowing.
Belgian Hare diet. Belgian Hares require more food than average rabbits of their size due to their fast-acting metabolism. Like other rabbits, you may also notice your Belgian Hares consuming their stools. This helps with their digestion and is normal.
How much you feed your Belgian Hare depends on its weight and energy levels. Their diet should consist of 70% hay. The rest of their diet can include formulated rabbit food and leafy green vegetables.
Belgian Hare grooming. Belgian Hares have short fur and are not heavy shedders. They will shed mainly during spring and fall, so you can brush them more regularly then. Otherwise, the Belgian Hare is a relatively low-maintenance animal to keep. Because they do well at keeping themselves clean, there's no need to bathe them.
Other considerations. Belgian Hares are decent mothers, producing litters of around 4-8 babies. Juveniles mature slowly and typically reach a weight of 6-9 pounds.
Belgian Hares require a good amount of exercise, but due to their fragile bones, owners of Belgian Hares must be cautious. You can walk your rabbit or allow them to run around your home for daily exercise, but you should also include exercise equipment in the hutch. You can add ramps and boxes for them to climb on and cardboard tubes to run through.
Belgian Hare Health Issues
Rabbits are susceptible to overgrowing teeth, so you must check their teeth to make sure they are an acceptable size. If overgrowth happens, it can be painful for the rabbit and prevent them from eating. A veterinarian visit will be required to file the teeth down. To help avoid overgrowth, ensure that your rabbit has access to plenty of hard food and toys to chew on.
In addition to overgrown teeth, a rabbit's nails quickly grow and require regular trims. But because Belgian Hares are an energetic breed, allowing them to run around, especially outside, will help file their nails down. Still, it's important to check a rabbit's nails monthly to ensure they aren't getting too long and that an infection isn't present. When trimming their nails, don't trim past where the white part meets the pink. This can hurt your rabbit and cause its nail to bleed.
While rabbits are generally clean animals who take great care to groom their own bodies, you may still need to clean their ears, especially for outdoor rabbits. Rabbits are susceptible to ear infections and certain parasites, including ear mites. Check for debris, mites, and infections regularly.
Rabbits are also prone to other diseases, including:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Bladder stones
- Gastrointestinal stasis
- Head tilt
- Dental issues
The average Belgian Hare lifespan expectancy is around 7-11 years.