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3 Rabbit Breeds You’ll Want When Society Collapses

3 Rabbit Breeds You'll Want When Society Collapses

New Zealand.

Americans raise millions of rabbits each year for many reasons – including for show and for pets — but homesteaders, off-gridders and preppers raise them for meat. Selecting the right breed for your homestead requires consideration of several factors.

First, you want an efficient dressout. This means that there is a high meat-to-bone ratio. You want a rabbit that converts its feed to meat, not bone. Second, a high feed conversion is important. Feed conversion refers to how efficiently a rabbit converts its feed into increased weight. In other words, we’re talking about rabbits that consume the least feed to reach slaughter weight. For those interested in pelts, a secondary consideration is quality of the fur. Similar to dual-purpose chickens (eggs and meat), there are dual-purpose rabbits (meat and pelts).

Several rabbit breeds successfully meet these criteria.

1. New Zealand

The history of the most popular meat rabbit in the world and the United States is murky, but they probably did not come from New Zealand. Rather, southern Californian breeders likely developed them through cross-breeding Flemish Giants with the now rare Belgian Hare. New Zealands are renowned for their large size (up to 13 pounds) with thick bodies that yield a lot of meat. New Zealands are my favorite rabbit breed and make up the core of my rabbitry. Not only are they efficient meat producers, but they also have a gentle disposition that makes handling them easier than some other breeds.

2. Californian

This breed is second in popularity to New Zealands and widely recognized for its all-white bodies, except for dark areas on the nose, ears, feet and tail. They are also a large breed, weighing in at up to 11 pounds. The knock against Californians, in my opinion, is that they are not as easy to handle as New Zealands. However, I usually keep a Californian buck on hand. When they are cross-bred with a New Zealand doe, the litters tend to be larger in number and size.

3. Rex

One day more than a hundred years ago a French peasant noticed that his doe had birthed a new-looking rabbit. It was smaller but had the softest fur he’d ever felt. Over the years, he worked hard to reproduce these rabbits, calling them “King” in French for their plush fur texture that yields superior pelts.

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You may want to consider Rex rabbits for two reasons. First, if you’re looking for a dual-purpose breed (meat and pelts), this is a good choice. Second, Rex rabbits are smaller than New Zealands and Californians, rarely weighing more than eight pounds. Many people who raise rabbits for meat prefer smaller rabbits because they take up less space. Some also feel that the meat from a smaller rabbit is more economical.

I own a couple of Rex rabbits, because I have found them to be better resistant to heat than New Zealands. This is my subjective opinion, but heat is an issue where I live.

The Best Prepper Breed?

So what’s the perfect breed for an off-the-gridder or prepper? None of the above. The key to raising rabbits sustainably is survival. So, you need a mixture. While many breeders selectively breed one type of rabbit to get the “perfect rabbit,” we need to focus on survival. Some genetic diversity and the resulting hybrid vigor is key to healthy rabbits. That’s why I have three breeds — New Zealands, Californians and Rex rabbits.

I have two lines of rabbits going: one purebred New Zealands, and the other line, which is a New Zealand-based breed but with varying amounts of Californian and Rex genes. They may not all look the same, or be the same weight, but the hybrid vigor in them keeps them strong and healthy.

Selective Breeding for Preppers

Rabbit-breeding purists will frown at this article, pointing to the needless genetic deterioration and variability in size caused by cross-breeding. But our goal is different — it is the perfect breed for our homestead. Where I live, it rarely gets lower than 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the winter, but summers can get up to 100 degrees. So for me, I’m always observing my stock during the summer. Which ones are really struggling, and which ones seem fine on hotter days? Those that deal with the heat and otherwise have no poor characteristics make up my breeding stock. Those that start panting when it gets up to 80 degrees become meat in the freezer. Your situation may be different. The key is having rabbits that thrive on your homestead.

What is your favorite breed of rabbit? Share your advice in the section below:

 

 

 

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8 comments

  1. I’m interested in rabbits as a staple prepping animal. Which one, or hybrid would be best for me who lives 6k’ in the Montana wild lands? PS it gets bitter assed cold up here! lol JB

    • You are lucky, JB! Rabbits do extremely well in your climate. Just look to our neighbors in Canada, many of whom raise rabbits outside in hutches year around. For you, climate adaptation is not the issue, it’s the other factors discussed in the article. I suggest starting with New Zealands and going from there. Another option is to talk to local rabbit breeders and see what they do.

  2. I too live where the summers are in the upper 90’s with high humidity, and in the winter, it rarely gets below 20 degrees. What breed would you suggest i raise.

    • The traditional domestic rabbit does not do well in upper 90s with high humidity. The first question is, will you be using modern technology to cool them (e.g., air conditioning, fans, etc.) or not? If yes, then the heat shouldn’t be a problem (but what happens when the power goes out :-)?). If not, are there other methods you can use, like shaded areas with breeze? I suggest searching out local breeders and seeing what stock they have that is adapted to the area. That’s what I did for my homestead with hot summers. Also, as a long-term solution, do what I do–selectively breed those that can withstand the heat.

  3. I read years ago of pioneers starving to death eating a diet mainly of rabbit. It was called “Rabbit Starvation”. It appear there aren’t enough calories to maintain humans for very long. Might I also suggest adding chickens to the mix?

    • You cannot eat just rabbit meat, but not because there are not enough calories. The reason is that wild rabbit, but not necessarily domestic rabbit, has little fat. You need fat in your diet, as well as protein. In my rabbitry, you can fatten up the rabbits before butchering–their will be fat in the upper shoulder area. I also supplement my rabbit diet with fatty fish caught from my creek.

      So yes, there is rabbit poison, but fat from other sources and plenty of carbs should avoid it.

  4. when it comes to dual purpose nothing betas REX! i’m slowly changing my whole herd to standard rex’s. the fur is like velvet. incredibly dense and soft. i have some cali/rex crosses and i find them to be average sized while the standard rex’s are big rabbits. i don’t have any pure cali’s but i’ve seen them and they appear small.
    sincerely christian anarchist

  5. Where can you find good cages that is not so expensive?
    Also, what size cage for rex?
    Thanks and good article.
    Joe

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