Given their long history of domesticated breeding, rabbits have come a long way since the days of their wild ancestors, and the modern world of rabbits is filled with breeds of many different sizes. Some, such as the massive Flemish Giant, can weigh 14 pounds or more!
In recent decades, however, there has been an increasing focus on smaller rabbit breeds—specifically, the “dwarf” breeds that weigh less than 4 pounds. One particularly popular breed is the Polish rabbit, which is known as the “Little Aristocrat” for a good reason—it’s one of the smallest rabbit breeds of all.
The History Of The Polish Rabbit
Since they’re called Polish rabbits, it’s easy to assume that the breed must have originated in Poland, but this is not the case. In fact, it is believed that Polish rabbits were first produced in England during the 19th century before being brought to the U.S. shortly thereafter.
No one knows exactly which rabbit breeds contributed to the original Polish rabbits, but it is believed that Dutch, Himalayan and Silver rabbits—three of the oldest rabbit breeds—are among the Polish’s ancestors.
In the 20th century, after the Polish had been imported to the United States, breeders in this country began developing additional colors. Beveren, Havana, Holland Lop and Rex rabbits are among the other breeds that were used to create the different varieties of Polish rabbits. As you can see, Polish rabbits have a very diversified list of ancestors.
Polish Rabbit Colors
It might come as a bit of a surprise given the number of breeds in the Polish rabbit’s heritage, but unlike the Netherland Dwarf—the other super-small and highly colorful breed of the rabbit world—Polish rabbits are not found in very many colors. Although the Netherland Dwarf is found in more than two dozen color varieties, the Polish is only recognized in six. Ruby-Eyed White was the only color to be recognized in the early years, being accepted more than 100 years ago, and in the decades since then, Black, Blue, Blue-Eyed White, Broken and Chocolate have joined the lineup of Polish colors. The Broken color—basically a rabbit that is white with solid coloring on their ears, eyes and nose, along with colored spots on the rest of the body—is the most recent to gain acceptance, being recognized as an official variety in the late 1990s.
However, after more than 15 years without a new color, it is possible that a seventh color could soon be accepted into the Polish breed. Lilac, a color found in many other breeds of rabbits (including the Netherland Dwarf), is in the process of being developed within the Polish breed.
What Makes A Polish A Polish?
Being a dwarf rabbit means more than just being small. Dwarf rabbit breeds actually have a dwarfing gene that creates smaller ears, shorter limbs and a very small body size. The majority of dwarf rabbits are classified by the American Rabbit Breeders Association as having the “compact” body type, which is the shape that Polish rabbits exhibit.
Generally speaking, though, if you compare a Netherland Dwarf and a Polish side-by-side, you’ll likely notice that the Netherland Dwarf exhibits dwarf characteristics that are more extreme than the Polish. For example, the Netherland Dwarf will likely display smaller ears and even shorter limbs than the Polish. So even though both are dwarf breeds, the nuances of each type are different.
It’s also interesting to note that when Polish rabbits were first developed, the genetic mutation that created dwarf rabbits had not yet occurred, meaning that the first Polish rabbits, although small, were not true dwarf rabbits.
Although they may weigh as much as 3½ pounds, the recognized ideal weight for a Polish rabbit is just 2½ pounds. Being a dwarf rabbit breed, Polish rabbits are often stereotyped as high-strung, but that’s not true across the board; there are many variances in temperament within the breed, and whether a given rabbit is high-strung or not truly depends on the individual.
But regardless of their individual personality, Polish rabbits are a very popular breed for exhibition. At the 2015 ARBA National Convention, 415 Polish rabbits were exhibited in the Open division (an additional 105 were shown by youth exhibitors). Of these, the most popular color was Black. The least popular color (surprisingly, due to its long history) was Ruby-Eyed White.
Good Things Come In Small Packages
And the Polish breed is no exception! If you’ve had the good fortune to become acquainted with a Polish rabbit, you’ve had the pleasure of meeting a special breed, indeed!