The lionhead rabbit is a petite breed with a distinctive fluffy wool mane similar to that of a male lion. Its body is compact, but its erect ears are rather large at around 2 to 3 inches long. Lionheads come in a wide range of colors. As pets, these rabbits are generally friendly, playful, and social, though some can be timid. They require daily interaction and a moderate amount of maintenance. They need a varied diet and housing that gives them room to exercise.
Common Name: Lionhead rabbit
Scientific Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus
Adult Size: 8 to 10 inches long, weighing 2.5 to 3.5 pounds on average
Lifespan: 7 to 10 years
Lionhead Rabbit Behavior and Temperament
Lionhead rabbits are generally smart, good-natured, and energetic. They love to play and socialize. And many form close bonds with their humans and enjoy cuddling and petting.
However, some lionheads can be rather skittish. They typically don’t bite, but they might try to scratch you if they feel uncomfortable with handling. Most rabbits generally don’t enjoy being picked up.
To satisfy the lionhead’s social needs, it’s ideal to keep more than one rabbit. Members of the opposite sex can be kept together if they are spayed and neutered. Plus, some rabbits even form bonds with other household pets, including calm, well-mannered cats and dogs. However, it’s critical to do slow and safe introductions between animals (including other rabbits) to ensure they can coexist peacefully.
As pets, rabbits are generally quiet animals that require daily feedings and regular cleanings. They also need supervised time each day outside of their enclosure to play and socialize. Plus, they should have toys—especially chew toys—in and out of their enclosure to keep them busy. Rabbits that don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation might become destructive and potentially do some unwanted chewing or digging.
Lionhead rabbits stretch around 8 to 10 inches long on average and typically weigh less than 4 pounds.
Although the lionhead rabbit is small, it’s still an active breed that needs plenty of space to burn off energy. As a general rule, a cage for small rabbit breeds like the lionhead should be at least 18 by 24 inches and tall enough for the rabbit to stretch fully upright on its hind legs. However, bigger is always better, and the cage size must be increased for multiple rabbits.
Avoid cages with wire bottoms, as they can harm a rabbit’s feet. A plastic-bottom dog crate can be a good option. And some owners opt for a dog exercise pen to allow for even more space while still keeping the rabbit secure. Make sure to keep the enclosure away from drafts.
Within the enclosure, include food and water dishes, toys, a litter box, and a shelf onto which your rabbit can hop for exercise. You also can include tunnels and solid-floor ramps in cages that have multiple levels. Just make sure there’s enough room for the rabbit to fully stretch out with its back legs extended on the floor of the enclosure.
When you allow your rabbit to roam outside of its enclosure, make sure the area is fully rabbit-proofed. Rabbits are known to chew on electrical cords and other potentially hazardous items at ground level.
Specific Substrate Needs
The floor of the enclosure should be nonslip. Many owners use washable carpeting to add some softness for their rabbit. Also, you can put down some straw for your rabbit to nest in. In the litter box, use dye-free paper litter; never use clumping litter. Clean the litter box at least every other day, and scrub everything in the enclosure weekly with mild soap and water.
What Do Lionhead Rabbits Eat & Drink?
Rabbits are herbivores. Plus, their teeth continuously grow, so they need a diet that will naturally help to wear down the teeth.
Provide your lionhead with unlimited amounts of grass hay, such as timothy hay, each day. You can simply pile hay in the enclosure or use a feeder called a hopper. Make sure there is always some hay available for the rabbit.
Also, offer a variety of green leafy vegetables, including lettuces, herbs, and carrot tops. And offer more limited amounts of other fruits and veggies, such as carrots. Fresh foods can simply be placed on the enclosure floor or in a small dish. You can offer them once or twice a day, but remove any uneaten fresh foods after a few hours to prevent spoilage. Consult your vet for the best quantity and variety to feed for your rabbit.
Furthermore, feed a limited about of rabbit pellets. Too many pellets can result in digestive issues and obesity. So be sure to discuss a feeding plan with your vet. Put a day’s supply of pellets in a small ceramic bowl in the enclosure. Dispose of any uneaten pellets after 24 hours before providing the next day’s portion.
Finally, make sure your rabbit always has access to fresh water. You can either use a ceramic water dish or a bottle. Just make sure the bottle is always functional and that your rabbit knows how to drink from it. Refresh the water daily.
Common Health Problems
Like all pet rabbit breeds, lionheads are prone to some common health issues, including:
- Digestive problems, such as blockages and diarrhea
- Eye issues, such as ulcers
- Respiratory infections
- Skin issues, such as mites and fleas
Overgrown teeth also can be a problem if your rabbit isn’t wearing them down properly via their diet and chew toys. You might notice your rabbit has difficulty eating or is losing weight. Vets can trim the teeth as necessary.
Training Your Rabbit
Because lionhead rabbits are very smart, they often respond to litter training faster than the average pet rabbit. Providing a litter box makes cleaning the enclosure much easier, and it keeps your house sanitary when your rabbit is allowed to roam. Until your rabbit is litter trained, it’s best to confine them to a small area where there’s always a litter box nearby.
Rabbits naturally tend to pick a spot to use as their bathroom. So place the litter box in that spot in the enclosure to encourage them to use it. Also, add some hay in the litter box to entice them to get in. When you see them eliminating in the box, immediately offer a treat to reinforce the behavior.
Replace the hay daily to keep it sanitary, and replace the litter every couple of days. Rabbits don’t like using dirty litter boxes. In addition, rabbits that aren’t spayed or neutered are likely to relieve themselves outside of the litter box to mark their territory.
A minimum of four hours per day for your rabbit to exercise outside of its enclosure is ideal. Physical activity is essential to keep a rabbit fit and prevent health issues, such as obesity. Always supervise a rabbit outside of its enclosure. To encourage it to move around, make sure to offer toys, such as treat puzzles, balls, and tunnels.
Lionheads have roughly 2 inches of fur around their neck with a slightly shorter coat overall. It’s a soft, thick coat that needs regular grooming. Rabbits do groom themselves, but giving them some help via brushing out loose fur helps to prevent them from ingesting fur. Too much ingested fur can cause hairballs that might block a rabbit's digestive system.
Brush at least a couple times per week. Give extra attention to the longer fur to prevent uncomfortable knots and mats. Lionheads also go through heavier shedding periods often in the spring and fall when you’ll likely have to brush more regularly to keep up with the loose fur.
In terms of other grooming, you’ll often have to trim a rabbit’s nails, as they don’t naturally wear them down in their indoor environment. Your vet can show you how to properly do a nail trim. Baths generally won’t be necessary for a rabbit, but you can spot clean its coat as necessary by gently rubbing it with a damp cloth.
Rabbits are fairly expensive animals, especially when compared to many other small pets. Your primary costs will be their diet and bedding/litter. Plan to spend around $40 to $60 per month on average, depending on the varieties you choose and how many rabbits you have. You’ll also have to replace worn toys and other items in the enclosure periodically at a cost of around $10 to $20. And be sure to budget for both routine veterinary care and emergencies.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Lionhead Rabbit as a Pet
Lionhead rabbits are typically fun, playful, and sociable pets. They also are quiet and don’t take up a lot of space. However, they can be fairly expensive to keep, and it’s best to have more than one to meet their social needs, which will increase your overall cost.
Similar Rabbits to the Lionhead Rabbit
If you’re interested in lionhead rabbits, check out these other rabbits:
Otherwise, check out other rabbit breeds that can be your new pet.
Purchasing or Adopting Your Lionhead Rabbit
You might find a lionhead rabbit at a pet shop, but it’s better to go through a reputable breeder or rescue organization. They’re likely to offer better information on the animal’s health, history, and temperament. Expect to pay around $50 on average, though this can vary depending on the animal’s age and other factors.
Local exotic veterinarians might be able to recommend a good breeder or rescue. You also can research through the American Rabbit Breeders Association and the House Rabbit Society. The main benefit of going to a breeder is you’ll likely have a wider selection of younger animals. But because rabbits are relatively common adoptable pets, you often can find a good match at a rescue. Plus, many older animals are already tame and litter trained.
To avoid accidentally becoming a breeder yourself, always spay or neuter members of the opposite sex before putting them together.
Does a lionhead rabbit make a good pet for kids?
A lionhead rabbit can be a good pet for older children who understand gentle and calm handling.
Are lionhead rabbits hard to take care of?
Lionheads require a moderate amount of care, including daily feedings and regular cleanings. They also need lots of attention and exercise.
Does a lionhead rabbit like to be held?
Some lionheads are OK with being picked up, but most prefer to keep their feet on the ground. Many still enjoy cuddling and petting.
Owning a Rabbit. VCA Hospitals.
Housing of Rabbits. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Feeding Your Rabbit. VCA Hospitals.
Disorders and Diseases of Rabbits. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Rabbit Health Check: Signs of a Healthy Bunny. Best Friends Animal Society.
Litter Training. House Rabbit Society.