I breed Netherland dwarf and mini-rex rabbits, so many friends and relatives view me as the go-to girl for questions about bunnies. Surprisingly, few of these questions have to do with rabbit care or the breeds I raise. In fact, the most common question I hear is, “What do you call that black-and-white kind of rabbit?”
I never know exactly what that black-and-white rabbit breed is, because there are several breeds with black-and-white markings. Without seeing the bunny in person or hearing a detailed description, I have no way of identifying its breed. Here are some of the most common breeds of rabbit known for their black-and-white patterns.
I believe that this is the breed that most people are visualizing when they talk about “that black-and-white rabbit.” Dutch rabbits are known for their beautiful, unique markings, which have been compared to oreo cookies. A dutch rabbit has a wedge of white in the middle of its face, known as the “blaze.” The area from its neck to its middle. including the feet, is also white. Additional white markings appear on the rear feet. Most pet dutch rabbits are black and white, but other colors– blue, chocolate, gray, steel and tortoise– are also accepted in conjunction with white.
An English spot rabbit is another breed noted for its characteristic pattern, which is often black and white. English spot rabbits are primarily white, with a “butterfly” marking on their noses, cheek spots, circles around their eyes, pigmented ears, “herringbone” pattern along the spine, and a chain of spots along the haunches. English spots are an English breed, ranging from 5 to 8 pounds on average. Although most are black and white, others are white with blue, chocolate, gray, gold, lilac or tortoise coloration.
A close relative of the English spot, the checkered giant is nearly identical in pattern, but much larger. Checkered giants routinely top ten to twelve towns. Its markings are very similar to the English spot, but generally bolder and broader. Checkered giants are almost always black, but a few checkered giants have blue spots instead of black. These hefty “dalmations” among rabbits are popular as pets.
Like Siamese cats, Himalayan rabbits have a gene that causes pigment to deposit only in the coolest areas of the body. The Himalayan breed is solid white with dark points on the nose, ears, tail, and feet. It is born white, but gets spots as it ages and matures. The original Himalayan rabbit breed was only black and white, but Himalayan rabbits with blue, chocolate and lilac points are now also accepted. When a person describes a black-and-white rabbit breed by comparing it to a Siamese cat, I always know that the person is thinking of a Himalayan.
Blanc de Hotot
The Blanc de Hotot is a relatively new breed with only black and white markings. Its entire body is white, except for a ring of black “eyeliner” around its eye. These beautiful bunnies are continuing to be developed into newer forms and colors, and ARBA now recognizes the dwarf hotot as a miniature variety of the blanc de hotot. This one is so new, and relatively rare, that most people do not think of it when they envision black and white rabbits. Over time, as the breed gains popularity, this may change.