Harlequin Rabbit Breed Information, History and Characteristics

harlequin rabbit breed

What is the history of the Harlequin rabbit?

The Harlequin is a colourful breed of rabbit and one of the oldest of all rabbits.

It was developed in the 1980s and is best identified by its colouration and markings, rather than its fur and body type. 

To develop the Harlequin rabbit the semi-wild Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbit was put together with truly wild rabbits. 

At that time, the Tortoiseshell Dutch rabbits were very popular.

In 1887, the Harlequin rabbits were first shown at International events in Paris and from there, they were imported into England.

When in England, the Harlequin rabbits became a popular show animal because of their unusual markings.

In fact, these unusual markings are the reason the Harlequin rabbit breed has the nickname “the clown of the rabbits” and “the royal jester.

And by the time food became scarce during World War II, the breed also became popular as a meat animal.

Prior to the world wars, the name of the Harlequin rabbit breed was “Japanese.

However, that name was dropped rapidly during the World Wars.

While some fanciers suggest that the Harlequin rabbit is actually not a breed, rather it is simply a colour type. 

Others argue that it is a breed of rabbit with that colour scheme.

All this time, it was not until the 1920s that the Harlequin rabbit gained recognition in the United States.

Today, the Harlequin breed is recognized by both American Rabbit Breeder’s Association and the British Rabbit Council. 

Types of Harlequin rabbit breed


The Harlequin rabbit comes in two varieties; Japanese and Magpie. 

The Japanese Harlequin rabbits are generally orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac.

While the Magpie Harlequin rabbits are white instead of orange and either black, blue, chocolate or lilac.

Characteristics of the Harlequin rabbit breed

  • The Harlequin rabbits are very playful, docile, and intelligent.
  • They are medium in size with a roundish-shaped head and medium-length ears that stand erect.
  • A Harlequin rabbit weighs between 2 and 3 kg. 
  • And like most other rabbit breeds, the Harlequin does are heavier than the bucks.
  • Harlequin rabbit breeds have short hairs but the coat is very soft and dense.
  • The main colour schemes of the Harlequin rabbit are blue, black, lilac, chocolate (all mixed with orange) and black, blue, lilac, and chocolate (all mixed with white).
  • A perfect Harlequin rabbit will be split between the two colours on the head, feet, ears and body. It kind of looks like a perfect stripe between the two colours.
  • Some Harlequins will have orange bellies while some have white bellies. 
  • The average life span for the Harlequin rabbit is 5 years or more.

Uses of the Harlequin rabbit

Currently, people keep the Harlequin rabbit mainly as a show animal. 

But during the world wars, people keep them for meat production.

Because of how intelligent and playful this breed of rabbits is, they make very good pets. 

Even children can have a rabbit as this breed is very suitable for children.

Are Harlequin rabbits good pets?

As you already know from the preceding texts, the Harlequin rabbit is playful, docile, and intelligent.

Like most breeds, the rabbit can respond to its own name and you can even train them in a litter box. 

They are gentle, but like all other rabbits, are require high maintenance. 

Rabbits are exotic and require consistent care by responsible and financially capable individuals.

How do you care for a Harlequin rabbit?

Harlequin rabbits have short, sort rabbit fur that doesn’t need much maintenance to keep clean. 

Shedding is minimal, but if you’re worried about the amount of fur that may find itself on your clothes and furniture, simply brush them with a wire bristled brush once a week or as necessary.

Summary of the Harlequin rabbit breed profile

The Harlequin rabbit breed is a clever, docile and playful rabbit breed. 

It is relatively a good-natured breed. 

It is calm in temperament and considered an ideal pet for kids.

The Harlequins are very intelligent and can be trained to learn their name. 

They are known to be more intelligent than guinea pigs and hamsters. 

They are playful and need things to climb on, crawl through, dig and chew.

Although harlequins are safe for children and easy to handle, an adult should supervise the care and handling of the rabbits. 

The average lifespan of the Harlequin rabbit is up to 5 years. 

Review the full breed profile of this breed in the chart below.

Harlequin Rabbit Breed Profile Summary

Breed NameHarlequin
Other NameJapanese, Magpie
Breed PurposeMainly kept as a show animal, also suitable as pets.
Breed SizeSmall to Medium
WeightAverage body weight is between 2 and 3 kg
Suitable for Commercial ProductionYes
Good as PetsYes
Climate ToleranceCan tolerate all climates
Colour VarietiesThe Harlequin rabbits are usually black and orange in colour. They can also be lilac, blue, brown, black, chocolate and black magpie.
RarityThe Harlequins are a very common breed
Country of OriginFrance

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