A popularity contest may be brewing for Peter Rabbit. The Lionhead Rabbit, a relatively new bunny breed defined by its long mane of hair around its face, is gaining popularity among 4-H programs in the United States.
At the 2013 Shelby County Fair’s 4-H Rabbit Show in Shelby, Ind., the long-haired rabbits were a favorite among the young breeders at the July 4 event, the Shelby News reports. There were three Lionheads in the competition, and some students said they had more at home.
“They are a cross of numerous breeds: the Swiss Fox, the Belgian and even a little bit of the Jersey Wooly,” Jill Phillips, co-owner of Squeals on Wheels, a petting zoo in Washington, D.C., said about the Lionhead. “At some point there was a genetic mutation when they crossed these different breeds that created a long mane around the face.”
The breed was first spotted in England in the mid-1990s and it was brought to the U.S. in 2000, according to the North American Lionhead Rabbit Club. The breed has been recognized by the British Rabbit Council, but not by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), meaning they can be shown as an exhibition breed but cannot compete in Best In Show awards.
Since 2004, Lionhead supporters have been seeking recognition from the governing body with some success. At the ARBA Convention in October, Theresa Mueller of Ravensdale, Wash., will attempt to show her Lionhead. If the Lionhead passes, the breed will become an official ARBA recognized breed.
“Right now because they are a new breed of rabbit they come in a variety of colors and also different sizes,” Phillip says, pointing to the rabbit’s 14 color varieties. Lionheads weigh on average three and a half pounds.
“They’re a sweet rabbit,” she adds.