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Belgian Hare Rabbit Care Sheet

Belgian Hare Rabbit Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Belgian Hare
Scientific Name:Oryctolagus cuniculus 
Life Span:7 to 11 years
Size (Adult):Large
Weight (Adult)6 to 9 pounds
Habitat:Human homes, farms, gardens, yards
Body Shape:Full arch
Country of Origin:Belgium

Physical Description

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The Belgian hare is not considered a true hare but is a fancy breed of rabbit. It is a domestic breed that has been developed to look like the wild hare. This rabbit is huge but has a slender, athletic frame. It has long and very powerful legs that allow it to move, run, and jump just like a true hare.

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What Are The Different Types of Rabbits?

The Belgian hare has an average weight of 6 to 9 pounds and has prominent eyes, ears, and limbs. This rabbit very closely resembles the hare with its long body and muscular flank. The back is distinctly arched and has well-rounded hind legs.

The head of a Belgian hare is long while their tails are straight and in-line with the backbone. The front feet are long and are fine-boned while their hind legs are long and flat. Experts say that this is the only breed of rabbit with a deep red and a rich chestnut color. It also has black waves or blotches that are found on its sides. 

The only coloration recognized by breeders in the USA is the Rufus Red color. In the UK, both the black and the tan or Tan Hare and Black Hares are recognized together with the Rufus Red. 

Coats and colors

The Belgian hare has a short and smooth glossy coat that doesn’t need any maintenance. The ARBA recognizes only one kind of coat color, and this is Rufus Red. The entire body of the rabbit has this bright tin rusty color, while markings are lighter-colored circles around the eyes and some dark spots on their upper backs and hips.

History of the Breed

The ancestors of the Belgian hare initially developed in Belgium in the early years of the 18th century. These specimens were made through crossbreeding of the first domestic rabbits with the European wild rabbit, a wild rabbit breed. The goal for crossbreeding was to create a rabbit meant for livestock. 

These rabbits were imported to the UK in 1874, and these were named “Belgian hare.” After the Belgian hare’s debut in the UK, breeders modified the breed and created a more active and lithe specimen, such as the wild rabbits found in England.

In 1877, the very first Belgian hares were introduced in the US, where it immediately became very popular. 1898 became the year when the breed became so popular, and thus, clubs and associations were formed to support the Belgian hare. 

It was attested by an English shipping firm that over 6,000 Belgian hares were exported to the US during  1900. And because the very first breeders were not successful in transforming this lanky rabbit into meat for production, the popularity of the Belgian hare declined by 1902.

One of the first clubs dedicated to the Belgian hare was the American Belgian Hare Association. This club had a large membership, but these rabbit lovers were scattered in many parts of the United States. This was mainly the reason why this club closed down after a few years of staying active. 

The Boston Belgian Hare Club was created in 1880. The National Belgian Hare Club of America was formed in 1897. After a decade, additional breeds were developed in the US, and because of this, an all-new breed club was formed and was called the National Pet Stock Association, and now it’s known as the American Rabbit Breeders Association.

And with the change in the National Belgian Hare Club, a new group of Belgian hare breeders applied for their own specialty club from ARBA and was approved in 1972. This was the start of the American Belgian Hare Club, and this group remains in support of the breed and breeders till today. The Belgian hare is now considered a fancy rabbit breed and has strong followers in the UK and the US. The Livestock Conservancy in the US has listed the Belgian hare as “threatened.” 

Fast Facts 

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Do you know that there was a book about how to care for a Belgian hare breed created in 1901? The title of the book was “The First Belgian Hare Course of Instruction” and had twenty lessons covering topics like buying, feeding, sheltering, breeding, and developing a business out of the breed. It also includes a complete history of the Belgian hare and impressive illustrations. The rabbit used in the illustration is a huge Belgian hare with large eyes and ears.  

Meanwhile, do you know that a Belgian hare buck has captured the first place prizes in an exhibition in England in 1899? The rabbit’s name was Fashoda, and it was sold for $5000 in 1900. Fashoda was from the Bonanza Rabbitry in Los Angeles, CA.

Reproduction in the Wild

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Breeding in the wild is spontaneous, and usually, a doe can conceive at any time. However, she has a 10 to 14-day receptivity phase, and during this time, she will readily accept a buck. You can easily spot a receptive doe by a dark pink and moist appearance in her private areas.

In the wild, a buck and a doe will chase each other until the doe gives up, and then mating begins. Sometimes the running and chasing can last for many days, but mating will only happen after the doe has become submissive. 

Weeks after mating, the doe will soon show signs that she is pregnant and is looking for a good place to build a nest. A grassy and concealed area that’s free from predators will suffice. The doe will now lay her kits, and she will remain in her nest until all her kits are safe and sound. 

Babies are born naked, cold and blind and thus will need the care of their mother. The doe will nurse her young once or twice a day and may leave her nest from time to time. She may cover her nest with bedding when she leaves to protect her kits from predators.

Diet 

Because of her impressive athletic abilities, the Belgian hare has developed a very high metabolic rate. It may need more food than any other domestic rabbit breeds. However, the type of food does not differ from a regular rabbit or other rabbit breeds, and the most important component of its diet is hay.

Hay is considered roughage and can reduce blockages and malocclusion. Hay is an indigestible fiber needed for a healthy and happy digestive system. Hay, like timothy, is the best choice over alfalfa, clover, and legume. Legume hays have higher protein content, calcium, and calories and can cause kidney stones and obesity when fed in excess. This type of hay is usually fed to kits and for nursing females.

Feed it two cups of leafy green vegetables for every 6 pounds of body weight. Feed it up to 2 tablespoons of carrots or fruit for every 6 pounds of body weight per day. Pet owners may also feed pet Belgian hares commercial rabbit food and treats but avoid treats and foods that it won’t encounter in the wild.

Good rabbit food choices are strawberries. For vegetables, you may feed your pet some collards, kale, thyme, turnips, carrots, romaine lettuce, parsley, cilantro, basil, and dandelions. Introduce new foods slowly because rabbits naturally have very delicate digestive systems. Avoid food that can cause gas and high starch content like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, and corn.

Always have fresh water inside their cages and replace this water daily. Always keep your rabbit hydrated, especially during hot or warm days.  

Natural habitats and homes

Wild specimens are usually found near human homes. These will remain near farms, sheds, gardens, and fields where they can eat fruits or vegetables as well as occasional human food. But for cultivated Belgian hares, it’s a different story.

These rabbits are usually kept in a large outdoor enclosure that has tall walls or fencing. The enclosure should be made of solid material like wood, wires, or metal fencing because this rabbit is large and strong. The enclosure must also have a solid bottom and should be at least 24 x 60 inches and as high as 24 inches. 

The bottom part of the cage should be lined with bedding and must be spot cleaned daily. This bedding must be replaced at least every week to prevent odor and bacteria accumulation. Belgian hares can live in an area with temperatures close to the freezing point as long as efficient bedding is provided. And during the summer months, improve ventilation in the enclosure. 

Fun Facts

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Belgian hares are easily startled. If you want a Belgian hare as a pet, keep its cage in an area where it’s quiet so it won’t encounter unfamiliar sounds and other sudden noises. Sometimes the rabbit can be too startled with the loud noise that it can jump to the air and hurt itself.

Temperament and Behavior

The Belgian hare needs more maintenance compared to other rabbit breeds because of its size and athletic nature. The very important thing to consider is that this rabbit is easily startled and is very nervous. When agitated, it can jump in the air and start a running frenzy inside its enclosure. Because of this, it can easily get hurt. 

But when calm, the Belgian hare loves to be petted and cuddled. Usually, it is very calm in the hands of its master or handler. Usually, this breed is not regarded as pets but for the show. Breeders and experts take special care not to frighten their Belgian hare by playing loud music all day inside the barn. Their arrival in a barn is announced to prevent stress.

Supplies and Cages

The ideal home for captive Belgian hares should be a wire enclosure with a removable plastic bottom; this is the area where the droppings fall, so it is easier to remove for maintenance. The floor of the cage should be lined with soft bedding so that it is comfortable for your rabbit to stay on. 

Place a rabbit hay feeder on the side of the cage. Your rabbit can easily reach hay when they feel hungry. For the bedding, use aspen, wood pellets, or pelleted horse bedding. You may clean the cage using a safe cleaner or natural cleaning products such as white vinegar, baking soda, or lemon. Do not use common household cleaners because these may contain ingredients that could be toxic for rabbits.

Also, rabbits will eat their poop, so you need to remove these as soon as you see one. Replace the bedding every week to remove any annoying smells.

Belgian Hares can groom themselves and may also groom each other when it has companions in its cage. Mother rabbits may also groom their young while they are still in the nest.

Belgian Hares are crepuscular, which means that they can be active near nighttime. Therefore feedings should be done in the evening. Usually, captive rabbits sleep 8 hours a day, and they may sleep, huddled together to keep warm. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cage

Belgian hares should be kept in a large outdoor enclosure because of their size. This way, the rabbit may have a large area where it can play, run, and socialize. However, the outdoor cage should be designed in such a way that the rabbit is comfortable and safe even during cold nights. Although Belgian hares can handle near freezing temperatures outdoors, it still needs a warm bed. 

The cage should be well-constructed to prevent the rabbit from escaping and to avoid predators from entering the cage. But there’s no reason not to take a Belgian hare indoors. You may still house it in an indoor cage and just take it outside for air and sun daily. Place the outdoor cage in an area where it’s shaded and cool and not near water or moisture.

Health Concerns

Belgian hare is a very hardy kind of rabbit and is naturally healthy. But this rabbit may still be affected by some conditions like bloating, enteritis, and infections.

Captive rabbits are not immune to common rabbit diseases. Therefore, you must always be mindful of your rabbit’s state of health and temperament. Any changes could be a sign of illness.  

Your rabbit should be taken to a vet for standard vaccinations. Usually, the vet conducts tests to assess the overall health and development of your pet. You must have your rabbits checked against enteritis, bloat, and stasis. These are very important for rabbits that are less than two months old. 

Check for ear or fur parasites such as mites, fleas, and ticks. Usually, rabbits with these pests suffer from poor hygiene, husbandry, and animal management. Check for signs of illness like poor appetite, nasal and eye discharges, diarrhea, changes in the form and color of droppings, and vomiting. 

Those with an unsteady gait, restlessness, grating of the teeth, and sleepiness must be taken to the vet at once. Also, de-worming must be done. This is a major concern with rabbits that are taken from the wild or bred from wild parents. All rabbit breeds must be dewormed, and this should be done in the spring and fall. Use a pea-sized amount of de-worming paste and place this in the rabbit’s mouth. Check the instructions on the packaging. 

Teeth

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A very important part of taking care of a rabbit-like the Belgian hare is its teeth. This rabbit needs regular check-ups because their teeth grow very fast. However, just like human teeth, dental health starts at home. Make sure that the rabbit’s teeth won’t overgrow. 

Rabbits naturally chew so much because if they don’t, their teeth may grow very long. When this happens, their teeth grow into their mouths and jaws, which can lead to severe pain and discomfort when eating. 

Help your rabbit trim their teeth by offering a diet that is high in hay as this files down the rabbit’s teeth naturally as they chew. Keep an eye on your pet’s dental health, so you can avoid high dental and vet bills.

Spaying or Neutering

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Because of the promiscuity of Belgian Hares, you must control their ability to breed if you want to keep these in your home. 

Spaying and neutering should be done while your rabbits are still at a very young age. 

However, some veterinarians wait until the rabbits until these rabbits are in their sixth month to be on the safe side. Bucks are often neutered at a young age or even as young as three months to make them less aggressive. You should consult a vet on the best practice for spaying and neutering your pet.

Grooming

Belgian hares have short and sleek furs but will need regular grooming as well. Brush the fur to keep their coats clean, shiny, and to get rid of pests. Use a small brush and just scrub the fur weekly. You must groom more frequently during their molting period. This will prevent wool blocks and ingestion of fur, which can accumulate in the digestive tract causing blockage and other complications. 

Don’t give your rabbit a bath even if it’s very dirty because this can stress them. You can use a damp towel to spot clean. Simply wipe the rabbit down with the towel and use a dry one to dry the fur off.

Like dogs, you must trim their nails monthly and check for overgrown teeth. If you don’t have tools to trim your pet’s nails, ask the vet to do this for you. Some rabbits can become very defensive and can resist cutting their nails, so it’s best to have a professional handle this. The rabbit’s big ears should also be checked regularly and cleaned. 

Comparable Breeds

The Belgian hare is comparable to other rabbit breeds, especially the English Spot Rabbit. This is a medium-sized rabbit that weighs 5 to 8 pounds and has a lifespan of 5 to 9 years. Like the Belgian hare, the English Spot has a full arch body shape. 

The English Spot is good for singles, people who live in apartments and houses, and also for seniors because of their friendly, curious, and sweet nature. The English Spot has remarkable coat designs with a full white body, black ears, mouth, and eye circles. The back also has scattered black spots while the tail is white with black marks as well.

Other Notes

Just like other breeds, captive Belgian Hares will chew on things. If you keep this rabbit indoors, these will chew on anything it can see like wooden parts of your home, wooden furniture, and even electrical wiring. You must prevent these accidents at all costs and rabbit-proof your home. Provide hay or chew toys aside from their food inside their cages. 

Use pet fencing to shield areas where the rabbit is not supposed to go. And as much as possible, keep a rabbit that is as big as a Belgian hare outdoors.  

Also, you must protect your rabbit from the effects of pesticides, toxins, and herbicides by feeding it organic food. Younger rabbits and lactating may need alfalfa hay because this is high in calcium, which is needed for growing bones. 

Just like any rabbit, Belgian Hares should be kept in pairs for companionship. Experts say that keeping a rabbit with another rabbit of its kind of species will make it happier and may help the rabbit live longer. Also, there are certain social behaviors that a captive rabbit will learn only when it is socialized. 

Availability – Where to Get a Pet Belgian Hare

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The cost of purchasing a Belgian Hare may depend on whether you are getting a rabbit from a breeder or a retailer. Also, the price may depend on whether you are purchasing a rabbit for a pet or for show. Usually, rabbits meant for the show are very expensive and may even cost a small fortune because of its impressive appearance and traits.

When searching for a reliable breeder, make sure that you are getting a healthy rabbit and not one with genetic disorders. You must buy only from reliable breeders who raise captive-bred Belgian Hares. Belgian Hares are bred for show, and you may see this in trade fairs and farm events to showcase large and healthy rabbits for their appearance, coat, and meat. 

How to Care for a Belgian Hare

Caring for a pet Belgian hare is just like caring for other rabbit breeds. You must make sure that it has the right diet, housing, companionship, and take it to a vet for proper medical treatment and preventive care. 

The most important part of a rabbit’s food is hay. Hay is important, so they can chew this all day long. You may also give pellets specially made for rabbits, fresh and organic vegetables, and fruits to have a well-rounded diet. You may also give food found in their natural habitats such as twigs, birch, the bark of brambles, and weeds.

Don’t forget to leave fresh water and hay inside the rabbit’s cage. Hay is rough and is very helpful in keeping your pet’s digestive tract healthy and regular. Place the water in a large, heavy shallow dish so that your rabbit may drink this without spilling the dish over. 

Captive-bred Belgian hares can become good pets, but it can take time to train it. Interact with your pets daily by playing with it and holding it. Captive rabbits are social animals, and aside from interacting with their cagemates, these will benefit from your care and attention.  Captive-bred rabbits can live longer and may thrive well under the hands of a caring owner. 

Also, don’t forget that Belgian hares are very jittery animals and should be handled with severe care with their environments quiet and peaceful. Don’t choose this pet if you live in a loud area or space. This rabbit is not for a family with very young children as kids may become too loud and rowdy, and these can stress your rabbit. 

FAQs

How do you train a Belgian hare?

You should never pet or hold a Belgian hare in the wild because this won’t be tamed at all. You should only handle a captive-bred Belgian hare instead; these rabbits still need constant handling, playing, and activity, so they will develop trust and are less nervous when with their owners. 

Should you pick up a Belgian hare from the forest?

Never pick a wild animal from the forest. You can’t tame this, and you won’t be able to take it home for a pet. If you spot an injured animal and you would like to help, call animal services immediately to handle it.

What do Belgian hares eat?

Belgian hares are herbivorous, which means that they will only eat plants. These will eat fruits and vegetables, herbs, and nuts. It can also eat commercially-prepared rabbit food or pellets. 

Can Belgian hares swim?

Yes, Belgian hares can swim but not as good as other swimming mammals. 

Can you keep a Belgian hare as a pet?

Only captive-bred Belgian hares may be kept as a pet because these can be trained to become submissive, patient, and calm. Wild rabbits are very nervous, skittish and may not do well inside a home.

Can Belgian hares eat meat?

No, these rabbits are herbivores, which means that these won’t eat meat. It will only plants or plant parts. Belgian hares will eat tree parts like leaves, flowers, seeds, roots, bark, twigs, stems, and more. 

Do Belgian hares eat fruits and vegetables?

Yes, you can give a captive Belgian hare some fruits and vegetables. These rabbits will also eat commercially-prepared pellets or rabbit food. But you still need to have hay available inside their cages. 

How do you clean a Belgian hare’s cage?

You must first remove the rabbit and place it in another cage. Use a hose and some cleaning products and clean the cage walls, bottom, accessories, and toys. Use a brush to meticulously clean the cage to avoid smells and leftover food or droppings.

How large should a Belgian hare’s cage be?

One Belgian hare must be kept in a large enclosure. For two or more rabbits, a large custom-made cage is the best choice. Make sure that your rabbits have enough space to live comfortably. 

Can you keep two or more Belgian hares inside a cage?

Yes, you can keep two or more rabbits in one cage as long as the cage is large enough to keep your pets in.

Are Belgian hares territorial?

Experts say that Belgian hares can develop a territorial attitude when kept in a small enclosure. Males can become very aggressive to other males when it comes to breeding and may bite, scratch, and kick their opponents to establish hierarchy and will also fight with other males to death. 

Will Belgian hares eat their poop?

Yes, Belgian Hares can eat their poop because these still have nutrients. But once they don’t eat the poop the second time. This is a natural behavior for rabbits, but you can avoid this by spot cleaning your pet’s cage.

Can you prevent a Belgian hare from eating his poop?

You can stop it from eating poop by removing his droppings as soon as you spot them. But no matter what you do, these animals will still do this because this is their natural behavior.

Do you keep a Belgian hare’s cage indoors or outdoors?

This may depend on your preference. You can place the cage of your pet indoors so these may be protected from the elements, but doing so will reduce the space that your rabbits can roam around or play in. Meanwhile, an outdoor cage is spacious but can be cold for your pet. It also depends on the space you can spare for your pet. 

Will a mother Belgian hare eat her young?

There are some rabbit species that will eat their young, and experts are still unsure why this is happening. If you spot the doe eating her young, remove it from the litter or nest and never let it breed again.

Can Belgian hares see well in the dark?

Yes, Belgian hares have amazing eyesight even at night. This is why they prefer to forage for food at night. Rabbits also have a good sense of smell and hearing to allow them to detect predators. Early detection of predators using their sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell can save them from being eaten.

Why do Belgian hares jump?

Belgian hares may jump because of being overstimulated. A nervous Belgian hare can jump high inside their enclosure and may hurt itself. This is why it’s important to keep this rabbit in a quiet and peaceful area to avoid this behavior.

Does it hurt when a Belgian hare hits you with its hind legs?

Yes, it can hurt, and so far, many pet owners and breeders can attest to this because Belgian Hares have very sharp claws even in their hind feet. This rabbit can also kick very hard using its hind feet, which can hurt so much. The rabbit will do this if it feels threatened, and to escape from their predators. 

Are Belgian hare bites dangerous?

Yes, Belgian hare and other rabbit bites from the wild are dangerous because these may have rabies. And not only are their teeth huge, but this can also easily tear off flesh leaving you with a severe wound that may become infected. If this happens, visit the doctor at once to get proper medical treatment. 

What will happen if the teeth of Belgian hares grow longer?

When the teeth of a rabbit grow longer, this can become too to keep inside its mouth, and this can pierce its lower gums and mouth, causing too much pain. Your pet may also unable to eat because of extreme pain. This is why your pet rabbits should visit the dentist regularly. You must always give hay for the rabbit to chew on since this can naturally grind their teeth shorter.

How do you take care of baby Belgian hare?

If you’re breeding Belgian hares or you rescued kits from the wild, place these in a comfortable and warm area where they can sleep. Feed this soft, pureed food like fruits and vegetables and keep these warm always. For wild bunnies, call animal services for proper care. Baby Belgian hares usually leave their nest after two weeks, and their mothers only back during nighttime to feed them. 

Can Belgian hares survive the cold?

Yes, Belgian hares can survive the cold by foraging on food that’s underneath the snow. Belgian hares can also dig underneath snow and eat roots, shrubs, nuts, and berries. This is why you can keep this rabbit in an outdoor cage or enclosure.

Can Belgian hares remain outdoors?

If you have a pet Belgian hare, you may allow these to remain outdoors, but you must rabbit-proof your yard. Use a portable perimeter fencing to limit the area where the rabbit can roam about. Remember that this rabbit is very strong and may kick this fence, so burry the poles well. 

Do you leave a Belgian hare indoors out of its cage?

Just like rabbits staying outdoors and out of its cage, you may allow a rabbit to stay indoors but with your supervision. Use a portable perimeter fencing to fence off areas that the rabbit cannot go. Also, rabbit-proof your home and keep all electrical wiring, and extension cords are well hidden because a rabbit can bite these and electrocute themselves.

Can Belgian hares climb up their cages?

No, Belgian hares won’t be able to jump or climb their cages, but these are strong enough to knock it down. Large Belgian hare species are known to be very good kickers, and a puny plastic or wooden fence may still be easy pickings. 

Do Belgian hares have good hearing?

Although the Belgian hare has smaller ears than most rabbit species or breeds, it has good hearing. Its hearing is so sharp that it can hear its predators from far away and has time to jump away and escape from it.

How often do rabbits like the Belgian hare need to go to the vet?

Rabbits need to visit the vet at least once a year to get vaccinated against some diseases. These need to get an initial visit to a vet during the first weeks of life. The vet will conduct tests and will examine the rabbit. He will decide when the next visit will be according to the results of his examination. 

Can rabbit diseases affect humans?

Some rabbit diseases will affect rabbits, while some are harmful to humans as well. If your Belgian hare is sick, take it to the vet at once. Understand the different signs of illnesses like poor appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and changes in behavior; you must take it to the vet once you spot these symptoms. 

Are Belgian hares nocturnal?

No, Belgian hares are crepuscular, which means they are active during twilight but may still be up and about during daylight to find food, forage for food, and to socialize with other rabbits.

Are Belgian hares easy to care for?

No, because of their size and amazing athletic abilities, Belgian hares are not easy to care for. This is why only adults and devoted Belgian hare breeders can take care of this breed. It is not a breed for children or families with very small children.

Why are Belgian hares so jumpy?

These rabbits can be very jumpy because they are nervous and skittish. Don’t try to surprise these rabbits or play very loud noises as this can make these nervous and stressed out.

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