Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit Care Sheet

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit
Scientific Name:Brachylagus idahoensis
Life Span:3 to 5 years
Weight:0.8 to 1 pound
Body Shape:Compact
Country of Origin:United States

Fast Facts

Best Suited For: Owners who prefer outdoor caring

Temperament: Skittish, shy, and timid

Comparable Breeds: Mini Rex Rabbit and Mini Satin Rabbit

Physical Description

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The most noticeable thing about the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits is that they are easily recognizable because of their compact bodies that are also shaped like a round ball. These rabbits also have cute and small ears. When these bunnies are fully grown, the females appear to be a little larger compared to the male of the species. These Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits also have strong, short legs, but they can move and hop at a speed of about 15 miles per hour. These rabbits love digging into burrows, and they use their big claws for this. In terms of their tails, they are very short and are almost hidden in their bodies.

Now for their fluffy coats, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits have one of the softest of all. Their coats allow them to maintain their internal temperatures to be appropriate at all times. Their fur also protects their bodies against harsh weather and polarizing temperatures. During the cold winters, the fur of these bunnies becomes much denser and thicker. When their fur has undergone molting, especially during the summer, their fur becomes much lightweight.

In terms of their colors, these rabbits are also unique and easily recognizable. Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits have noticeable brownish-gray colors, with an even darker hue that appears much grayer in the winters. In the summer, the colors of the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits tend to lean toward more brownish hues. Of course, because this breed lives in the wild, there are still lots of chances that these rabbits exhibit different variations of color. In some specimens of this rabbit, some light spots can be seen toward their nostrils as well as the margins of the ears.

These Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are the smallest of the rabbit species, and they can easily fit into the palm of a person’s hand. Their usual weight is between 246 to 462 grams. In terms of length, the average range is 23.5 to 29.5 cm long. Their extremely tiny tails are as long as 15 to 24 mm, while their hind legs are about 67 to 76 mm long.

Origin of the Breed

The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit is a unique and isolated community population of the Pygmy rabbit or the Brachylagus idahoensis that is naturally found living in Washington State. Just like their name, these rabbits are known for their petite size. Usually, the adult-sized Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit weighs less than 1 pound.

The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits have been residing in the Great Basin area towards the western area of the United States. For the last 100,000 years, they had stayed in this place until about 10,000 years ago, when glacial movements brought the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit to a different area and separated from the rest of their relatives, which led to some genetic differences for this breed.

Unfortunately, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are already near extinction. These rabbits are now federally classified as an endangered species. In 2016, only 16 individuals were recorded that are living in the wild, according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. They were transported to different breeding programs in various states, hoping for a chance to preserve this beautiful breed of rabbits. Genetically, the last pure Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit named Bryn has already passed away in 2009. But, her offspring are the ones that are now repopulating the habitats of these rabbits and continuing their race.

Availability and Natural Habitat

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The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit has lived throughout most of their lives in the Great Basin area and to the intermountain locations of the western United States. Specifically, these areas are Southern Idaho, Northern Nevada, Southern Montana, Southern Oregon, Eastern California, Wyoming, Washington, and Northern Utah.

The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit can typically be found in locations that involve sagebrush, which is tall and dense. They depend on the sagebrush for their shelter and feeding needs throughout the year. During the winter months, most of their diet is primarily made up of sagebrush. But, for the other seasons of the year, the diets of these rabbits become much more varied, including some bunchgrasses and other greens.


The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are very small in size, so it is not a mystery that they do not enjoy calling for attention. They are very skittish and are always very shy. These bunnies do not love to stray far from their hiding burrows, and experts have observed that they are never more than 200 yards away from them.

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are not territorial in nature, and they decide on the place to consider their home based on the availability of food.

In terms of communication and perception, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits produce a few types of vocalizations like chuckles, squeals, and squeaks. When they are alarmed, these rabbits can squeal quite loudly. The males are also known to exhibit somebody’s signals to express their dominance. Some scientists also suggest that Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits might also use chemical or hormonal cues to communicate with each other, but this statement is yet to be studied.

Unfortunately, due to the limited research and the diminished populations of these species, there are lots of things that can be learned but are still unknown about this mysterious breed of rabbits.


The threats for the lives of the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are mainly due to the loss of their habitats because of wildfires, clearings, and urban developments. Even in the best types of situations, the life expectancy of these rabbits is as short as 3 to 5 years. This number of years gets even cut off when they serve as the prey item for other larger animals.

The commonly known predators of the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are preyed upon by badgers, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, weasels, owls, birds of prey, and sometimes human hunters. Predation is also considered to be the top reason for both young and matured Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits.

Common Health Problems

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Though these Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are quite hardy and strong, they still encounter some health challenges throughout their life. Here is the list of the most common rabbit diseases to know about.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny, little bugs that set up and live inside the ears of your rabbit. With this infestation, you will notice your rabbit’s ears being brown, crusty, and itchy. So, as owners, if you notice your rabbit’s ears if you notice them scratching them a lot. You should check their ears every day to make sure that they will not make a jump on them.

If you notice the ears of your rabbit are infected with ear mites, you can use a home treatment using some oil and a dropper. Vegetable oil is more than okay to satisfy this need, and it is also very inexpensive. You just have to place a few drops of oil in the ears of your rabbit twice a day within a week. This oil smothers the ear mites and gets rid of the crusty skin from the ear.

However, owners must remember that they should not pick out the scabs of the ears of their rabbit’s ears. The scabs will clear out naturally without the need to pick them out. This will avoid giving pain to your rabbit and avoid opening them up to the possibility of infection. You should just allow the oil to do the work.

Ear mites can also be avoided by not allowing your Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits to lie down in the hay and a once a week drop of oil in their ears as a preventive measure against ear mites.


Snuffles can be exhibited by rabbits through sniffling and unnecessary nasal discharge. Because of this, owners must pay attention to what is happening to their pet rabbit. Some rabbits with snuffles also show symptoms like watery eyes, matted paws, and sneezing.

Basically, this illness can be prevented by maintaining the healthy diet of rabbits, as well as keeping their surroundings clean. The snuffles come from bacteria, so make sure that the immune system of your rabbit is well-equipped to fight against foreign bodies and not giving bacteria space to grow.

If your rabbit falls under this disease, the usual treatment is through antibiotics, but it is always best to bring them to the veterinarian for the best solution for you.

Heat Stroke

During the summers or if you are in areas where the temperature can be extreme, heatstroke is truly something that rabbit owners must pay attention to. Usually, this is because rabbits live in cages that might be well-insulated.

Because of the heat, your rabbits need to be kept in the shade with lots of water. Extreme heat is something that can quickly get to these Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits. So if you notice them feeling lethargic and it is quite warm outside, you need to act much quicker.

Owners can decrease the bodily temperatures by spraying them gently with cold water. If they stay lethargic, the rabbits must be taken to the veterinarian for them to be treated with some IV fluids. But for avoiding heat strokes, owners can provide the rabbits with some frozen water bottles. They can lie down next to these bottles and absorb some of the cool. Another option would be to blow a fan on your rabbits indirectly so cooler air can circulate around them.

GI Statis

GI Statis can be considered a fatal and serious disease. Your best bet is to completely prevent the disease by feeding their rabbits with a diet that is high in fiber, which will mean giving those lots of hay. However, you will recognize GI Statis because your rabbit can become bloated, lethargic, losing their appetite, not drink fluids, and also become constipated.

If the bunny starts to show any of these signs, it is important to give them lots of hay and fluids. You should also massage their bellies from time to time. But, if there is still no visible movement, it might be a better option to consult with a veterinarian. Illnesses like this one could potentially lead to surgery.

Sore Hocks

Sore hocks are quite a painful state for rabbits and are usually exhibited when they are living in less than ideal conditions. This happens when the rabbits do not have a place where they can rest their feet and when their feet become sore and callused on the bottom.

To prevent this, owners should opt-out of choosing a wire enclosure or hutch for the rabbits. They should have nesting boxes to rest their feet in, mats for their feet to rest on, and a board where they can properly lie down.


Bloating is something that can be fatal to rabbits and is not a simple problem to encounter. This disease can be detected when the rabbit’s stomach blows up like a balloon and starts to swell. Bloating also happens due to an imbalance of bacteria in your bunny’s tummy whenever they eat too much green food, not having to eat enough fiber for their diet, having irregular feeding schedules, eating wet grass clippings, and eating spoiled food.

This is something that all rabbit owners should keep in mind when seeking to care for their rabbits. You should clearly pay attention to the things that you feed your rabbits. You should also monitor their feces and make sure that everything looks are it should.


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The exact method of mating that was done by Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits is still fairly unknown. But, experts speculate that these rabbits are similar to the other species where males dominate the sexual hierarchy, where they decide and manipulate mating with the females.

In their natural habitat, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits breed from February through July of each year. Every 12 months, the females can be able to produce up to three litters of young, and each litter can consist of about six hatchlings at a time.

When the female pygmy rabbits get pregnant, they start digging and supplying their material for nesting to the burrows that they have constructed. A few days before the females give birth, these rabbits can be found nursing their young towards the entrance of the burrow. After they have nursed their young, the baby rabbits usually return to the burrow, and the mother rabbit will fill the burrow entrance with some loose soil. This is an act of defense to serve as protection against the detection of predators.


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In the wild, Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are herbivores and usually feed on sagebrush. During the winters, their diet is made up of about 98 percent sagebrush. They eat the leaves, seeds, grains, nuts, bark, stems, roots, and tubers of this plant. But during the rest of the year, especially in the summers, they vary their diet to include more foliage and grass.

Fun Facts about the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit

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  1. Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits have unique care requirements, especially because of their special personalities. These bunnies are the only American natives that enjoy digging into their own personal burrows.
  2. In the wild, these bunnies can serve as prey to various predators, which is why they dig holes to be able to survive.
  3. Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits create dens to provide protection to their offspring, so they bury their young to bury their litters in nests.
  4. Mother Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits develop unique parental behavior that expresses their care to their children by nursing for them and caring for their well-being until they reach two weeks old.
  5. Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits live their lives in the sagebrush prairie desert, which is why the sagebrush serves as shelter and food for these animals.

Where Can You Get a Pet Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit?

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Pygmy rabbits are not typically taken up as pets, and it is mainly because of their high dependence on the sagebrush plants. If you want to own a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, you can take chances with online breeders and animal shelters for adoption. Usually, this is a hard case. But, you can help support their cause by virtually adopting a rabbit through wildlife foundations.

How to Care for a Pet Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits?

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Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are outdoor animals. These rabbits love to live in burrows, which they dig holes in the ground for. These dens also provide them areas where they can take care of their young. This breed has adapted to life in the sagebrush desert, so they are not really recommended for caring in captivity.

If you ever encounter a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbi, you should try and observe these caring tips.

  1. Buy a cage that is large enough to provide space for movement to your pet rabbit.
    • Although the rabbit spends a lot of time outside of their cage, these rabbits must still be provided with their own safe haven where they can find rest away from everything else.
    • This is where the rabbit will find some solace to sleep during the night and where it can choose to find privacy whenever they feel unsafe and unsafe.
  2. Buy some bedding that you can use so that you can line the cage.
    • The bedding that they use is dependent on which one your rabbit will like the best. Some common options can be hay, paper, and straw.
    • Some substrates that you can use include cedar, pine, and other shavings.
    • Rabbit owners should stay away from choosing wood shavings so that the rabbits cannot be inhaled by accident.
  3. Set up a rabbit litter box.
    • You can opt for using boxes with covers, and you can choose the height depending on the size of your pet.
    • You can also opt to get several boxes. This way, the rabbit can run around the entire house without facing the threat of needing to memorize a special place where they need to poop.
    • The litter that you use can be from different kinds. Some common options are silica cat litter, wood shavings, and shredded paper.
    • Make sure that the litter that you choose does not clump and is not made of clay. These can bring harm to your rabbit in case they breathe this in.
  4. Purchase a heavy ceramic food bowl and a water bowl.
    • Getting your rabbit is a ceramic food bowl will make sure that the bowl will not topple over even when they eat them. Just make sure that the bowl is low enough for your rabbit to eat comfortably.
    • The water bowl is the more natural way for a rabbit to get their hydration needs, unlike a water bottle for a cage that just tends to annoy rabbits.
  5. Feed your rabbit with plenty of hay and other food items they need.
    • The ideal food for rabbits is grass and hay, and for Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits, they prefer eating sagebrush. Just make sure to provide them with lots of fiber for their digestive requirements.
    • Supplement the diet of your rabbits with some fresh fruit and vegetables. Common vegetables to include are cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, kale, carrots, Brussel sprouts, collards, cilantro, and beet tops.
    • Avoid giving colorful fruits to your rabbits as they are high in sugar and carbohydrates.
    • If you are unsure about the type of food to give to your pet, ask your veterinarian for their advice.
    • Avoid giving too many carrot tops to your rabbit, because unlike popular belief, too many carrots can be harmful to your rabbits.
  6. Provide your rabbit with cage enrichments and toys for your rabbits.
    • Just like other pets, rabbits need a supply of toys to keep them entertained. You can buy a variety of toys for them, like tunnels, chewing toys, and mazes with cardboards and holes.
    • A great homemade chew toy that you can use is a twig from an Applewood tree. Just clean it thoroughly before use.
  7. Make sure that you have enough time and energy to care for your rabbit.
    • Rabbits are generally low-maintenance animals because they require the same amount of care, money, and time as other domestic pets like cats and dogs.
    • These animals still have individual personalities and require special care that even if you research, you can still be surprised by their behavior.
    • Spend at least 3 hours a day with your rabbit outside of their cage, but they also need time to spend inside their cage as well. If your rabbit does not get to interact with you, they might get depressed.
    • If you cannot provide your rabbit all of the attention that they need, you should probably get another rabbit so that they will have someone to spend time with.
  8. Let your rabbit out of their cage so that they can explore.
    • Once you have established a relationship with your rabbit, you should allow your pet to explore your home. Just make sure that you have rabbit-proofed your home and close all the doors or entrances before finalizing your decision.
    • For the first time, just sit in the middle of the room and discreetly supervise what your rabbit would do.
  9. Enjoy interaction with your rabbit.
    • Once your rabbit comes out of their cage, allow it to hop around on its own.
    • Allow your rabbit to scent you, play with it a little, and talk quietly to your pet.
    • Do not move too quickly so your rabbit will not get too scared.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big is a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit?

The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit is very small rabbits, and they usually fit within the palm of a person’s hand. They usually weigh about 0.8 to 1 pound.

Do Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits make good pets?

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are not typically taken as pets, because of their limited population and endangered status.

Is the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit extinct?

The Columbia Basin, Pygmy Rabbit populations, are still found, but they are at the endangered status.

What do Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits eat?

The diet of Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits usually consists of pure sagebrush.

How long do Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits live?

It is said that Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits can live from 3 to 5 years.

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