There is a very wide variety of rabbits and they come in various sizes, temperaments and care requirements. Just like dogs which have been bred for various purposes, humans also selectively bred rabbits at different times in order to come up with certain characteristics like their coat color and texture, size and body type and shape. Depending on the breed, care requirements also differ. Some may need more grooming than the others (usually due to longer or finer hair types); others may be more prone to dental problems that require owners to be watchful. They also have different temperaments in general. Temperaments are usually not only dependent on the breed but also on gender. The American Rabbit Breeders Association in the United States has recognized over 50 breeds of rabbits but there are certainly more than that worldwide.
Rabbits as Pets
In the Western nations, rabbits have been kept as pets since the 19th century. Rabbits that are kept indoors have a longer lifespan and usually live to be 8 to 12 years old (depending on the breed and pedigree). During the Easter season, rabbits become very popular as pets because they are associated with the holiday — but many of these rabbits later end up in animal shelters or even being set free in the wild, the latter of which they rarely survive.
Actually there is no specific breed of rabbit that should only be for pets because any kind or breed or rabbit can be a great pet. What you should be looking for, though, when intending to buy a rabbit for a pet, is finding one that is docile and friendly. This comes from not only from the breeding of the rabbit itself (coming from a line or rabbits that are acclimated to humans), but from allowing the rabbit to become used to you slowly, handling it from an early age and respecting the rabbits wishes when it is ready for some peace and quiet. When you have children at home who will be handling the rabbit, it’s usually best to stick with smaller breeds, because they are not as heavy and therefore easier to handle. The risk of injury for the rabbit is also lower. Specific breeds of rabbits that are most commonly used for pets are Angoras, Rex, Lop, Dutch, Polish and the Netherland Dwarfs.
Rabbits for Meat
The most common breeds for meat rabbits are the New Zealand and Californian. They are often utilized for meat in commercial rabbitries. This is because they have efficient metabolism and grow very quickly, which is what you should be looking for with meat rabbits. These meat rabbits are ready to be slaughtered at 10 to 16 weeks, depending on the breed. Larger breeds can take longer to mature.
Rabbit fryers are what rabbits aged 70 to 90 days are called, weighing 3-5 lbs alive. Rabbit roasters are those that have reached 90 days to 6 months and weigh between 5 to 8 lbs. Lastly, rabbit stewers are those that are more than 6 months old and weigh over 8 lbs. There is really no specification on what rabbits should be used for its meat. Any type can be slaughtered. It is just that there are some breeds exhibit better meat production traits like large litter sizes, quick maturity and good mothering skills.
Rabbits for Show
Only purebred rabbits are those that are used for show. A pedigree is not required for it to be allowed entry into an ARBA-sanctioned show but it is required for your rabbits to be registered with the ARBA. Show rabbits are required to be registered so that it can receive a Grand Champion Certificate. Showing rabbits helps to improve rabbit breeds, through competitive selection of the vigor and physical behavior of each breed.