White rabbit on white floor

Common Birth Defects found in Netherland Dwarf Rabbits – A Case of Bad Genes

Netherland Dwarf Rabbits is one of the smallest breeds of rabbits in existence. Due to their adorable baby-like appearance, they make for very popular pets especially amongst parents of smaller children. Their small size originates from a dwarf gene which was initially found in rabbits around 30 years ago. The first person to make use of this gene to breed rabbits that were very small in size was a breeder in Holland. Since then, they adapted the name ‘Netherland Dwarf Rabbits’ and have become increasingly popular in more recent times.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbits are known for their active and energetic traits, making them need more time to practice exercise than typical rabbit breeds. They also tend to be quite shy and distant at first but can become conditioned to interactive play with humans through continuous exposure.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbits: The Specifics

Coming to some clear specifics regarding the Netherland Dwarf Rabbits, it can be safely noted that they weigh a maximum of about 2.5 pounds and are a domestic rabbit breed originating from the Netherlands. These rabbits are recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) and the British Rabbit Council (BRC) who both provide a list of common birth defects that can be found when breeding these small rabbits.


In regard to their appearance, the Netherland Dwarf Rabbits tend to have a large head and eyes that may look slightly dis-proportioned in comparison with its short and small body. The ears are short when compared to a typical rabbit and are positioned high on their heads. These features are a resultant of a dwarf gene that makes these rabbits sustain their infantile appearance well into adulthood.

These Dwarf Rabbits can be bred into a wide range of colors including some very unique ones like Ruby Eyed White, Tortoiseshell and Chocolate Otter.


Despite a defect in their genetic system, these dwarf rabbits are quite firm and predictable in their behavior. Being litter-trained is one of their natural characteristics as they choose one spot for their droppings and continue using the same spot for long periods of time. Netherland Dwarf Rabbits are known for their slightly wild and disagreeable nature which can be blamed on their genetic functioning. As a result of some selective breeding practices, however, these dwarf rabbits are now adapting different types of behavioral traits. Additionally, these small rabbits tend to experience high levels of nervousness and stress.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbits Make Great Pets
Netherland Dwarf Rabbits Make Great Pets

Netherland Dwarf Rabbits as Pets

Due to their small size and amusing appearance, these dwarfs are in high demand as pets for the home. However, through many research studies, it has been concluded that they do not make suitable pets for children as they like picking up the pet and cuddling with it. Dwarf rabbits, on the other hand, do not appreciate being picked up or held too tightly and tend to become wild and aggressive in certain cases.

For adults, dwarf rabbits can make for excellent pets. The rabbits appreciate a quiet, stable environment where they are free from excessive human interaction. Since they are easily trained and keep themselves clean, they suit the lifestyle of a working human adult and are able to take the time needed for them to bond with their human caretakers appropriately.

Average Lifespan

Due to the diverse range of dwarf rabbit breeds, concluding an average lifespan becomes a difficult task. It is generally known that the smaller the rabbit, the longer his lifespan will be. The Netherland Dwarf Rabbits are amongst the smallest of their kind and typically live up to a maximum of 10 to 12 years.

Common Birth Defects

After gathering an adequate amount of information regarding the Netherland Dwarf Rabbits, it is important to know the common birth defects that they may suffer from after the complicated breeding process. These Dwarf Rabbits are known to be susceptible to at least 4 genetic defects that are specific to this breed of rabbits.

Common Birth Defects In Netherland Dwarf Rabbits
Common Birth Defects In Netherland Dwarf Rabbits

1. Hippos

Although this isn’t a very common occurrence as compared to other defects, it can still occur quite frequently when breeding dwarf rabbits. This genetic defect appears to be related directly to the dwarf gene or a resultant of excessive dwarfism. Rabbits who suffer from this defect are usually born dead. In their appearance, they are small and stubby, with rounded legs and no apparent tail. The name ‘hippos’ came from the resemblance these dwarf rabbits have with actual hippo babies.

2. Peanuts

While breeders have tried long and hard to save these small rabbits, it is clearly impossible to do so. These are known to be extremely tiny in size, have a domed head shape and extremely thin hindquarters. This genetic defect is a resultant of inheriting a set of dwarfing genes instead of a single one, and double dwarfism is fatal in any case. A peanut means that both parents of the rabbit were true dwarfs and breeding the two together has led to a double dwarf gene. Breeders can choose to allow the peanut to die on its own with the litter mates or remove it from the box and separate it. In each of these cases, death is an inevitable factor.

3. Max Factor

Max Factor babies are known to be less common as most breeders experience only a few in their entire tenure. This declining genetic defect is named after ‘Max’, a Netherland Dwarf buck that was known to infect kits with this defect in older times. Max Factor babies can be recognized through their bent or deformed front and back legs, eyelids being open at the time of birth and no eyes.

While most Max Factor babies die within a few days, some exceptions can live for multiple years. Even if they live, survival is uncommon as their eyes are vulnerable and could be easily damaged. Due to their deformed shape, they can suffer various mobility issues and struggle with immune deficiencies.

4. Faders

This genetic defect is clearly linked with the dwarf gene or a common syndrome effecting the gastrointestinal system such as enterotoxaemia. While faders have no apparent defects in appearance, they are unable to consume food properly. As a result, they do not eat or drink, lay bent over in a corner within their nest and tug on their small teeth instead. Due to malnutrition, death is inevitable. Characteristics of fading may be apparent at the time of birth or can appear as late as 4-12 weeks.