Management with the dwarf gene
The smaller the dwarf rabbit, the higher the cuteness factor. But it’s a lethal gene that dwarfs these little bunnies.
If you are a breeder of dwarf rabbits, or just interested in learning more about small rabbits, you will want to understand how the DWARF gene works and how to manage your breeding program to maximize the number of true dwarf rabbits.
Let’s see how the principles of dominant versus recessive rabbit genetics apply to the DWARF gene. The principles of dominant and recessive inheritance are the same for the dwarf gene as for other genes, such as rabbit coat color genetics.
If you need a refresher on the basics of rabbit genetics, click here. The information will open in a new window so you can return to this page as soon as you want.
The dwarf gene functions as a single dominant gene. This means that only one dwarf gene will produce a dwarf rabbit. If you are thinking ahead of me, you will already be asking the following questions in your mind:
Dwarf Rabbits – Red Eyed White Satin Mini Rabbit
Since rabbits always receive TWO genes for each trait, what happens if a rabbit receives TWO dwarf genes?
What happens if a dwarf ends up with two normal-size genes? Is he still a dwarf?
Each rabbit has two genes for size, along with many duplicate genes for coat color, eye color, etc. Each father and mother will pass one of their size genes to each offspring, which will combine again to form two per offspring.
Since the dwarf gene is dominant, only one dwarf gene will produce a dwarf rabbit. But this dwarf gene is also deadly, if combined with a second dwarf gene. Without a normal gene as a recessive backup, a rabbit that inherits two copies of the dwarf gene always dies.
Here are the SIZE gene combinations that any rabbit could receive:
Dwarf and dwarf, or …
Dwarf and normal, or …
Normal and normal
How do these combinations look on real rabbits?
A double dose of the dwarf rabbit gene results in a “peanut.”
A combination of two dwarf genes is always fatal. The reasons for this are unclear, but double dwarfs are believed to have digestive and brain failure. If they are not stillborn, they usually only last between 1 and 3 days after birth, but some have lasted up to 3 weeks and a small percentage up to 4 weeks.
dwarf rabbit peanut compared to true dwarf rabbit
Peanuts are excessively small. The little one pictured here managed to live 2 weeks, which is actually quite rare, and died the day after this photo was taken. (Images used with permission from Roseline Bunnies)
If you are breeding any of the dwarf breeds, now you know why those ultra tiny kits died in your nest box. Dwarf breed breeders tend peanuts as a regular part of breeding.
Rabbits that get one normal gene and one dwarf gene are known as TRUE DWARDS.
These are the animals you want in your litters. True dwarfs are animals that meet the standard of perfection of their dwarf breeds.
If the true dwarf is a Dutch dwarf rabbit, it is round, short, and compact. The ears are short and the feet are correct.
The true Holland Lop midget is small but huge, with just the right proportions for its standard of perfection. The same is true of other breeds that carry the dwarf gene.
The dwarf rabbit that has two normal genes is known as a FALSE DWARF.
Lynx Netherland Dwarf at Raising-Rabbits.com
Lynx Netherland Dwarf
It does not carry any dwarf genes. But for most dwarf breeds, it’s not like you have a twelve-pound rabbit.
Because the Dutch dwarf rabbit is small to begin with, the false dwarf is a bit larger than normal. His ears will be slightly longer than normal, his body will be longer and lanky, and his feet will be longer. In fact, rabbit breeders Netherland Dwarf and Holland Lop have a term for their fake dwarfs: “big ugly ones.”
Most BUBs, big ugly dollars, are sold as pets. These fake dwarfs are still very cute, of course. But, if the BUB is very promising in many respects other than size, the option is open to keep the male as part of your breeding program, for use with a real pygmy doe.
Similarly, dwarf breeders often consider keeping the BUD, a large, ugly doe, as a breeding doe, if its body type is promising (not counting the extra size). Because remember, ideal dwarf rabbits have ONE dwarf gene and ONE normal gene. The BUD will contribute that normal gene to 100% of its offspring.