A Complete Guide to Lop Eared Rabbits

Floppy ears, twitching noses, cotton ball tails…who doesn’t love the adorable antics of pet rabbits? But when it comes to that irresistible lop-eared breed, their cute dangling ears require some special care and knowledge. Whether you’re thinking about adopting or already have a lop-eared bunny at home, this complete guide will teach you everything about properly caring for these charming long-eared critters. From reasons for their trademark ears, housing and diet needs, health considerations, and more, we cover all the essential info to keep your lop-eared rabbit happy and thriving for years to come. So get ready to become a lop ear expert!

We All Know What Lop Eared Rabbits Are – Or Do We?

Lop eared rabbits are one of the most popular types of pet rabbits. With their trademark floppy ears that hang down on each side of their head, lop eared rabbits have an adorable and distinct appearance that many rabbit lovers find irresistible. But there's more to lop eared rabbits than just cute looks! In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about these floppy-eared critters.

To start, let's clarify exactly what makes a lop eared rabbit. Lop ears are long ears that hang down by the sides of the rabbit's head, rather than standing upright like those of normal rabbits. The ears are essentially paralyzed, so they just flop down instead of having the ability to stand up and move around like regular rabbit ears. This lop ear trait is caused by a genetic mutation that affects cartilage development in the ears.

While lop-eared rabbits make up a fair share of the rabbit population, they actually originated from a genetic mutation that was selectively bred by humans to create specific rabbit breeds. So lop-eared rabbits do not occur naturally in the wild—they came about solely from domestic breeding practices. Today there are dozens of lop-eared breeds recognized around the world. From the Holland Lop to the French Lop, lop-eared rabbits come in all sizes and colors. But those adorable floppy ears are the signature trademark.

Why Do They Have Lop Ears?

As mentioned, lop ears in rabbits are caused by a genetic mutation that affects cartilage development. Normal rabbit ears contain cartilage that runs the length of the ear and keeps them upright. In lop-eared rabbits, this cartilage is underdeveloped or missing entirely. This causes the ears to hang down loosely on each side of the head instead of standing erect.

The genetic mutation for lop ears first appeared randomly in domestic rabbits. When rabbit breeders noticed this unusual trait, they selectively bred those individuals to create new breeds that passed down the lop ear gene. With each generation, the trait became more pronounced and stabilized.

It's not entirely clear why the lop ear mutation occurred initially. Genetic mutations happen at random all the time in the animal kingdom. Most go unnoticed and disappear over generations. But once in awhile, a mutation coincidentally confers some advantage or appealing trait that humans then selectively breed. For lop ears in rabbits, the appeal seems to be mostly cosmetic—humans simply find the floppy appearance cute!

While lop ear rabbits can hear just fine, their ears do lack some of the mobility and directional range of normal rabbit ears. But this doesn't appear to be detrimental. Over many generations, lop rabbits have adapted well to life with floppy folded down ears.

Is There Any Downside to Having Lop Ears?

For the most part, lop-eared rabbits live normal, healthy lives and their ear shape doesn't cause them hardship. However, there are a few potential downsides to be aware of:

  • Increased ear infections – Lop ears don't air out as well as upright ears. Moisture and debris can get trapped inside folded ears more easily, increasing risk of ear infections. Proper hygiene is important.

  • Weaker hearing – While lop rabbits can hear perfectly fine, their hearing isn't quite as precise. Sounds can get muffled by their ears. They may not be able to pinpoint sound directions as sharply.

  • Structural problems – Severely long lop ears are prone to cartilage deformation over time. Ears may droop too low or fold in ways that obstruct the ear canal. In extreme cases surgery may be needed.

  • Ear injuries – Extended lop ears are prone to scratches, bites, and getting accidentally folded the wrong way. Owners must be gentle and aware.

With proper care and oversight though, most lop eared rabbits live a full healthy life without major problems. Their cute ears may need a bit more tending to, but are well worth it for most rabbit lovers! Just be attentive and treat ear issues promptly.

Lop Ear Types

While all lop-eared rabbits have that characteristic floppy ear look, not all lop ears are the same. There are a few different categories that lop rabbit ears fall into:

  • True lop – Both ears hang straight down by the sides of the face. The tips may be slightly curved inward. This is the most common lop ear type.

  • Folding lop – The ears fold backwards and down, pointing towards the rear. The tips may curl back up slightly. An example is the American Fuzzy Lop breed.

  • Crown lop – The ears fall down but then curve back upwards, framing the sides of the face. An example is the Crown Lop breed.

  • Backward lop – The ears hang backwards instead of straight down. They point toward the rabbit's rear.

  • One-eared lop – Only one ear hangs lopped down. The other stands erect. This occurs occasionally.

Additionally, lop ears come in different lengths. Some breeds like the Holland Lop have ears that only reach the neck. Others like the French Lop have ears so long they drape on the ground! Ear size, shape, and length all factor into the look.

Lop Eared Rabbit Breeds

There are dozens of lop-eared rabbit breeds spanning a wide range of sizes, colors, and traits. Some of the most popular include:

  • Holland Lop – The most famous lop breed. Tiny size but with very long ears for their petite body. Wide color variety.

  • Mini Lop – The most common pet lop breed. Medium-small size and sturdy build. Descended from the French Lop.

  • French Lop – A large, gentle breed with extremely long lop ears. Come in many color patterns.

  • American Fuzzy Lop – Medium size rabbit coated in a wooly dense coat. Have folded backwards lop ears.

  • Velveteen Lop – Striking burgundy-colored breed with dark eyes and unique velvety fur. Long lop ears.

  • Dwarf Hotot – Small compact breed with white body and black circles around the eyes and ears. ears.

There are also less common lop breeds like Lionhead Lops, BEW Lops, Plush Lops, and more. Plus many mixed breeds sporting those lop ears! Lots of choices for lop-eared pet rabbits.

What You Need to Know Before Considering Ownership

Lop eared rabbits make wonderful pets for many owners. But as with any pet, make sure you fully understand what is involved before adopting one. Here are some key considerations:

  • Lop rabbits require extensive space – At least 24 square feet of exercise space per rabbit is recommended, more if possible. Will you have room to accommodate this?

  • Rabbits are crepuscular – meaning most active at dusk and dawn. Are you prepared for a pet with an "off" schedule?

  • Rabbits have complex diets – Timothy hay should make up bulk of diet, plus measured pellets and leafy greens. Can you commit to proper rabbit nutrition?

  • Rabbits need exercise and entertainment – Rabbits get bored easily so you need to provide ample play opportunities and mental stimulation.

  • Vet bills can add up – Rabbits are prone to various health issues that require vet care. Budget for emergencies.

  • Rabbits live 10+ years – Buying a rabbit is a long-term commitment. Are you ready?

Take time to honestly assess if a lop rabbit fits your lifestyle before making the leap into bunny ownership. The longterm responsibilities are significant!

What are the Costs Involved?

When people set out to adopt a lop eared rabbit, they often underestimate the true costs involved. Rabbits are not necessarily cheap pets! Here are some of the expenses to factor in:

  • Adoption fee – $50-150 depending on breed and shelter

  • Cage/housing set-up – Easily $200+ for quality materials

  • Rabbit proofing supplies – $100+ for protecting wires, baseboards, etc

  • Litter boxes + litter – Around $50 initially, then $15/month restock

  • Food – Pellets $15/month, hay $20+/month, veggies $10+/month

  • Toys – At least $30 upfront for variety, then $5-10/month replacements

  • Vet bills – Spay/neuter $200-300, then $100-300/year for checkups and possible issues

  • Grooming supplies – Nail clippers, brushes, shampoo, etc $50+

  • Miscellaneous supplies – Litter scoop, water bottle, bowls, carrier, etc $50-100

As you can see, proper rabbit care requires an investment of both money and time. Make sure you budget accordingly before hopping into lop bunny ownership!

Committing to Rabbit Ownership

Deciding to get a lop eared rabbit means committing to responsible pet ownership for the long run. Here are some must-knows:

  • Rabbits live 10+ years on average. Be prepared for a long term commitment!

  • Rabbits require daily fresh food and water. You need to be home to provide this.

  • Rabbits need several hours per day of exercise and playtime outside their enclosure. Rabbits left alone in cages will suffer.

  • Vet checkups are required at least annually. More often for elderly or ill rabbits.

  • Rabbits are exotics pets requiring specialized veterinary care. Not all vets treat rabbits. Do your research.

  • Rabbits chew…a lot! Protecting belongings and bunny-proofing is a must.

  • A single rabbit needs lots of human interaction. Bonding rabbits in pairs is ideal if possible.

Owning rabbits is rewarding but requires dedication. Assess your ability to provide a healthy lifelong home before adopting a lop eared rabbit.

Giving a Rabbit a Second Chance

Sadly, shelters are overflowing with abandoned pet rabbits, including lop-eared breeds. Many people buy rabbits on impulse without understanding the commitment involved. If you have the knowledge and means to properly care for a rabbit, adopting from a shelter can be hugely rewarding. Here's what to know:

  • Shelters vet all rabbits before adopting them out. You can be sure you are getting a healthy bunny.

  • Shelter staff will help match you with a rabbit that suits your home and lifestyle.

  • Shelter rabbits are often already spayed/neutered. If not, shelters may include this cost with the adoption.

  • You're giving an abandoned pet a chance at a new life rather than supporting irresponsible breeders.

  • Shelters can advise you on any behavioral issues a rabbit may have and how to address them.

With a little patience you can find your perfect lop-eared match and begin a new chapter together! Be sure you're ready for the longterm commitment.

Housing for Your Rabbit

To keep a lop eared rabbit healthy and happy, setting up proper housing is key. Rabbits have specific housing needs different from other pets. Here’s a guide on rabbit-safe enclosures:

  • Large cage/x-pen – At minimum 24 square feet floorspace, but bigger is better. Multiple levels ideal for exercising.

  • Baby gate enclosure – Baby gates connected can fence off a rabbit-proofed room. Allows more space.

  • Outdoor hutches – Must be very large with attached exercise run. Bring inside during extreme weather.

  • Playpen – A portable large pen to place rabbit in for playtime and interaction. Close supervision needed.

No wire floors – Wire grating on floors causes painful foot sores. Use solid flooring.

Non-toxic materials – Ensure any wood, paint, etc in enclosure is rabbit-safe so not ingested.

Try to include multiple areas for hiding, sleeping, eating, and toileting. Litter training rabbits makes cleaning much easier!

Making a Nice Comfy Bed

An essential part of any rabbit housing setup is preparing comfy bedding areas your lop will enjoy lounging in. Here are tips:

  • Use a cat litter pan or wood box as a base. Pack with hay for burrowing and nibbling.

  • Add a soft blanket or towel over the hay. Use fleece or cotton fabrics that won’t unravel if chewed.

  • You can buy cuddle cups and plush mats made just for rabbits too. Look for non-toxic materials.

  • Change bedding weekly. Dump old hay, wash fabric layers, and replace. Important for cleanliness.

  • Let your rabbit enjoy destroying cardboard boxes and paper bags for bedding. Just be sure to remove ink/tape first.

  • Try out different bedding options and placements to find what your rabbit prefers. Observe where your rabbit likes to sleep.

A cozy sleeping space your lop loves will go a long way towards keeping them relaxed and content!

What About Housing My Rabbit Outside?

Some rabbit owners consider keeping their pet rabbits outdoors in a backyard hutch or shed. However, this setup has many drawbacks compared to indoor housing:

  • Temperature extremes are dangerous – Rabbits cannot withstand heat or cold well and have strict temperature requirements.

  • Outdoor rabbits are prone to flystrike – Deadly maggot infestations in soiled fur. Usually fatal.

  • Lack of human interaction causes depression – Rabbits are very social and need daily interaction.

  • Harder to monitor food/water intake – Dehydration and malnutrition risks.

  • Difficult to inspect health – Can miss signs of illness and injury.

  • Higher predation risk – From neighborhood dogs/cats, hawks, raccoons, etc.

  • Zoning laws may restrict outdoor pets – Many neighborhoods prohibit rabbits being kept solely outside.

While housetrained, indoor rabbits integrate into family life much more easily and safely. Only consider outdoor housing in certain limited circumstances.

Dealing with the Litter Box!

Unlike most pets, rabbits can be litter box trained quite easily. This makes daily cleaning and care much simpler. Here's how to set up a rabbit litter box:

  • Get a cat sized litter box. Dog crates with grates work too. Fill box with rabbit-safe litter.

  • Place box in corner of enclosure. Observe where rabbit goes to the bathroom and put box in that spot.

  • Once litter trained, get another box for outside the enclosure for free-roam time.

  • Remove soiled litter and feces every 1-2 days. Disinfect box weekly. Refill with fresh litter.

  • Use positive reinforcement! Give treats when your rabbit uses its box properly to motivate repeat behavior.

With time and consistency, your lop will be using their litter box dependably. This makes free-roam time cleaner and expands housing options.

Safe Rabbit Litter Choices

For filling litter boxes, you must choose a litter that is non-toxic and safe if accidentally ingested by your rabbit. Here are smart options:

  • Paper-based litters – Unscented Carefresh and Yesterday's News are good brands. Absorbent and safe to eat.

  • Recycled paper pellets – Cheap but effective. Ensure they are ink-free.

  • Aspen wood shavings – Avoid cedar and pine. Aspen is safer.

  • Timothy hay – Provides familiar food source which attracts bunny to box. Combines litter and snack!

  • Pelleted wheat litter – Broadly available and low cost. Rabbits may try to eat it.

  • Clay litter risks – Clumping clay can cause blockages if ingested. Opt for safer choices.

With a quality rabbit-safe litter and some patience, you can litter train your lop eared rabbitstress-free! Just be diligent about cleaning.

Food and Water

Feeding your lop eared rabbit a balanced diet is crucial to their health. Here are the dietary essentials to know:

  • Unlimited hay – Timothy hay must make up majority of diet. Keeps teeth and digestion healthy.

  • Measured pellets – Limited to 1/4 cup per 5 lbs body weight daily. Provides balanced nutrition.

  • Leafy greens – 2 cups per 5 lbs body weight daily. Romaine, kale, cilantro, parsley, etc. Provides water.

  • Unlimited water – Clean water bottle or bowl always available. Change water daily.

  • Occasional fruits – A few berries or apple slices as treats. Sugary so limit quantity.

  • No human foods – No grains, meat, dairy, crackers, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. Unsafe and unhealthy.

  • Salt licks – Optional but appreciated mineral source.

With proper portions of hay, pellets, and greens, your rabbit will stay fit and energized for all their daily hopping!

Veterinarian & Health Care

Lop eared rabbits require periodic veterinary care to monitor their health and treat any issues that pop up. Here are the basics:

  • Yearly checkups – Have your rabbit seen annually to get a wellness exam, nail trim, and update vaccines.

  • Spay/neuter – All rabbits should be spayed/neutered around 6 months old to prevent unwanted litters and cancer risks.

  • Emergency vet – Locate a 24/7 emergency exotic vet clinic you can turn to if your rabbit falls acutely ill or injured outside normal vet hours.

  • Insurance – Rabbit medical bills add up fast. Consider getting pet insurance to cover unforeseen expensive procedures.

  • Records – Keep your own set of all vet visits and medical history to reference. Helps if seeing a new vet.

Don't skip out on preventative care! Annual exams catch minor issues before they become major. Plus you establish a relationship with your exotic vet



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