Looking Past the (Pink) Eyes
New Zealand rabbits have long been used in laboratories because of their sensitive eyes and skin, for food because of their size and low-cholesterol meat, and as cherished pets. We prefer them as pets, of course.
Most of the white New Zealand rabbits we see are white with pink eyes, but there are New Zealands with black or red fur, as well. The average adult New Zealand is larger than most cats, weighing approximately 11 pounds. They have enormous stand-up ears and great bit “thumpers” (feet). The white New Zealands have very sensitive pink or red eyes, making them ideal candidates for the product testing world.
Unfortunately, New Zealand Whites are commonly portrayed as the typical Easter bunny. Once small white balls of fluff, the New Zealands soon grow to be large rabbits who quickly outgrow their “starter cages.” All too often, we see adult New Zealand Whites abandoned in the shelters because “the kids can’t hold her any more” or “he got too big.”
Another common issue is their eyes. Some people are put off by the eye coloration and don’t even consider adopting one–an unfortunate decision based solely on eye color.
The House Rabbit Society always seems to have more than our fair share of New Zealand Whites and mixes in foster care. As experienced rabbit caretakers, we have grown particularly fond of this often misunderstood breed. We know what a pleasure they are to have around and what wonderful companions they typically make, but we also know they will be hard for us to adopt out. Many remain in foster care for a year or more before finding their permanent homes, if ever.
We wish people could look past the eye color, past the large intimidating size, and see the gentle giants most New Zealands are. Of course, each rabbit has a different personality, but typically the New Zealands are some of the most amiable, sweet-tempered rabbits there are. Often they are overlooked in favor of their tiny lop friends, but once you share your home with a New Zealand, you will be pleasantly surprised and may just have found your new best friend.