When a beautiful Belgian Hare doe was selected as Best In Show for the 2008 ARBA National Convention it was an achievement for the breeder as well as for the breed. This old breed was once extremely popular with over 6,000 reportedly safely shipped from England between 1898 and 1901. As high as $5,000 was paid for a buck in 1900, outpacing the record price for most horses and other livestock. Today this sleek, arched bodied fine boned breed is threatened according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Less than 1,000 are born annually in the US with estimated less than 5,000 globally. From the small numbers, however, comes an animal that is closer to the standard of perfection for the breed than any of the recognized breeds in ARBA, winning the big overall prize.
The Belgian Hare can be a difficult breed to raise, with type and fur lost when crossbred. They are slow maturing rabbits that despite the boom of the early 1900s became a bust by the 1940s as breeders turned to other breeds.
This is a breed that needs extra attention to the floor they are kept on, ideally a well bedded solid floor. Like all rabbit breeds advance preparation helps from a show standpoint, with firm flesh condition and a clean coat. Damp hands stroking the rabbit including legs can remove loose hairs and improve the appearance of the rabbit. Plucking the fur is not allowed however.
Time and attention to training the Belgian Hare to properly pose is important. Because they are a rare breed some judges don’t see many of them, and a rabbit that cooperates gives the judge the best view and chance for evaluation. The consistent beautiful color of the Belgian Hare can be plain for some but a Belgian Hare with a clean, well conditioned coat is a stunning rabbit. This can be an active breed and are a four class breed.
The rich chestnut color of the Belgian Hare with black ticking gives a distinct appearance. They can vary from six to 9 pounds although the ideal for both bucks and does is 8 pounds. Because of their upright stance and long Thoroughbred” racy bodies they appear even larger than their body weight alone indicates.
Although this can be a tricky breed that takes effort to maintain, the need for conservation is great. The Belgian Hare is a challenge on several fronts, but it is a challenge that is greatly rewarding with producing a rabbit that does well. Although there may be less that 40 even at the national level it only took one to win over thousands of beautiful rabbits of much more popular breeds. If you appreciate the challenge, look at the Belgian Hare.