For the love of buns: English Lops 101

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Our Exceptional Experience with English Lops

Since I’ve had English Lops, the same questions have always seemed to arise from fellow bunny enthusiasts unfamiliar with the breed. How big do they get? They’re ears are so long – Don’t they step on them?  Can I house them outside in the winter? (I shudder at that last one). The breed is so foreign to many, yet their needs are really quite basic, once you understand the importance of hydration, preserving their coat condition, and supplementing when necessary. When I got into rabbits, I knew straight away I wanted to raise English Lops. While they’re not recommended for beginners, we seemed to do quite well with them right from the start. I attribute this to the endless research I did before “diving in”, and of course asking seasoned English Lop breeders countless questions regarding just about everything there is to know about the breed. We also have always maintained such a small “herd” (we’re no longer raising them as many of you know, but for lack of better terms, “herd” fits the bill), so we were able to spend necessary quality time with each and every one of our rabbits everyday. We studied their mannerisms, behaviors, likes/dislikes – They’re all so individual, and that’s important to realize when keeping multiple rabbits, especially English Lops. Each have their own set of “needs”, including essential bonding time with you as their “Mama”. While their needs are similar to other breeds, the amount of feed, water, attention, and devotion they require is a bit more than your “average” lop. Most prefer their feet on the ground, so until you develop that vital bond, prepare yourself for kicks and scratches. On average, bucks at their adult weight weigh roughly 10-11lbs, while does can range between 11-13lbs…Weights that are difficult for a small child to handle (and not recommended). Bucks spray. That’s a fact. The breed is notorious for marking their territory – And being on the larger side…Well let’s just say they have bigger bladders (without being graphic)! I promise, I’m not trying to deter you, just stating some known facts – Keep reading 🙂

As many of you already know, caring for/spoiling my English Lops is undeniably my passion. I thought I’d dive into a little bit more about the breed, history, basic facts, and questions answered. It’s important to note we’re not discrediting others for raising/caring for them a different way, rather, sharing what we’ve found to work/be true of the breed. As always, enjoy! If you have questions, feel free to contact me!

History of the breed…

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English Lops, also known as ”King of the Fancy” were first documented in 19th Century England – In the British Isles. Although some studies suggest the breed could have first surfaced as early as the 1700s, there is no conclusive documentation of this origin. English Lops are the oldest Lop breed. All other Lops – Mini, Holland, French, Velveteen have derived from them over the years. They’re among the oldest Domestic breeds known to man – Perhaps even the oldest. They’ve always been known for their supple, exquisite lengthy ears, and were exhibited primarily for Fancy, a different role than a plethora of other breeds, often exhibited for meat, fur, and wool production. The ultimate outcome was Victorian England’s introduction to an attractive and unique household pet, and a desire to improve the breed for years to come.

English Lops & ARBA

English Lops were accepted by ARBA’s lofty Standards in 1914 (the 15th breed to be sanctioned), and many Fanciers have been lovingly raising them ever since. They’re still shown for their uniquely long, supple ears, and mandolin-shaped body type. Depth, head shape, and roundness to the hindquarters also play an important role in an animal’s overall quality. An English Lop’s ears must be predominantly blemish free, tear-drop shaped, and at least 21” from tip to tip.

Below are ARBA’s current Standards per the 2011-2015 Standard of Perfection.

TO BE ENTERED AND SHOWN IN TWO CLASSIFICATIONS:
BROKEN PATTERN & SOLID PATTERN

GENERAL TYPE – 85

  • BODY – 35
  • HEAD – 10
  • EARS – 33
  • FEET & LEGS – 3
  • BONE – 4

FUR – 5
COLOR & MARKINGS – 4
CONDITION – 6
TOTAL POINTS – 100

SHOWROOM CLASSES AND WEIGHTS:
Senior Bucks: 8 months of age and over, weight 9 1/2 lbs and over.
Senior Does: 8 months of age and over, weight 10 1/2 lbs and over

Intermediate Bucks: 6 to 8 months of age, not over 10 lbs.
Intermediate Does: 6 to 8 months of age, not over 11 lbs

Junior Bucks and Does: Under 6 months of age, not over 9 1/2 lbs, Minimum weight: 4 3/4 lbs

English Lops as loving pets

Today, not much as changed! English Lops are a popular household pet among many – Who can resist their gorgeous features, and puppy-like personalities? (Not to mention, they’re a highly intelligent breed, and can be easily litter-trained!) They get along with other non-aggressive domestic pets (being roughly the same size as most full-grown cats), and seem to cohabit with them flawlessly. We truly believe exclusive daily interaction is essential to raising/keeping loving English Lops. The breed really does thrive on attention. Many friends who have visited our rabbitry agrees – They’re just different than other breeds of rabbits. Instead of cowering in the corner of their cage, they happily run up to their door, and cannot wait to get their head out, in your face for kisses and cuddles. Our English Lops melt in our hands, eating up every bit of affection they get on a daily basis. They love their toys – Primarily cardboard (Paper Towel, TP rolls, and empty Tissue Boxes are among their favorites). English Lops are extremely interactive, they’ll take the tube right from your hand and start bashing it around their cage. They could really care less about their baby links adorning their cages most of the time! When they’re out and about, they’re more than happy to explore their surroundings. Many of ours will follow us around, and chase after us. It’s adorable, and melts my heart each and every time. As with life, however, the ‘fun’ aspect is always coupled with responsibility. A regular, pristine, fiber-based diet is essential to English Lop health.

Diet: A diet high in fiber and at least 16% protein is vital to an English Lop’s health. Feeding 18% to our growing kits/conditioned show animals worked wonders on maintaining excellent flesh condition and a fly-back coat. Since we’re no longer raising/showing our “Forever Bunnies”, we’ve switched down to 16% protein (within the same brand of pellets), and they’re all doing just fine. Nobody is profusely blowing coat as I originally predicted would happen – Ha. As for a serving size, we free-feed our Elops, meaning their bowls are always topped up with pellets. They never overeat (contrary to popular belief), and know when they’ve had enough. On average, our English Lops eat about 1-2 cups/day on their own accord.

Water is extremely important to an English Lops health. I cannot express how imperative it is to keep them hydrated. English Lops drink much more than other breeds, so keep their water bottles full! We are constantly refilling ours! Hydration is key to a healthy Lop. Bottom Line.

Hay – Not just an Autumnal decoration. Timothy hay – Another essential part of an English Lop’s diet. Some herd masters don’t feed hay at all, but with rabbits’ high demand for fiber, I truly believe the GI Tract benefits from daily hay. Rabbits are foragers. They mainly eat hay because it gives them something to do (without fully understanding their own dietary needs of course :)). Also, hay initiates a grinding motion for their teeth – particularly the back molars, and helps to keep them level. Sylvia, one of our homegrown English Lop does (over a year old already!) developed an awful case of Maloclussion when she was around 8 weeks old. We took her to our Veterinarian who professionally grinded them, and ever since, we have been really pushing hay more than pellets with her. In most cases, Maloclussion does not correct itself (although possible), but I truly believe the roughage of our Timothy hay has kept Syl on the right track.

Supplements/Treats. Our English Lops are fed a grain-based diet, high in fiber and protein (as mentioned prior). We rarely feed fresh fruits/vegetables (with the exception of the occasional banana, or homemade Holiday biscuits intended for rabbits with ingredients containing pumpkin, carrot, banana, etc…I will post the recipe in a few weeks :)). We do, however, feed a small handful of Black Oil Sunflower seeds or Rolled Oats as a topper to their feed daily (depending on the bun/their coat condition). Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS) help condition rabbits’ coats, and also help bring rabbits’ out of their molts. Some of our English Lops do not need coat conditioning, so they’re fed Rolled Oats instead. Our babies used to love them as a treat, and they were easy on their GI Tracts. Calf Manna is another supplement we feed occasionally – Usually during an all out, coat-blowing molt. 1 tbsp/day is enough, and should only be given in moderation. Calf Manna is high in protein and calcium, so while it’s a good conditioning aid, too much can lead to excess calcium in the body – Bladder stones, and calcified urination. I must admit, Calf Manna is an English Lop favorite, so every now and then we will spoil them with a teaspoon’s worth. Hey, moderation is key, right?

Housing: English Lops should be housed in cages/enclosures at least 36” x 24”. Personally, that’s our preferred length and depth. They should have room for 2-3 hops across the cage or hutch’s length. Our English Lops love their individual cages, and seek comfort in their own familiar territory.

Unless you’ve built an indoor run, or dedicated a bunny-proof room to your rabbit (planning to litter train, obviously), housing English Lops on wire bottom is recommended.) Yes, there will be a separate blog post dedicated to this!) I have this conversation A LOT with new bunny owners. Contrary to popular belief, wire bottom cages are more sanitary than solid bottoms. Solid bottom cages absorb the moisture of a rabbit’s urine. Even when lined with newspaper, puppy pads, pine shavings, etc., the moisture is still present. It does not matter how long your bunny is left sitting in his/her own urine, their furred feet will soak up that moisture, making them prone to bacterial infections. On several occasions, rabbits have developed sore hocks or urine burn, both conditions where the fur is burned/rubbed off of the rabbit’s hock (or heel) – A painful, and very frustrating impediment to get rid of. ALL of our Elops have been born and raised in wire cages and they love their own spaces. We do, however, have a resting pad in their cage in case they seek relief from the wire, but honestly our gauging is so thick some of our rabbits ignore their resting pad completely. We have NEVER had an issue housing my rabbits on wire bottom, and they are extremely happy, loving, and healthy as a result.

I advise against housing English Lops outside – Especially if you live in the Northeast. While rabbits in general are cold-hardy animals, it’s not wise to subject English Lop ears to freezing temperatures or possible frostbite. Because their ears are so long, occasionally they can freeze to cage wire, and even tear. And as mentioned, frostbite is another concern in the winter. English Lops require shelter (as most animals) – By all means can their cage/hutch be kept in an outside enclosure such as a large draft-free, preferably insulated shed or barn, but being outside soley in a hutch, exposed to the elements, for example, will not bode well for the breed. Fortunately, ours are kept inside – Warm in the winter, cool in the summer. Less worry for me, less stress on the buns.

Ears, a popular focus while discussing English Lops

Oh, those magnificent ears. Generally ranging from 20”+ (at least 21” being necessary to compete by ARBA’s standards), English Lops learn how to maneuver around their ears from an early age. There is simply nothing cuter than a 4 or 5 week old English Lop daintily trying to avoid her ears whilst out and about. It’s common for babies to knick their ears with their baby fine back nails, causing them to bleed. It’s bound to happen at some point or another (and that’s what Vetericyn Wound Spray is for). When we brought Sawyer home at 12 weeks old, he still didn’t have a good handle on his ears, and knicked them daily (despite his trimmed nails). Let me tell you, when a topical ear wound occurs, the amount of blood is ample! English Lops have so many large veins throughout their ears, excessive bleeding is sometimes unavoidable. Applied pressure and Vetericyn Wound Spray does the trick – Just be sure to keep nails trimmed. It lessens the chances of them catching their ears with them.

Usually by the time an English Lop is about 16 weeks old, they’ve already got their “ear choreography” down pat. Yes, they’ll still step on the tips of their ears when they hop, but please note: It’s normal! It’s up to YOU as a Bunny Mama to keep those nails trimmed, and ears tidy. It all depends on your English Lop’s ear length as well. If they measure close to/under 21”, most likely they won’t be tripping on them. According to ARBA’s Standard, ears are supposed to “balance” with the English Lop’s overall body. If ears are on the long side, chances are they may hinder your rabbit in the hopping department. It’s all a part of life!

Routine ear care is crucial to an English Lop’s overall health. We check our buns’ ears weekly – Checking for wax build-up mainly, but also cleaning ear tips, checking for blemishes, knicks, and other topical issues that may occur. When wax build-up is present, we use a general flush solution to loosen wax, and kill unwanted bacteria. We then gently wipe debris out with a cotton swab.  Typically, English Lops do not regularly suffer from ear infections when ears are checked routinely.  The common myth has deterred many people from exploring the breed, but it’s just that – a myth. Just do your job as an attentive Bunny Mama and make it a habit to check your English Lop(s) over from head to toe weekly.

To sum up this “novel”…

English Lops are a fascinating, affectionate and overall rewarding breed to love and raise. They make me fall in love with them every day through their silly, yet beautiful breed antics. Expect daily chinning, nose bumps, and in your face loving when you have an English Lop, and reward them with the utmost care you can provide: A natural, pristine fiber-based diet, proper living quarters, routine home check-ups, regular exercise/playtime, and a lifetime of affection & attention. When you treat your rabbits as “part of the family”, the love they reciprocate is literally endless.

As always, if you have any English Lop questions, or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about our cherished breed!

For the love of buns,

Jamie

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