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Rabbits for Meat

Learn what you need to raise the best meat rabbits, including how to raise them quickly, how to nurture the kits, and what the right size will be.

| January 2020

Photo by Christine Ashburn

The primary characteristics of a good meat rabbit breed are threefold. First, they must grow quickly and efficiently. Second, they need good mothering skills so they can routinely raise litters of eight or more kits. Last, they have to grow to the right size, with a good meat-to-bone ratio. In the United States meat rabbits are typically raised to be 3 to 4 pounds (1.4–1.8 kg) dressed, with small bones. In order to be considered large enough for meat production, mature rabbits should weigh between 9 and 12 pounds (4.1–5.4 kg). New Zealand White and Californian rabbits are the most commonly used breeds; however, 14 others are also considered viable for meat production. Let’s take a look at nine of the most commonly used.

American Rabbit

The American rabbit was first recognized by the ARBA in 1918 when it was still known as the German Blue Vienna. Today it is considered a dual-purpose breed, which means that it can be effectively used for both meat and fur production. The fur of an American can be blue or white, with the blue variety being the deepest blue color of any of the breeds in the United States. Despite its rampant popularity throughout the first half of the 20th century, the American rabbit is now one of the rarest breeds in the country. However, at their best, these rabbits are large, docile, and fast growing, with good mothering instincts, which makes this heritage breed ripe for a revival.

American Chinchilla

The American Chinchilla first gained recognition in the early 20th century for its striking resemblance to the South American chinchilla, an adorable little rodent from which this rabbit got its name. They are considered large-breed animals, with adults weighing 9 to 12 pounds (4.1–5.4 kg), and are known for having good meat-to-bone ratio. Although today their status is critical, the once wildly popular American Chinchilla holds the record for most ARBA breed registrations in a single year. Likewise, it has contributed to the development of more breeds worldwide than any other rabbit.

Giant Chinchilla

The Giant Chinchilla originated in the United States when cuniculturalist Edward Stahl crossed Chinchilla rabbits with Flemish Giants. It has since been purebred for over 45 years. The Giant Chinchilla is an extra-large rabbit, weighing up to 16 pounds (7.3 kg), with a docile nature. They are a popular rabbit for backyard meat producers because they grow very quickly and can reach 7 pounds (3.2 kg) in as little as eight weeks. However, due to their heavy stature, Giant Chinchillas can be prone to developing sore hocks when raised on wire, making them less desirable for commercial production. The Giant Chinchilla is sometimes called the Million Dollar Rabbit, because Edward Stahl actually became a millionaire from selling their breeding stock.


The Californian, or Californian White, rabbit was developed in California in the early 1920s by a breeder named George West. He began by crossing purebred New Zealand Whites with Chinchilla and Himalayan rabbits, the latter being the source of their distinctive markings. Today these are by far one of the most popular breeds for commercial production, and they are used for meat and pelts as well as household pets. They are a hearty breed known for being fast growers and great mothers.

2/16/2020 12:10:46 PM

Rabbits can be a great addition to a homestead. They provide economical, lean meat and wonderful furs for jackets or gloves. The stuff you clean out of their cages is an amazing addition to the compost pile. To top it off they are cute, fuzzy little critters, just a pleasant addition in so many ways.

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