Why are Belgian Hares and Harlequin Rare? What are their Dispositions?

Sharing this conversation from an inquiry on these two breeds.

Belgian Hares can make wonderful pets – if you have ones with gentle dispositions. I too have heard about lines here in the US with cranky dispositions including biting. I’d be very selective where your hares comes from. My hares are not like that. They are sweet cuddle bugs. (yes, cuddle bugs- and people say hares aren’t cuddly!) I have a hare that lives full time indoors they are wonderful house pets!!

Mardi & Finn
Mardi & Finn

They are smart, easy to litter box train (usually), and just incredibly fun to watch and interact with. I can’t help you with show stock as I have off-colors from UK imports. I am helping a COD on getting one of the colors recognized, the black & tan, I also have black.

My stock comes from someone who did an import from the UK and only bred nice rabbits. If you are looking for show stock in the rufus color, I can try to point you in the right direction depending where you live.

Here’s one of my sweeties: (that’s my partner washing dishes and talking to Finn in the background, not knowing I was filming!! lol)


The Harlequin are wonderful. They have a sunny, interactive disposition, and are very athletic rabbits. I had one indoors for awhile when I was taming her, she’d just leap up into my lap for petting while I was at my computer. Overall they are very sweet. I do find them to be too clever for their own good (they’re really hard for me to control if I put them out into my pasture – always finding ways to escape while everyone else is happy to be in the pasture!)

The million dollar question, why are they rare. I surmise the Belgians are rare as they were popular late 1800’s and early 1900’s as a meat rabbit, and were much heftier, and they were replaced with the “newer” meat breeds like the Beveren and American (both on the endangered list), which were a more compact easier to keep meat breed. The Belgians are not for most folks. They are racy, lanky, and need room to move. I recommend 8 ft hutches with wood bottom floors. They cannot be on wire due to the structure of their feet. Now you see why they are rare? They need space, exercise even outside an 8 ft pen, to really run and stretch their long legs.

Harlequins I am going to guess are rare because they are a marked breed, and the markings are pretty random each litter you don’t know what you are going to get. Its hard to get a perfectly marked animal. Some people (and judges) have focused on markings too much and the type of this compact meat breed has suffered. Sometimes breeders focus too much on points and not enough on the practical side of what this breed of rabbit is used for and forget type is its actual function. And on that note, larger “meat breeds” seem to have fallen out of favor compared to fancy small breeds on the show table.  They are a more popular breed on the East Coast but are much more uncommon on the West Coast for some reason. Perhaps because those interested in heritage endangered breeds have picked up the larger breeds such as the Beveren, American, or American Chinchilla.

I hope this helps answer some questions out there!


  1. Harlequins have suffered over the years due to changes in the standards. At one time the breed was upright, crosses to all kinds of breeds in an attempt to save the breed from extinction resulted in a change in body type which was then reflected in the standard. When we first got ours in the 90s the body type was still in flux and some of our most beautiful were built to stand upright and pose alas not what the standard at that time called for. Then there has been the changes in required markings, from the preferred 4 part frontal to the current 3 part frontal. Further changes in the color and marking standards have not helped the situation…

    1. Thank you for writing in, Dorothy. I did not know this about Harlequin, that they were an upright breed! I’d love to see what they originally looked like. I wondered why this breed suffered, as its a pretty charming breed. I figured because its not as big as a usual meat breed, and too big for a pet-fancy breed, and after all, is just a commercial meat shape. If it were an upright pose I imagine that would really show off its colors and be dashing. Sounds like its suffered a similar fate as the Blanc de Hotot, which in France is an upright breed, and in America turned into a commercial type, which doesn’t show off its elegance, or its dancer nature. I am half tempted to retain original import traits for that reason!

    2. Additionally, the ARBA standards committee held our standard hostage for a while. They wanted to DQ the normal natural agouti markings in Japanese (the cream/white belly, jowls, underside of tail, etc.), and when told that was a normal part of the color and that we could not breed it out because that was typical for Japanese harlequins, the club was told “too bad, it’s a standard of perfection for a reason”. We lost a lot of breeders during that transition, unfortunately, as people were worried that their lifelong work would suddenly become a DQ. We only managed to save the normal Japanese color by bending to the standard committee’s will (against club vote) to combine all the Japanese colors and all the magpie colors into groups to show, instead of showing by variety.

  2. Hi Mardi. Do you know who might have the solid white Belgian Hares? I understand there may be a ARBA judge who has them. Looking to obtain one thru the U.S. without importing. How about solid blacks? Are you still getting solid blacks from your tans?

    1. I will have them I hope in about 6-8 months. I have two litters of white carriers out there right now and hope to have some whites out of them after their grown and ready! I do not know of anyone else in the U.S. and would be curious to know if there is someone else who has white. I do have black, and I am working to isolate pure black offspring and lines so that I will be able to offer them as well. Those might take a little bit longer to procure as I’m first breeding my black doe to a tan buck to get the outside bloodlines. Her offspring will go back to my black buck.

      1. Thanks for letting me know about your solids. I will probably dabble with the rufus for a short while, then want to get into the solid whites, if possible, down the road. Will you be attending the Del Mar show in Oct?

        1. I hope to attend Del Mar! I wish I had whites ready by then I’m sure they’d make a splash. The blacks will be close behind, if all goes well, within the year. The black & tans are just gorgeous as well and I do have those also.

      2. From what I know (from 2 sources) in the “hare circle”—there is one other person who has ruby-eyed whites (REW) but does not want to be known about it. It is a ARBA judge and whether he’s working to get the whites as a COD is not known. I’d just like to see a real one to see if there are some conformation differences rather than just color. Once the tans are accepted, I’d like to partake in getting the whites in. So, I am digging for more info and waiting for a live one to materialize.

        1. Well that is interesting news to me as I’d be aware of anyone working on a white COD that is not something that is secret, and requires more than one breeder to fulfill qualifications for it. If you find out who, let me know as I’d like to talk with them. I have one white hare. She descends from UK stock so the bones are heavier than what is preferred here in the US. The conformation should be identical to here for any COD and I am working on creating more whites now that I know they’re a desired color.

          1. The closest I’ve seen a REW is on some internet picture a while back, and more recently on a video upload from a UK breeder —- I think “Kruzo” Belgian Hares on Facebook. She has a REW doe with all rufus babies!

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