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!!
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!