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Gotland Rabbit: Care Guide, Pictures, Lifespan & Traits

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

harlequin Gotland rabbit sitting outside

If you haven’t heard of the Gotland Rabbit, it’s likely because they are indigenous to Sweden and are not usually found outside of their home country. They have been kept as show rabbits and on farms for their fur and meat, but unfortunately, they are endangered. Please read on if you’d like to learn more about this unique Swedish rabbit.

Size: Medium
Weight: 6.5–8.5 lbs.
Lifespan: 9 years
Similar Breeds: Mellerud Rabbit
Suitable for: The wild
Temperament: Lively, hardy, active, curious

The Gotland Rabbit is an indigenous wild rabbit from the island of Gotland in Sweden. They were initially kept on Swedish farms from the 1500s for their pelts and meat, but they transitioned to show rabbits over time.

Due to this transition, the Gotland Rabbit’s numbers started to dwindle, and it was thought that they were extinct. But in the 1970s, a small population of these rabbits was discovered on a few Swedish farms on Sweden’s largest island of Gotland. This was when they were named the Gotland Rabbit.

In 1993, the breed’s register was closed, and all Gotland Rabbits today are descendants of the rabbits from Gotland.

Gotland Rabbit Characteristics



Temperament & Intelligence of the Gotland Rabbit

baby gotland rabbit running in big gravel enclosure
Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock

The Gotland Rabbit is an energetic and curious breed. They take great interest in their surroundings and are social, friendly, and lively. Like all rabbits, they are alert but are also known to have an even temperament.

While these rabbits are technically wild as they developed naturally in the wild rather than through a breeding program, they have made good pets and show rabbits.

Do These Rabbits Make Good Pets? 👪

The Gotland Rabbit does make a good pet, but if you live anywhere but in Sweden, it’s not likely that you’ll ever have the chance to own one. Their friendly temperament and the fact that they are a hardy breed make them exceptional pets.

However, since they were not bred as companion animals, they might not be as comfortable with handling and are less likely to form bonds with their owners.

Does This Rabbit Get Along With Other Animals?

If the Gotland is raised and socialized alongside other pets, they will probably get along just fine. But it’s preferable if they are housed with other rabbits. Bear in mind that during the breeding season, there will be more aggression and territorial behavior.



Things to Know About the Gotland Rabbit

Food & Diet 🥕

Gotland Rabbits primarily eat hay year-round but will additionally eat grass and herbs during the summer. While they can eat rabbit pellets, since they are not naturally domesticated rabbits, pellets might be too high in calories and more of a challenge for them to digest.

Habitat 🏠

Gotland Rabbits are hardy and can live indoors and outdoors. They just need to be kept out of strong sunlight or any drafts. They should also be in an area that is protected against predators and has plenty of hay. Overall, they are adapted to live outside all year round.

Young lady holding a rare white Gotland rabbit
Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstocks

Population Threats 🐇

The Gotland Rabbit population significantly decreased once keeping the rabbits for their meat and pelts on Swedish farms fell out of favor. As they started to gain popularity as show rabbits, the farm rabbits (called bondkaniner in Swedish) dwindled until they were almost extinct. The Föreningen Gotlandskaninen, which translates to the Gotland Rabbit Society, is 100% responsible for the preservation of this breed.

The only Gotland Rabbits today are born from parents registered through the Gotland Rabbit Society, which are considered purebred. All registered rabbits can be found in the official gene bank registry.

According to Nordens Ark, a non-profit foundation based in Sweden that works to protect endangered species, the Gotland Rabbit is in the “near threatened” category.

Mating Habits ❤️

Gotland Rabbits are medium in size, and like most rabbits, they are sexually mature at 4 to 4.5 months. The female’s eggs are released during sexual intercourse. Most rabbits are ready for mating every 14 to 16 days, and the does (females) are pregnant for about 31 to 33 days.

They average about six to eight kits in a litter, and the offspring mature slowly compared to other rabbit breeds, but they generally require less feed.

harlequin gotland rabbit sitting outside
Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock

Male vs. Female

There aren’t many differences between the males and females because they tend to be similar in size and weight. But male Gotlands tend to have more rounded heads and compact bodies, and females have narrower heads and longer bodies.



3 Little-Known Facts About the Gotland Rabbit

1. The Gotland Rabbit has landrace status

They have an official landrace status in Sweden, which essentially means the Gotland breed developed over time to adapt and improve with the conditions of their immediate environment. This means they were able to adapt to the Swedish farms’ agricultural practices. They were nicknamed cow hares because they lived in cowsheds and ate the food dropped by the cattle.

2. The Gotland is related to the Mellerud Rabbit

The Mellerud Rabbit is a Swedish rabbit considered very endangered and has landrace status in Sweden. They are similar in most ways to the Gotland, except they are only white or black with white spots and are thought to be calmer.

3. The Gotland comes in almost every color and pattern

Since the Gotland was initially used for their meat and fur, their health and productivity were considered more important than appearance. This created more genetic diversity, which has helped these rabbits remain quite healthy and hardy. It has also enabled the Gotland to come in almost every available color and pattern.

baby gotland rabbit sitting in a grass field
Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

The Gotland Rabbit has been known to make an excellent pet, but due to their rarity and originally being wild, it’s not likely that you’ll have the chance to own one. They are also exceedingly rare, even in Sweden. All Gotland Rabbits must be registered with the Gotland Rabbit Society, and the only way to register one of these rabbits is for them to be descended from officially registered rabbits.

We hope that the rabbit breeders in Sweden keep breeding the Gotland. The world is definitely a better place with them in it!

Featured Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock

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