Rex Bunnies come in two sizes, standard rex and mini-rex bunnies. An adult standard Rex should weigh between 2.72 and 3.62 kilos while an adult Mini Rex should be between 1.587 and 2.037 kilos. Their feature is the short, dense plush coat .
Rex Bunnies is a mutation where the guard hairs are either non-existent or the same length as the undercoat .
The Rex rabbit coat is so important they have their own division in shows , the three divisions are Fancy which includes Netherland Dwarfs, the various Lop breeds, Polish, Angoras, Dutch, etc. In the British Rabbit Council (BRC) Standards, the fur is worth 40 points out of a possible 100 with a further 40 on colour and just 20 on type. The Rex rabbit's fur, whether standard or miniature should be 1.27 cm in length, with a "fine, silky texture free from harshness and woolliness, intensely dense, smooth and level over the whole body, of a lustrous sheen, firm and plush like character, devoid of projecting guard hairs".
Mr A.E. Ted Williams, in his book, Rabbit Breeding for Perfection (Melbourne, A.E. Ted Williams, 1992, available either from the Rabbit Breeders Association of NSW, PO Box 65, Minto, NSW 2566 or through recommends using bucks with slightly harsher coats than the does to maintain the solidity of coat and to avoid longer coats. He notes further that if you continue to breed from animals with too soft coats you will end up with a generation with a coat so soft that it won't stand up as it should but lies flat.
Rex Bunnies come in a variety of colours. The BRC recognises Ermine , Havana; Lilac; Nutria; Smoke Pearl; Seal; Tortoiseshell; Marten Sable; Marten Seal; Orange; Fox (Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Fawn); Otter (Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Tan), Castor, Chinchilla, Cinnamon, Lynx, Opal, Dalmatian, Bi-colour, Tri-colour, Harlequin, Himalayan, Silver Seal. See the Standards for further descriptions and faults. The most common colours out here seem to be Ermine, Black, Blue, Castor, Otter, Lilac and Orange.
The type is described as "Well proportioned and graceful carriage, the body sloping up to well rounded quarter set on strong hind legs, medium bone. Head bold and broad, ears erect and to be in proportion to the body, dewlap should not be excessive, eyes and toenails should preferably match the body colour." What that means is an elegant, svelte rabbit with hindquarters rising up into a nicely rounded rear. Of course, when they are babies or juniors they seem to be all ears and eyes, especially the standard Rex. They have to grow into them. They shouldn't have narrow heads or squared off backs. The Mini Rex should not have Netherland Dwarf characteristics - cobby body, bull nose, short ears but be nice and 'snakey'.
Because of their soft fur, they are prone to bald patches on the soles of the feet, especially the standard Rex. This can be avoided by not running them on wire and not letting them get overweight. They can be run on carpet, rice hulls, meadow-hay, etc. Rex are not a bulky rabbit and shouldn't be allowed become so. Sometimes their ears droop which is a fault. and Mr Williams suggests using a small splint on youngsters with this problem. In 2003 A Fancier’s Guide to the Rex Rabbit by John Hodgkiss (Coney Publications, ISBN 1898015058) was published. This comprehensive, well illustrated book is available through Fur & Feather.
Standard Rex. The breed originated in France when in 1919 a peasant brought to Abbé Gillet an almost hairless baby rabbit he'd found in a nest of wild rabbits. Seeing some potential in this mutation, the Abbé mated a brother and a sister and got a litter of short-coated fluffy bunnies. When they matured, the fluff fell off leaving a magnificent short coat of chestnut brown. By 1924 he had enough to show a collection at the Paris International Rabbit Show. They were a big hit and Rex were sold as fast as they could be bred for thousands of francs each. John C. Fehr, an American judge and breeder, bought a number of them (at $350 each - big bickies now let alone in 1924) and introduced them into the United States. These early Rex were Castor only. In 1925 coloured Rexes appeared thanks to Professor E. Kohler of Alsace. These were exported to England at mind-boggling prices. In Germany work on the breed was also carried out. In England Lady Layland Barratt and Lady Watson worked hard to improve the breed. The Rex was first exhibited there in 1927 and people thought its coat had been shorn and not naturally like that. Incidentally, you will find the term 'Castor Rex' glossed as meaning 'king of the browns'. The 1920s Rex were considered ugly rabbits, resembling kangaroos with long thin arching bodies, often devoid of ear covering and bald at the nape of the neck. It was the fur structure that held the fascination.
Mini Rex This breed originated in America when Monica Berryhill of Texas was given a dwarf Rex in 1984 which she bred to an undersized Lynx Rex doe which resulted in a litter of seven miniature Rexes the does of which were bred back to their sire. In 1988 the breed was recognised by the American Rabbit Breeders' Association. In Australia the breed was probably started by Theresa Piggotti in 1990. The first Mini Rex here were bred from Netherland Dwarfs and standard Rex so tended to look a bit Neth. but the breed has improved dramatically since then.
WHY A REX?
A good Rex is a thing of beauty and a joy if not forever, at least as long as the rabbit's life. Not only are the Rexes unbelievably soft and plush, they are an elegant rabbit with their classic Watership Down rabbit profiles. The Elle McPhersons of the rabbit world they are. Those big ears are so expressive, one swivelling forward interrogatively when you pass their cage as if to say, "What are you bringing me today?" or simply, "How are you?" The big eyes on that aristocratic head (so different from the rather cobby bull-nosed look of most other breeds such as Netherland Dwarfs, Lops, or Satins), the wriggly whiskers are also distinctive.
Most pictures you see of Rex in books are not quite the same animal bred out here as those books are American and the ARBA standards call for a somewhat heavier animal with ever so slightly longer fur.
And if a Rex seems a bit big, you have the Mini Rex which combines the compactness of a dwarf breed with the softness of the its parent stock.
Personality wise I've found them characters.
They seem to be among the tidier rabbits, keeping most of their pellets in the litter tray and not urinating outside it, either. One Mini-Rex doe I had was a martinet about cleanliness and made sure her kits learned to use the litter tray PDQ or else.
On the other hand, it should be mentioned that Rex can be very territorial in their own cages, especially the does. If you reach in to feed them they can launch themselves like trap-door spiders and nip you. T
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
It's best to go to a registered breeder.
A breeder will advise you and you know their stock is good. The coat should remain upright and not fall flat once your hand has passed. There shouldn't be any bare spots such as on the ears or at the nape of the neck or the root of the ears. Nor should there be bald patches or sores on the pads of the feet. The hindquarters should be well rounded and not too square. The head should not be sheep shaped or a narrow wedge, nor bull-nosed like a Netherland Dwarf if a Mini Rex. The coat should not be woolly, wavy or harsh. The rabbit should not be overweight (folds of flesh, heavy dewlap), have crooked legs, odd coloured eyes or putty nose (that is have flesh coloured markings on the nose or very little hair there).
HOUSING & CARE
A standard Rex is a medium-sized rabbit and will need a cage of between 110-120 cm long, 60cm wide and 50-60cm high. Don't cramp him/her. A Mini Rex is a dwarf breed of rabbit and 80-90cm long by 60cm wide by 50 cm high is sufficient. As they tend to suffer from the heat more than other breeds (except Satins) because of their dense coat, they will need plenty of ventilation and a cooling fan in the summer. Direct sunlight isn't good because it fades the fur.
Otherwise they don't need any special attention other than the usual for the rabbit - a proper diet (pellets, mix, lucerne chaff, fruit, vegetables, water), grooming when in moult (about twice a year), regular cleaning of the cage, and lots of TLC.
Mr Williams recommends not breeding standard Rex does until they are eight months old.
National Orange & Fawn Rex Rabbit Club Mrs J Calvert, Rose Cottage, 9 Church Lane, Westbere, Nr Canterbury, Kent CT2 0HA
Rex Rabbit Club (US)
National Mini Rex Rabbit Club (UK) Miss D Routley, 3 Coed Edeym, Llanedym, Cardiff, S. Glam CF23 9JT, Wales
Hodgkiss, John, A Fancier's Guide to the Rex Rabbit. Ipswich, Coney Press, 2003