There are more than 45 breeds of rabbits in the world, but only about 19 have a “commercial” (large, chubby, meaty) body type which are preferable for meat production. Characteristics which make some meat rabbit breeds better than others are a higher meat-to-bone ratio, quick growth, fur color and ease of care.
The following are 5 of the more popular meat rabbit breeds that you will find across the United States
Adult Size: Medium (7-10 pounds/ 3.5-4.75 kilograms)
Californian rabbits were developed to provide good meat and fur production back in the 1920’s. Californians are a cross of Himalayan, Standard Chinchilla and New Zealand white rabbits and are currently the second most popular meat producing rabbits in the world. The breed originated in the US. The body is plump but fine-boned. Californian rabbits look very similar to the Himalayan rabbit with a predominantly white body and black on the feet, nose, ears and tail. Their average litter size is 6-8 bunnies.
Adult Size: Large (8-12 pounds/ 3.6-5.4 kilograms)
Despite the name, New Zealand rabbits were first bred in America in 1916 for meat and fur production and are currently the number one meat rabbit in the United States. They come in several different colors (black, red and white) but the white rabbits are the most popular for meat production because of their large, broad, and muscular bodies. When mature, bucks weigh from 8-10 pounds and females from 9-12 pounds. New Zealand rabbits are ready to slaughter as fryers after just 2 months. Their average litter size is 8-10 bunnies.
Adult Size: Small (4-6 pounds/ 1.8-2.7 kilograms)
Although this rabbit is quite small, it was bred in Florida in the 1960’s as a meat rabbit which would also be functional for laboratory use. The fur is white with good density and texture, and they have a compact, meaty body, short neck, and small head. Florida Whites are generally docile, good natured rabbits that make excellent mothers. Because of its smaller size, Florida Whites are ideal for those who don’t have a lot of space to devote to their rabbitry or who may be raising them indoors.
Adult Size: Large (8-11 pounds/ 3.6-5 kilograms)
Palomino rabbits have a smaller bone structure than other meat rabbits which gives you a higher meat ratio. But they take a bit longer to grow. Bucks are 8-10 pounds and does usually range from 9-11 pounds. Litter size is usually 8 kits but can range from 6 to 12. Palominos come in two colors: Golden & Lynx. The Golden has an orange/brown golden color (as the name suggests) and the Lynx has a bit more grey or silver tone in the fur. They have a very docile and friendly temperament.
Adult Size: Medium (8-11 pounds/ 3.6-5 kilograms)
The Beveren is one of the oldest and largest breeds of fur rabbits, originating in Belgium. Their coats can be blue, white, black, brown and lilac. They are a rare breed but well tempered, clean, and smart. The fur is rather long (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches), dense and glossy. The breed is hardy and well suited for meat production because of large litter size, the young grow fairly fast, and the does are typically docile and make good mothers. Due to the limited number of Beverens in the United States, many American fanciers have begun importing stock from Britain to alleviate some of the problems associated with constant in-breeding. Therefore, breeders are hopeful that the Beveren will continue to gain popularity in the United States and continue its development.