What is a Belgian Hare?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

A Belgian hare is a type of domesticated rabbit with a unique appearance. These rabbits are so named because they originated in Belgium and have been bred to resemble hares. They are sleek and wiry, with long, fragile bones and long ears and back feet. The Belgian hare's lanky, fine-boned look has earned it the nickname "race horse of the rabbit fancy."

Belgian hares are rabbits that originated in Belgium and have been bred to resemble hares.
Belgian hares are rabbits that originated in Belgium and have been bred to resemble hares.

Range of Colors

The classic Belgian hare is red in color, and this is the only color that recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), one of the world's leading organizations for rabbit breeders. Belgian hares also come in black, black and tan, however, and there are some that are ruby-eyed white. All colors are considered to be attractive, although they may not be permitted in some rabbit shows.

Suitability as Pets

Belgian hares also are considered to make great pets. They are said to have a good disposition, although some might be a bit skittish. The Belgian hare is a fairly large rabbit, sometimes exceeding 9 pounds (4.1 kg), so it requires a fair amount of space. Also, the Belgian hare has a very fast metabolism and requires more food than a pet owner might expect for a rabbit of its size.

First Bred during the 1800s

The first Belgian hares were bred in Belgium during the 19th century and brought to England in 1874. Fourteen years later, they arrived in the United States, where they became immensely popular in rabbit shows. Belgian hare clubs soon cropped up around the country, thousands were bred, and some sold for as much as $1,000 US dollars — an exorbitant amount of money at the time. This popularity was short-lived, however, tapering off during the 1920s, and in the early 21st century, the Belgian hare is one of the rarer rabbit breeds.

Traits and Needs

Belgian hares are said to be among the smartest rabbits. They have special feeding needs and require significant amounts of exercise. They are more fragile than some other rabbit breeds because of their delicate bones, so this should be taken into consideration by anyone who is thinking about keeping a Belgian hare to show or as a pet. Belgian hare breeders have a reputation of being devoted to the breed.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


@turkay1-- Really?! I didn't know they were endangered either!

Don't some people eat Belgian hare? I'm pretty sure that I've seen recipes for Belgian hare online. I think that's horrible. I refuse to eat rabbits, deer and ducks. I just can't get myself to do that.

If the Belgian hare is endangered, it should be illegal for people to eat them!


I'm in support of Belgian hare breeders because I came to know that it is now considered to be an endangered species. Having Belgian hares participate in rabbit shows might promote more people to become interested in the type and breed them.

I think that not every breeder is interested in breeding this species because they are know for being a bit panicky. Apparently, they stress out very easily and can have huge reactions to new environments or anything that may be unfamiliar to them. So breeders think that they will be too difficult to deal with.

I've also read that as long as the hares are in a calm environment, they won't have any problems. So I definitely don't think that this is a reason to refuse breeding Belgian hares. They are very graceful animals and it would be a shame if they became extinct.


My friend has a pet Belgian hare that is 10 pounds. He still looks very skinny though but my friend said that he has normal weight and might even be considered fat if he keeps gaining.

I didn't understand why she said that but now I know that this is the normal body structure of Belgian hare. I was thinking that he was abnormally thin because of an illness or something. Good to know that it's completely normal!


In Germany we have Belgian Hare in the original red-brown color, and in white/RE. In this time we are trying to get accepted the "black and tan" in the German ZDRK-Standard.

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