Full of fluff and a lion-like mane surrounding the head, the lionhead rabbit is becoming a popular, sought out breed of rabbit by individuals as well as groups in the rabbit show circuit. It is unclear where the lionhead rabbit originated, though it is thought to be either Belgium or England. In either case, the lionhead was an accidental mutation, possibly from a mistake when breeding the angora dwarf rabbit, but it was a welcome mistake, and the lionhead rabbit quickly gained admiration for their unique appearance, friendly disposition, and ability to be trained. This occurred sometime in the 1990's, making it the first rabbit mutation in almost 100 years.
In 1999, the lionhead rabbit found its way to the United States. Rabbit enthusiasts have been working on getting the lionhead recognized as a breed by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), but as of February 2009, they have been unsuccessful. However, the British Rabbit Standards Breed Committee (BRSBC) has, in fact, acknowledged the lionhead rabbit as a breed, and standards have been established.
Per the BRSBC, the recognized colors are agouti, black otter, blue, chinchilla, harlequin, magpie, opal, orange, and white. The body should be rounded, with a bold head and muzzle. Leg length should be medium, and when erect, the chest should be fully viewable. Ears should be no more than three inches (7.6 cm) and eyes should be bold and bright. The lionhead rabbit mane surround the entire head, forming a full circle. These rabbits weigh about three lbs (1.4 kg).
Lionhead rabbits offer the best of both worlds in the grooming department. They have the striking long hair length of the jersey wooly, but only surrounding the head. This enhances their appearance while reducing the grooming time associated with other long haired rabbits. The long hair, or mane, surrounding the head can be either single or doubled maned. This is important to note as it effects the probability of producing a maned rabbit when breeding.
If two double maned lionheads mate, the offspring will be 100% double maned. This is not ideal, as with each new generation, the mane will become too exaggerated, and spots of long hair will grow in undesirable places. Lionhead rabbit breeders are careful to introduce rabbits with no mane and rabbits with a single mane into the mix to preserve the desirable length and fullness of hair. The current ARBA standards in progress are exclusive to the single maned lionhead rabbit.