The Standard Rex is a variety of rabbit recognized by its soft fur that is often described as having a velvety texture. The breed originated in France in 1919 as the result of a recessive genetic mutation leading to guard hairs that are no longer than the undercoat. This first appeared in a litter of wild gray rabbits. The Rex Rabbit was first shown publicly at the Paris International Rabbit Show in 1924 and has been recognized as a standard breed in parts of Europe since 1925. The Standard Rex was first imported to the United States in 1924 following the Paris International Rabbit Show and has since become one of the most popular domestic rabbit breeds. The Rex mutation is also found in cats, but whereas rex cats are usually almost completely bald, rex rabbit breeders have thickened the coat significantly.
Currently, Standard Rex Rabbits are most commonly kept as pets and show rabbits. The Rex can be used for fur and meat production, but to a lesser extent than other breeds because of its size and the difficulty in obtaining large quantities of its fur.
The fur of the Standard Rex rabbit should be between 1/2 and 7/8 an inch in length (1.3-2.2 centimeters) and have a fine and silky texture that is often described as “velvety.” The fur is often very dense and plush because of its short guard hairs and stands almost perpendicular to the skin. The rex mutation also causes the fur to curl in certain areas, but this curling is rarely visible with the exception of areas where the fur is longer, such as behind the ears. The Standard Rex is a medium sized rabbit with a compact, round body and an ideal weight range of 6-8 pounds (2.62-2.72kilograms), although females can weigh as much as 10.5 pounds. The Standard Rex has a slightly broader head than other breeds of rabbit, proportionate and upright ears as well as toe nails that match the color of its fur. As with most larger breeds, the female (doe) has a dewlap, a large flap of skin under the chin.
Burke's Backyard notes that rex rabbits are claimed to be one of the most intelligent breeds of rabbits. The Standard Rex Rabbit is often used as a foster mother and it is possible, as well, to keep pairs of these rabbits housed together. This breed has a low to moderate activity level and can jump as high as 3 feet. Like most rabbits, the Standard Rex is most active in the evening and early morning hours and prefers to rest during the day. Due to its playful, intelligent and relaxed nature, this breed is often described as being "cat-like".
Standard Rex rabbits can easily be litter trained, but owners should not use clay or cedar-based litters as they are a health hazard to the animal. Rexes can also be trained to do a variety of other tricks, such as coming when called and standing on command. However, rabbits often do not feel the need to perform without adequate motivation, such as a favorite treat. The Standard Rex is recognized as one of the gentler breeds of rabbits and an excellent choice for families with children, so long as the children are educated on proper handling.
Behaviors that are common in rabbits include: chinning, flopping, "binkying", circling, tooth grinding, and thumping. Chinning is when a rabbit rubs his/her chin on an object or person. Rabbits have scent glands under their chins, so they will often rub their chins on items that they wish to mark as theirs.[6 ] Rabbits are well-known for flopping, which is when they spontaneously flop over on their sides to rest, and indicates relaxation and comfort.[6 ] "Binkying", also referred to as the bunny dance, is an expression of joy in rabbits.[6 ] This is when a rabbit jumps in the air and wiggles back and forth, often several times in succession. A rabbit circles when he or she runs around a person's feet rapidly in circles often as a sign of affection or a plea for attention or food.[6 ] Rabbits often grind their teeth as a sign of relaxed pleasure, which is said to be the equivalent of a cat's purr; however, this can also be a sign of severe discomfort or pain, depending on the circumstances. Thumping, when a rabbit thumps his or her hind legs loudly, means that the rabbit is either angry or senses danger.[6 ] For more information on rabbit behaviors, read "Understanding Your Rabbit: Behavioral and Vocal Communication" at RabbitResource.org.
The Standard Rex is available in many different colors: Amber, Black, Blue, Broken varieties, Californian, Castor, Chinchilla, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Dalmatian (broken black), Ermine or pure white, Fawn, Harlequin, Havana, Himalayan, Lilac, Lynx, Marten Sable, Marten Seal, Opal, Orange, Otter, Red, Sable, Satin fur varieties, Siamese Sable, Siamese Seal, Silver Seal, Smoke pearl-Marten, Smoke pearl-Siamese and Tortoiseshell.
In addition, Standard Rex Rabbits have been bred to have the trait of albinism or the trait of blue eyes instead of their otherwise distinct brown eyes. In the United States, the ARBA officially recognizes 16 of the above colors and varieties: Amber, Black, Blue, Broken, Californian, Castor, Chinchilla, Chocolate, Lilac, Lynx, Opal, Black Otter, Red, Sable, Seal and White.
The Standard Rex Rabbit can be housed outdoors year-round in warmer climates as well as in cooler climates if the correct accommodations are made. However, some breeders and rabbit owners believe that outdoor rabbits have a shorter life expectancy than those housed indoors. This is variable depending on the climate. Generally, Rex Rabbits are better accustomed to living in the cold than the heat, but they cannot tolerate extremes of either kind. For rabbits kept outdoors in colder environments, it is necessary to provide a shelter from wind and drafts. Many outdoor rabbits live in barns or covered hutches in the winter.
A second option is to house the Standard Rex Rabbit indoors, which is recommended in some climates. The Standard Rex can be litter box trained and does very well as a house rabbit. Rabbits are notorious for chewing, however, and it is necessary to “rabbit-proof” any area of one’s home where a rabbit will be free to roam. Providing safe chew toys, such as pinecones and toilet paper rolls, will help prevent some rabbits from chewing on furniture. Rabbits housed in wire cages should be provided with some type of wooden flooring or a mat to prevent the development of sore hocks on their feet.
The Standard Rex Rabbit can be fed a combination of commercial rabbit pellets and timothy hay. Rabbit pellets should not contain seeds or corn and should be high in fiber, low in fat and carbohydrates, and moderate in protein. Rabbits should receive 1/4 cup of pellets each day per 5 pounds that the rabbit weighs. Fresh greens should be provided to the rabbit as well, but new foods should be introduced slowly and owners should check to make sure foods are safe before feeding. Many argue that the rabbit can live off of greens entirely, but in order for this to be possible, the rabbit must be provided with large quantities and varieties of greens so that it can graze throughout the day and obtain adequate nutrition. With any feeding method, unlimited timothy-grass or hay should be provided at all times. The Standard Rex Rabbit, like most rabbits, will enjoy fresh fruit, but this should be provided sparingly due to high sugar content.
The Standard Rex tends to be a hardy breed with few health issues. All rabbits have fragile skeletons and, when handled, their feet should always be supported to prevent kicking which can overextend and injure the spine. Male Standard Rexes, like most breeds, can get aggressive as they reach sexual maturity and, provided they are not going to be used for breeding, it is recommended that they are neutered after 4 months of age to prevent this aggression. Neutering female rabbits that are not used for breeding is also highly recommended as it significantly reduces their risk of developing uterine cancer. Neutering can also extend the life span of both genders from 5–6 years to 8–11 years.