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True Dwarfs, False Dwarfs, Peanuts, and the Challenges of the Dw Gene in Bunnies

Rabbit genetics principles applied to the dwarf genes.

In genetics, there are two principles of inheritance, recessive and dominant. and this applies to eye color, coat, and breeds. the dwarf gene works as a simple dominant gene. This means that just one dwarf gene will produce a dwarf rabbit.

What happens if a rabbit receives two dwarf genes?

When you breed two true dwarfs, your litter will contain true dwarfs, false dwarfs, and peanuts. If you breed a true dwarf to a false dwarf, you should expect about half to be true dwarfs and about half to be false dwarfs. If you breed two false dwarfs, you will get only false dwarfs. 


Peanuts always die and can only result from the breeding of two true dwarfs. With regard to the dwarf gene, bunnies come in three types:  true dwarfs, false dwarfs, and peanuts.  Peanuts do not grow and always die, usually within a few days, but occasionally last a week or two.  False dwarfs are also called “normals” and can make good brood animals.  Show rabbits are typically true dwarfs.


So what breeds carry the dwarf gene?

American Fuzzy Lop, Dwarf Hotot, Holland Lop, Jersey Wooly, Lionhead Rabbits, Mini Rex, Mini Satin, Netherland Dwarf. Polish and Britannia Petite are not considered dwarfs despite their small size because they don't have a dwarf gene. Why they stay small is still a topic of research for geneticists.

  • If you breed two true dwarfs together, on average, one of four would be peanuts, two of four (or 1/2) would be true dwarfs, and one of four would be false dwarfs.  Since the peanuts will certainly die, two out of three of the surviving kits would be true dwarfs, and one out of three would be false dwarfs.  Remember, these numbers are averages.  Your actual results will vary.

  • If you breed a false dwarf with a true dwarf (and it doesn’t matter whether the doe or the buck is the false dwarf), you have the following results on average:  two of four (or 1/2) will be true dwarfs and two of four (or 1/2) will be false dwarfs.  Notice there are no peanuts in these litters.  The only way to produce peanuts is by breeding two true dwarfs.

  • Let’s see what happens when you breed two false dwarfs.  You can easily predict that if both parents have only normal genes to pass to their offspring, all of the offspring will have only normal genes.  And that is exactly what we get, a whole litter of normals or false dwarfs.


Now what does all of this mean for your breeding program? 

When breeding toward the standards and looking to successfully show your rabbits, at least one parent should be a true dwarf.  But it is clearly obvious that you do not need to have both parents to be true dwarfs to produce a true dwarf. 

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