by RALPH LAUREN ABAINZA
Last January 22, 2023, more than a billion people around the world celebrated the lunar new year and welcomed the Year of the Rabbit, the fourth in the twelve-year periodic sequence of animals that appear in the traditional Chinese calendar.
Rabbits are small mammals with fluffy, short tails, whiskers, and distinctive long ears. According to Nature by PBS, there are 29 species of rabbits around the world, living in deserts, tropical forests, and wetlands.
Rabbits can live for about 10 years and are known for their insatiable reproductive habits, breeding three to four times in a year. As social animals, rabbits in the wild like to live in groups and dig tunnels under the ground to protect themselves from predators.
Small rabbit breeds can be as little as 20 centimeters (cm) in length and weigh 400 grams, while the biggest breeds can grow to as long as 132 centimeters and weigh 22.7 kilograms. As herbivores, rabbits only consume plants, according to the Journal of Mammalogy. Rabbit diets include grass, leaves, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fruits, seeds, and roots.
Globally, many people raise and breed rabbits as pets because of their cute appearance and tamed behavior. There are also people raising rabbits for their meat, generally considered healthier and more environment-friendly than typical meat sources.
In the Philippines, rabbit raising is also gaining popularity as more people seek alternatives to beef and pork. However, the local rabbit industry still faces hurdles preventing it from fully realizing its potential. Some local breeders share that many people still only see rabbits as pets and are discouraged by their relatively high price.
Despite the hurdles, there are also several success stories in the rabbit meat industry in the Philippines.
One of those success stories is Healthy Rabbit PH in Bulacan, founded by young entrepreneurs who previously have no background in agriculture. They successfully managed to grow their rabbit farm from 24 when they started in 2020 to more than 300 last year and also engaged in rabbit meat processing.
A small farm in Pampanga, Bunny Box Farm, even added more value to rabbit meat by developing frozen meat products such as tocino, sisig, siomai, and patties.
A parish community in Caloocan also integrated rabbit raising in their urban garden to have an alternative source of income and helped their parishioners affected by the pandemic-related lockdowns.
The year of the rabbit might be a good opportunity to venture into the agribusiness of rabbit raising. There is a lot of room for growth in the local industry despite the hurdles.
Interested? Here’s a simple guide to help you get started: Giving rabbits a try: What you need to know before raising rabbits as livestock