Description: The flesh should be firm and not soft, a feature that made the harlequin popular as a meat rabbit during the war years. The limbs are of medium bone, strong and well-muscled. The general eye color is hazel, but brown or blue eyes are also seen occasionally.
This breed of fancy rabbit is the mystery of the rabbit world. The harlequin is bred in black, the most popular color, and in blue, brown and lilac, as well as three different coat types: normal coated, rex and astrex. The latter is very rarely seen.
In addition to the orange-patterned harlequin there is the magpie harlequin. Identical to the normal harlequin in pattern, the orange is replaced by white in the magpie.
Originally produced in France, the harlequin was a very popular breed in Normandy and the Montmartre suburbs of Paris. Like the Dutch, the harlequin is of Barbancon ancestry. The first harlequin appeared at a show in Paris in 1887, but it was not until 1891 that the breed was described in the journal L’Aviculteur.
Describing the harlequin is very complicated, as the pattern is one of alternating contrasts. The ears are opposite colors. In the black harlequin, one ear is black and the other orange. The head is also divided and the colors are reversed. On the side of the orange ear, the face is black; on the side of the black ear, the face is orange. The dividing line between the face colors should start well between the ears and progress in a straight line down the face and under the chin. In some specimens, the chest is also divided in the same way, but it is not required in the standard and should be disregarded. The whole body is alternately striped with orange and black from just behind the shoulders to the rump. These rings of alternating color need not be complete and encircle the body, as long as they are complete around the back. The harlequin’s feet also alternate in color: the forefeet should be black on the orange side of the face and orange on the black side of the face. Thus, the hind feet are also opposite the forefeet. A truly checkered rabbit if there ever was one!
Blacks should be deep, lustrous black with no hint of rust or shading. The orange, described in the standard as golden orange, should be as bright as possible. Occasionally white feet appear; they should be regarded as a fault rather than a disqualification.
Although the type of the harlequin is representative of the meat and fur rabbit, it is classified as a fancy rabbit. The head is long and broad between the eyes. The ears should be four to five inches long, carried erect and slightly open at the tops. The body is muscular, well-developed and mandolin-shaped-resembling the shape of an upside-down mandolin.
The appearance of brindling spoils the markings of many harlequins. Brindling is a result of the chinchillating factor in the genetic make-up of the harlequin. The coat is fine in texture, very soft and dense, about an inch in length.