Choosing Your Rabbit’s Ear Number – An article on Rabbit Ear Numbers and Rabbit Tattooing.

Rabbit Ear Numbers

Both new and old-timer rabbit breeders often scratch their heads wondering what to tattoo in their rabbits’ ears.  Is there any system you need to follow?  Are there things you can and things you can’t use as a rabbit tattoo?  Well I’ve got good news for you:

You can tattoo anything you want in your rabbit’s ear.  It’s your rabbit.  You can tattoo a butterfly perched on a Ferrari in his ear – though I don’t in any way recommend it.

But if you’re going to show your rabbit, your options become slightly more limited.  To explain, let me tell you a story.

Back in the early days of rabbit tattoos, people used clamps.  The clamping tongs had a slot where you could slide in letters and numbers.  Most people only had a set with one tile for letter and one or two tiles for each number – so their options for ear numbers were fairly limited.  For instance, you didn’t have enough tiles to give your rabbit the ear number BOBBY.

But nowadays, most rabbit breeders (wisely) have switched from the clamp to the battery-operated tattoo pen.  This electric pen is not only safer than the clamp, but it allows you to tattoo anything you’re capable of in your rabbit’s ear.  And breeders loved it.

Rabbit Tattooing Pen

People started showing rabbits with all kinds of interesting tattoos.  They sometimes used special characters – such as a heart or smiley face— that, if not practical, were definitely cute.  The problem is that show secretaries had to enter those tattoos into their computer systems….and I can’t find the butterfly-perched-on-a-Ferrari key on my keyboard.

So the ARBA – that is, the organization that governs rabbit shows – made a new rule.  A couple of years ago they came out with the rule that all rabbit tattoos have to be alpha-numeric for the rabbit to be entered in an ARBA show.  In other words, you can only use the letters A-Z and the numbers 0-9.  (No bicycles, dollar signs, or hawks – sorry.)  They also mentioned that the letters you choose can’t spell anything profane or distasteful – but hopefully not too many people were doing that anyway.

So the bottom line is that it’s up to you.  You can tattoo your rabbit A1, Z9, OKLAHOMA5582684383, or anything in between – as long as you’re only using letters and numbers.  (And as long as it will fit in your rabbit’s ear.)

Does the ARBA assign rabbits tattoo numbers?

So that’s it, you might ask.  You don’t have to register your rabbit with the ARBA to get an official tattoo number?  I wondered this myself when I was starting, but the answer is no.  You get to choose your rabbits’ ear numbers.  The ARBA does NOT assign which number goes in your rabbit’s left ear.

So you’re free to develop your own system.  Many people like to spell out the rabbit’s name in the ear. Their tattoos look like LILY and LUCY and LOU.  Other people like to use a fancy code that gives some information about the rabbit.  A common example is that people use the parents’ initials in the tattoo, so like Fluffy and Puffy’s babies are FP1, FP2, and FP3.  You might also use a number to indicate the month the rabbit was born, or whatever information is relevant to your breeding project.

The rules don’t say you can’t get fancy.

Even though you’re only allowed to use letters and numbers in your show rabbits’ ears, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the tattoos pretty.  Some people will put flourishes on the letters, or, if they’re very talented, write the tattoos in a fancy font.  (I mean, Lucida Calligraphy is going to exude more class than Arial any day.)  So, if you’re a creative person, get creative.  Its flexibility is one of the beauties of the battery-operated tattoo pen.   My only caution is that you must not let your creativity get in the way of legibility.  If the judge cannot clearly read your rabbit’s ear number, he or she is allowed to disqualify it from competition.  Other than that, have fun!

Lastly, for those of you who don’t have an electric tattoo pen to play with, come and join us!  I recommend the KBtatts Complete Rabbit Tattoo Kit.  It contains the battery-operated pen (in a snazzy choice of colors), a replacement needle, and all the accessories you need to make your tattooing experience a breeze.

Rabbit Tattooing


Grab the KBtatts Complete Tattoo Kit from!

This is part 2 of our series on rabbit tattoos.  Don’t miss Part 1 –“The Why’s and How’s of Rabbit Tattoos” and Part 3 — “10 Steps to a Great Tattoo.”


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