The Why’s and How’s of Rabbit Tattoos – An introductory article on the subject of Rabbit Tattooing.

Rabbit Tattooing

My first-ever rabbit was named Bumper.  And if I had put a name tag on him, he would have chewed it off.  Immediately.

It wasn’t a big problem, because I wasn’t going to forget who my Bumper was.  But what if I had taken him to a show, with lots of other opal Mini Rex?  What if the judge had shuffled the bunnies around, and some stranger had claimed Bumper as theirs?  How could I have proved that he was really mine?  And what would I have done without my bunny?

All the sudden, Bumper needed a name tag.

And so I gave him one — but not one of those paper stickers that say “HELLO MY NAME IS.”  This tag was a tattoo in his left ear — a permanently one, so that nobody could confuse my bunny with theirs.

Much like cattle ranchers put plastic tags in their cows’ ears, or like people microchip their pet poodles, rabbit breeders identify their rabbits through ear markings – also known as tattoos.  This greatly helps with record keeping, and helps us keep our rabbits safe by not confusing them with one another.  Although most breeders can tell their brood stock apart by looks, a permanent ear mark ensures that we keep it straight, and can track the health history for each bunny, or don’t accidentally breed rabbits that are too closely related.

If you want to show your rabbits, the American Rabbit Breeders Association requires that they have a permanent tattoo in their left ear.  If you register your rabbit, the registrar will put an additional tattoo – either the registration number or that funny registered trademark symbol you see on packages — in their right ear.

How do you tattoo a rabbit?  We’ve got a new answer.

When rabbit tattoos were first invented, the popular method was to use a pair of tongs called a clamp that you could slide tiles into.  The tiles had needles in the shape of letters and numbers.  You would puncture the ear, then spread ink in the holes, then seal it with petroleum jelly while it healed.    Although it didn’t last long, this method caused a sharp, sudden pain to the rabbit.  But now, thankfully, we have a new way to tattoo bunnies that is much less painful and much more safe.

We have the battery operated tattoo pen.  This pen has a cluster of needles at the end which– with a very similar motion to that of an electric toothbrush – inserts ink just below the surface of the skin.  The needles do not go all the way through the ear, and seem to cause no pain greater than a tickly irritation.

The process is very safe and controlled.  If you have a partner hold the rabbit while you perform the tattoo, it’s very quick, and the result is usually much neater, cleaner, and more legible than that of a clamp tattoo set.

These battery-operated tattoo pens took the rabbit world by storm as soon as they were introduced.  If you’d like to get one for yourself, there are a number of brands to choose from.  If I may make a recommendation, I’d suggest the Complete Tattoo Kit from KBtatts, available at

First of all, the KBtatts pen was designed by a tattoo artist/rabbit breeder team, so it draws on experience in both areas.  Second, the complete kit comes with a pen, a replacement needle, ink, an inkwell, and multiple other accessories at a lower price than you could get them for separately.  In fact the whole kit costs under $50.

Rabbit Tattooing

If you’re new to the world of raising or showing rabbits, I want to assure you that –due to new and innovative equipment– tattooing rabbits is a humane and low-stress way to help keep them as safe as possible.  If you’re an old hand at rabbit breeding, and are still using the clamp method, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the KBtatts kit.  In addition to being safer and neater, it gives you much more flexibility.  You might even find yourself getting a little artsy!  For instance, I tattooed a heart in Bumper’s right ear.  I definitely loved him permanently.


Grab the KBtatts Complete Tattoo Kit from!

Be sure to watch for parts 2 and 3 of our series on rabbit tattoos, “Choosing your Rabbit’s Ear Number” and “10 Steps to a Great Tattoo.”


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