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Rabbit Health

Identifying rabbits with tattoos.


Tattoo Kit
The following information is provided by:-
Bass Equipment Company
PO BOX 352 - MONETT, MO 65708
Voice(417)235-7557, (800)798-0150 - Fax(417)235-4312
All equipment can be purchased from this company.


A legible tattoo in the domestic rabbit's left ear is very important for permanent identification of the animal. The American Rabbit Breeders Association show rules mandate that a clear and readable tattoo be present in every rabbit exhibited in a sanctioned show. The tattoo is also a sure way of identifying the animal should it become lost or stolen, even if the animal will never be exhibited in a sanctioned show.
The placement of a permanent legible tattoo in the left ear is the most accepted method of permanent identification of rabbits in the United States. The right ear should be reserved for the placement of a registration tattoo number should the animal ever be registered with the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
The Grand Champion Tattoo set utilizes the tong type tattoo tool, the most common type of tattoo instrument used today. This style tool makes tattooing fast and easy with very satisfactory results, if used properly.


The skin of the ear is penetrated with the needles of the tattoo digit. This is accomplished with the tong style instrument by squeezing the tongs together with the ear between the digits and the rubber backing pad of the tool. Ink is then rubbed into the puncture holes and becomes permanently fixed in the area within the tissue of the skin as the puncture marks heal. For the mark to be permanent, it is imperative that the ink is rubbed into the puncture holes and that the ink remains in the holes until the surrounding tissue has time to heal and incorporate the ink.


The private tattoo should be placed in the LEFT EAR. The site of the placement of the tattoo should be deep enough in the ear so as to avoid any hair the might be around the outer portion of the ear. If the tattoo is placed in the fringe area of the ear where there is a small amount of hair, this will often impair the legibility of the mark.
There is usually a visible "open" area within the ear that is devoid of hair and in between major blood vessels that are present in the ear. While inadvertent puncturing of one of the larger vessels may cause above average bleeding, it will not cause any long term harm to the animal and will usually stop bleeding in a short time. However. if placed properly, the tattoo will often result in very little, in any, bleeding. Care should be taken to find the area within the ear that has the least amount of blood vessels. The tattoo ink contains alcohol to aid in healing and help prevent infection should some bleeding occur.
After the exact site of the tattoo is determined, it is best to clean the area with an alcohol swab to remove any oil and dirt that might be carried into the puncture marks and interfere with the permanent incorporation of the ink with the tissue. This will not only assure a clean site to insure fast healing of the puncture, but also helps make the final result a clearer, more legible mark.
The tattoo should be placed in the ear so that it is readable when the ear is opened and looked at from the left side of the animal. By positioning the animal with the nose to your left, you will insure that the mark will be readable from that position when finished. The Grand Champion Tattoo set will only allow the digits to be placed into the tool "right side up", so you will not be able to make the mark that is upside down when tattooing from the left side of the animal.
However, be sure that you do have the digits in the correct order by testing the mark on a piece of paper prior to tattooing the animal. It is easy to forget that the digits will appear reversed while in the tool, so be careful that you have the digits in the proper order and that the tattoo is going to say what you want it to say!


The tattoo of an animal gives permanent identity to the rabbit. The animal can be tattooed with any combination of numbers and letters. The Grand Champion set allows up to five digits per application.
The actual information provided by the tattoo can be totally meaningless, such as a name that is irrelevant to any records or breeding program. On the other hand, some breeders use complex number and digit systems to relate bloodlines and families as well as birth dates and sex of the animal. The possibilities are endless as your imagination. By developing a unique system, it is possible to ascertain the animals identity in great detail should his written records get lost.


When tattooing your rabbit, it is important to restrain the animal in some way to prevent injury to both the animal and the operator should the animal move suddenly during the tattoo process. This is also important to assure that the final result is desirable as any sudden movement while tattooing the animal and result in incomplete penetration of the digits and thus an illegible mark.
A variety of boxes, wraps, and other contraptions have been devised as tattoo restraint systems. However, with a tong type system like the Grand Champion, it is really not necessary to have a fancy tattoo box or restraint. A small carry cage, such as those used to transport rabbits to and from shows, work well. Even a small cardboard box that the animal will set snugly into will work nicely. Some breeders will fashion a cover for a small box that has only a hole in the top that the ear can protrude through. If tattooing several rabbits in one session, this idea might prove useful and speed up the process.
Just remember that the animal is likely to make a sudden move when you do the actual tattoo. Be ready for it! If possible, have a friend hold the animal in place on the table while you do the tattoo, if you do not have a restraint system figured out.


  1. Prepare a location for tattooing. Pick an area that is comfortable for you and has ample light. The table should be covered with carpet or burlap so that the animal does not slip around and become frightened. The height of the table should be so that it is comfortable for the operator and the assistant.
  2. Select the digits desired for the tattoo and place them in the Grand Champion tongs.
  3. Double-check your selection by making a practice imprint on a piece of paper.
  4. Place the animal in the tattooing position with his head facing your left. If using a box or other restraint, place animal in restraint.
  5. Locate the site in the left ear where the tattoo is to be placed and clean with an alcohol swab to remove oil and dirt.
  6. Place the tattoo instrument over the site to be tattooed, remembering that the site should be deep enough in the ear so that it will not be obscured by the fringe area of fur and that there are no folds in the ear prior to tattooing.
  7. After positioning the tool properly, on should firmly squeeze the tattoo tongs together. A common mistake is to squeeze the tongs only until the rabbit responds and then release the tongs before the needles of the digits have thrust through the inner skin of the ear. It is imperative that the tongs be completely closed to make a good penetrating imprint. On young animals it is not uncommon for the digits to penetrate completely through the ear. After some experience, you will develop a feel for the right pressure to apply to the tongs to make a good mark. Do not be alarmed if the digits do penetrate completely through the ear as this will result in a perfectly legible tattoo and the backside of the ear will heal over and not leave a noticeable on the outside. It is better to go completely through the ear than to apply too little pressure and leave a mark that is illegible.
  8. After making the imprint, apply ink to the tattoo with the bristle brush provided in the Grand Champion kit. Rub the ink vigorously into all the puncture holes. (Tip: The bristle brush provided in the kit can be trimmed shorter with scissors to make a stiffer brush for better penetration.)
  9. If the tattoo needs to be read within a short time of the tattoo process, you may wipe the excess ink from the ear with cotton or tissue and then apply a light film of Vaseline to the tattoo. It should be distinct and legible immediately. If you do not need to recognize the tattoo immediately, it is not necessary to wipe the excess ink away as it will wear away in a few days leaving the clear mark.
You are now an expert tattoo artist!!
Bass Equipment Company - PO BOX 352 - MONETT, MO 65708 - voice(417)235-7557, (800)798-0150 - fax(417)235-4312


David Nash

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