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Getting Started With Rare Breed Rabbits Options
francorios
#1 Posted : Saturday, August 23, 2008 5:51:33 PM
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Posts: 134,494
Getting Started With Rare Breed Rabbits
By Franco Rios

Some tips for starting with American breed rabbits and other rare breeds.

Have you raised rabbits before? If not, for a simple introduction look for the Bob Bennett book "Raising Rabbits the Modern Way" or the updated version "Storey's Guide To Raising Rabbits" available at libraries, feed stores or through booksellers.

It can be very difficult to find breeding stock of rare breed rabbits. Well, because they are rare, meaning there are low populations of that breed.

Most people will try to buy unrelated pairs of rabbits because they are concerned about "inbreeding." Because of the low populations, you will not find unrelated stock. Most of the American stock traces back to breeders in Indiana and Wisconsin. There is another bloodline of American Whites that was found in Canada, sometimes called the Can-Ams.

If you can only find one pair, get a pair. Try to work your way up to 2 pairs or 2 trios (buck/2 does) through additional purchases. Try to keep 2 bucks on hand so you have a spare when one dies suddenly for no reason at all. Americans are a hardy breed that acclimates well, but better to be prepared for a disaster.

Rare breeders typically use line breeding (father/daughter, mother/son) to maintain their herd. Older rabbits are culled out of the breeding schedule, replacements are selected from the litters that are born. Using line breeding, viable herds can be maintained for many generations before bringing in outside blood.

Line breeding is also used by top breeders of the popular breeds as well.

At our house, we've found that using rabbits from several sources only mixes up the gene pool. It's like mixing several decks of playing cards together and dealing out poker hands. The possible combinations are incredible and difficult to predict.

Using fewer sources allows you to weed out the incompatible genes quickly, developing consistent production in a shorter time frame.

You can select for type, color, size, growth, disease resistance and other factors. Every time you bring in "outside blood" you bring in more wild cards to be sorted out and tested for compatibility with your herd. So the only time outside blood is sought is to introduce some desired trait like body type or color or fur quality to the herd.

Be sure to buy rabbits with pedigrees and maintain your herd book with a pedigree for each rabbit. It is important to show that we have a purebred herd that is traceable as far back as possible.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the Rare Breed Rabbits group use a couple of factors to determine population health. Registrations, ARBA Convention entries, and Population Surveys.

Registrations are maintained by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). To be registered, the rabbit must meet the requirements of the Standard Of Perfection (SOP) as published by ARBA. The SOP is updated and reprinted every five years.

The rabbit must have a pedigree showing the date of birth and that it is descended from three generations of that same breed. Registrations are taken by an ARBA Registrar, who will examine the rabbit to be sure it meets the physical requirements of the SOP and that it is old enough to qualify as a senior aged animal as indicated on the pedigree. The owner must also be a member of ARBA and must bring their membership card to the registrar. A rabbit can only be registered once.

The registrar will also examine to pedigree to be sure that only one breed of rabbit is indicated, with no cross breeding to another breed evident.

The number of rabbits in each breed is recorded and reported each year in the Domestic Rabbits magazine, the official publication of ARBA.

Convention is the annual national meeting and rabbit show held at different locations by host clubs and sanctioned by ARBA. Exhibitors and breeders from all over the country gather to attend and vote at the ARBA meeting and to compete in the rabbit show. The rabbit show will usually have tens of thousands of rabbits entered in all the recognized breeds. The numbers of each breed entered are reported in Domestic Rabbits magazine. A rabbit can show at Convention more than one year and does not have to be registered to enter the show.

ARBA also has a requirement that each breed and variety (color/pattern) must have 25 entries or more at Convention during the five year period of the SOP to remain recognized as a distinct breed, so Convention entries are important.

Convention show entries are a good indication of popularity. Popular breeds will have thousands of rabbits entered at Convention each year. Rare breeds may only have 15 or 20 rabbits entered each year.

Population surveys are conducted by breed clubs to determine the numbers of rabbits at large. This would include rabbits that are registered and not registered, that have gone to Convention and have not. The surveys can also be indicators of the geographic distribution of the breed. The more distribution the better.

For more information about Rare Breed Rabbits, please visit
http://www.rabbitgeek.com/rarelist2006.html

I hope this info is helpful.

Have a good day!
Franco Rios

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