Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just Stuff:)

Well, after a super busy (but still fun) holiday I am starting to get things back together and am beginning to catch up on all the bunny work I missed between Christmas, sick children, and a mound of work, LOL.

This week on vacation I managed to get 3 does bred and and am shooting for two more tomorrow, and I got some juniors clipped down in prep. for the upcoming spring show season.

An unbelievable miracle occurred today. It was 60F (!!!!). Without wasting a moment, I grabbed my grooming table and blower, planted them outside, and thoroughly blasted each of my potential entries for the PA show in Feb:). After this I clipped down 3 more babies, bred 1 doe, and will continue clipping and breeding until everything is finished and I have nothing to concentrate on but new babies in the nestbox:).

One of my newer bucks, Henryi, is going to be siring 2 of the new litters. Angelo, a Chestnut buck, will sire one and possibly 2 if I decide to use him with Yvonne, and I will probably use Giacomo with Natalya as soon as I can get them both sheared. Next spring I will focus on using Giacomo and Fabrice almost exclusively while Henryi and Angelo are in coat, and some of the up and coming bucks will join the roster as well (later in the season).

I am also in the process of revamping my website this winter (actually I had planned on getting that done earlier too, LOL), and then I will be adding lots of new pictures and loading a bunch of articles to make the whole thing more complete.

More again in a couple of days as life gets settled again, but I'll leave you with a parting shot of Giacomo after his wild session with the blower:-). He is super disheveled because of the fierce wind that was blowing here all morning (in addition to the one I created, LOL) and he is also looking rough because his coat is pretty well shot at this point, having gone past prime and down the road to slippage :^).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Timed Breedings--Charts

Note: This is another post from the old blog, but if I were writing it now I would probably change the Sr. peak date from 9 months to 10 or 11. A 4 month old coat would certainly be primed and would probably be impressive on the showtable, but a 5 /6 month coat (as long as it was prime and not slipping) would be more competitive still.

There are several charts available to help breeders time breedings for particular shows or maturation points at certain times during the year. Since hold times and molting cycles have changed for the typical French Angora over the last 20 years or so, a modern chart would need to include current development rates and assume that individual coats are being held and released later.

If we assume that today's FA Junior peaks at approx. 4--4 1/2 months (in some lines), we need to devise a list in order to plan our breedings so that babies are hitting the most important shows by exactly 4 months. Here is a list of the 12 months of the year alongside a column listing what month a rabbit would reach peak Junior age ( 4 months/ 16 weeks old) if bred by the month in the first column:

Breed In (for) 4 Month Old Juniors in:

January /June
February /July
March/ August
April/ September
May/ October
June/ November
July/ December
August/ January
September/ February
October/ March
November/ April
December/ May

Also, if we assume that an FA molts it's first coat and is harvested at 5 months, it will probably not peak again as a Senior until approx. 9 months of age (though if hold time is different, breeding dates will need to be adjusted accordingly). Assuming that you are trying to breed a 9 month old Senior for a specific show, here are the months you would need to breed in, in order to achieve that.

Breed In (for) 9 months old in:

January/ November
February/ December
March/ January
April/ February
May /March
June/ April
July/ May
August/ June
September/ July
October/ August
November/ September
December/ October

These are examples based on dates targeting 4 month old Juniors and 9 month old Seniors. The key thing to take note of is precisely what age your rabbits tend to peak in either category. Take notes on the development of your herd, and plan your breedings accordingly. Generally it is a good idea to push coats to be as large and heavy as they can be before they actually begin to slip (the very end of the Prime phase), and plan your Juniors to be as large as possible with as much wool growth acumulated before they actually go overweight (keeping them at or just under 7 1/2 lbs.).

Again, as many of us know, raising Angoras for show all boils down to timing, timing, timing:). Showbreeders are not the only ones who benefit from manipulating a molt either. Managers of fiber herds may time breedings also so that bunnies are bald in the summertime when temps, are highest, and in full coat during the winter when temperatures plunge. The nature of an Angora growth cycle is such that a breeder CAN time breedings to manipulate a coat for his/her own needs--- just one more advantage to owning these wonderful rabbits for wool or show.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More Bunny Pics

These are just some recent bunny pics I took after grooming, which is a frequent activity now:). This bunny below (in 2 pics) is Giacomo, a Tort Sr. buck in his first Sr. coat, and Juno's son out of her most recent litter.

Btw, please ignore the piles of coats, shoes and scarves on the wall and floor in the background, LOL. It is the freezing time of year here:).

And this is Giacomo's sister and littermate, Mimosa. A fawn doe:

And this is Devaki, who is continuing to grow in but is still slightly behind the other two bunnies in length/width. It is also easy to see from the picture that Devaki is an older rabbit than the others because she has considerably more guard hair in her coat. Devaki is 2 years old, while Giacomo and Mimosa are only about 8 mos. old.

There are other bunnies in shorter, varying stages of growth in the barn at the moment, but my big job now is going to be giving all of last summer's babies their first haircuts, since all are nearly ready to be harvested and grow new coats for the spring. As soon as that is done, things will be much easier around here because there will only be Sr. bunnies to care for, LOL.
Have a great week!:-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wool Stuff

-Another post from the old blog:

Wool is without doubt the most difficult thing to learn about an angora rabbit. Bodies take some practice feeling and learning what makes good type and what doesn't, but wool is much more complicated because it varies so much with each individual rabbit. The standard gives an excellent written description of what constitutes a good coat, but you will never know for sure what that means until you get your hands into lots of wool, eyeball it very carefully, and determine for yourself what a balanced coat truly is.

FAs typically have one first baby coat, a second baby coat (or 1st senior coat), and then an increase in guard hair with each successive coat until density and yield begin a total decline around age 3. Many FAs can successfully be shown in their later years, but typically we need to consider the 2nd and 3rd senior coats to be the Prime coats on an FA---the best you'll ever get---the peak of wool condition and quality. When we assess a coat on our rabbits we really need to ignore judge comments on early coats, (strange as that may seem), because a "good" baby coat will almost always be faulted for being too soft. In the very beginning a very young baby will have a preponderance of guard hair but that is only because the underwool has not started to grow in yet. By age 6-8 weeks the balanced coat begins to grow in earnest, and by the time a bunny is 4-5 months old the wool should be quite soft and require grooming approx. every 4 days to keep it healthy and tangle-free. Now, when I say soft I don't mean "cottony", even in the baby coat. Cottony means that when you scrunch the wool together in the palm of your hand it kind of bunches up and sticks to itself. It does NOT fall free, and it has a distinctly "sticky" quality without actually being sticky. Does that make sense, LOLOL?? A cottony coat also has no form, very little shape, and pretty much just sticks out all over the place (when it is in PEAK condition, not when it is on the decline or about to molt).

A good baby coat is soft but still has good texture. It falls free but still has lots of underwool. If you see a baby coat that is primarily guard hair by about 3-5 months, I would consider very carefully whether I wanted to keep that rabbit. Guard hair always increases in an adult coat, and a baby with no underwool will certainly not have any as an adult (which may be rewarded on the show table by judges looking for a "brillo pad" quality, but it is not something you want to perpetuate in your breeding program:( ).

Now, once the baby coat slips, molts, and is harvested, it is time for the 1st senior coat to come in. At this point the wool on a 6-9 month old rabbit should contain guard hair, but it will not be as predominant as the wool in senior coat #2, and you will continue to see a higher ratio of underwool. At this stage you will begin to hear more favorable comments from judges on texture, but they will still say that a coat is often too "soft". I have heard other breeders say that French coats are much softer nowadays, but this is actually not true. What they are most likely seeing are rabbits without fully developed coats who are soft longer because the holding time of the FA has increased, and also density that has improved drastically so that we see FAs with greater underwool as part of a more "balanced" overall coat.

The second senior coat represents the apex of what your rabbit is capable of producing in quality wool in it's lifetime. At this point, you can listen wholeheartedly to judge's comments on texture (provided he/she is a good judge of wool), and use this rabbit for breeding knowing precisely what you will be passing on to the offspring (of course, there is no rule that says you can't breed an FA at 9 months before all this happens:)).

Anyway, a good, correct Senior coat should have neither too much Underwool nor too much Guard Hair. Guard hair should protrude approx. 1/4 inch above the underwool, and when you rub the coat the wrong way (from tail to head) in Prime condition it should drift back into place softly and drape gracefully over the rabbit. There should be a definite shape to the coat. It should be oval and massive, feel strong and lively, and not be coarse or cottony (this is terribly confusing to understand but you will get the hang of it once you feel it often enough:)). If you grab a handful of it a well-textured Prime coat will spring back into place, whereas a dead (slipping or molting) coat will just fall out of your hand and hang limp. Also, you want to try to breed for an even distribution of Guard Hair (not patches of Guards and Underwool all in different places), and remember that the most points on an angora coat are always for density, followed by Texture, followed by Length. Crimp should be evident in the underwool (little zigzags in the strands), and "there should be sufficient underwool to balance the guard hair".

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and see you next time!:-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008


--Another post from the old blog:

In addition to my favorite FA color, REW, I am also in love with all the Self colors:). Since I am not a spinner and don't get to see the effect of each color in yarn (which might make me prefer different ones, LOL), I breed for the colors that I think will make the biggest impact on the showtable OR are easiest to breed for uniformity and intensity of color. REW is an obvious choice for showing simply because there are very few DQs that a white rabbit can have (aside from crooked tails, teeth and actual physical deformities). Also, a White rabbit of almost any breed will always have greater wool/fur quality, yield, and density (for reasons that I'm not quite sure of that I will have to investigate in the future).

Self colors (IMO) are wonderful simply because they are stunning when bred for good intensity and there is nothing that distracts your eye away from the whole rabbit when it is on the showtable. A rabbit with a Broken pattern can sometimes appear to be "broken up" when posed, and your eye is likely to be drawn away from the wool and type of the rabbit to focus more strongly on the color pattern instead. (Btw, I do not mean to criticize the broken variety in any way, this is just an observation that I have made while at shows:) ).

The most dramatic Self color of all tends to be Black, for obvious reasons:). I have bred huge numbers of this color over the last several years but have kept very few because while they are stunning to behold in full coat, they can also be a nightmare to breed in terms of scattered white hairs/silvering, and other problems that occur. It is not that these problems emerge with less frequency in every other Self color (or any other variety for that matter), it is just that the Black variety is the opposite of White in that EVERY, TINY, little imperfection, spot, hair, and inconsistency shows up dramatically, and you see judges scrutinize this variety to no end simply because everything there is so obvious .

According to Glenna Huffmon's book, "Rabbit Coat Color Genetics" intensity of Color primarily has to do with Plus and Minus modifiers. On pg. 99 she says,

"The plus modifiers will produce larger areas of color, while the minus modifiers will enlarge and extend the areas of white. It all depends on the balance between the two factors. On a self-colored animal, no white is usually the ideal coloration-that is no small white spots and no scattered white hairs in the coat. However, with the presence of too many of the minus modifiers, the solid colored animal may show some white hairs or small white spots in the normally colored coat."

"The self-colored animal with 80% plus modifiers and 20% minus modifiers should still have a solid colored coat. Even 50% of each will usually result in a colored coat with no white. However, when the percentage of minus modifiers outnumbers the plus modifiers, such as 20% plus modifiers and 80% minus modifiers, those annoying white spots and hairs can show up. These white spots usually appear on the head, belly, chest, toes, and feet."

To correct white spots and hairs, she says,

"Breeders of rabbits with lilac and/or blue varieties are no doubt already aware of the modifiers that can result in more intense and darker coloration as opposed to those that lighten the basic color to a lighter shade. It takes a great deal of careful selective breeding on the rabbit breeder's part to get and keep the desired shade. These color intensifiers are not the result of just one gene. There needs to be a large number of them accumulated for them to have the desired affect on the final coat color. They cannot change the blue to black, but they can control the darkness or lightness of the blue color. It all depends on the ratio of dark to light modifiers present."

So in other words, each color is subjected to the effect of modifiers (most notably the Self varieties), but certain Selfs will more clearly express differences in intensity because they are a lighter color in general (Lilacs and Blues for ex.). Blacks and Chocolates will not necessarily get darker in overall body color, but you will see less of the stray white hairs and spots that plague these varieties and stand out so clearly.

I spoke with a number of breeders and read info. from several sources, and it appears that the best way to improve your Self colors and eliminate white hairs and spots is simply to cull out the rabbits who express them, breed only the best colored offspring, and breed like color to like color for as long as it takes to increase plus modifiers to the point where any trace of white in a rabbit's coat is eliminated. What I have done lately is to keep the best Blacks in my breedings that express few if any white hairs, and this year I will begin breeding them to each other in order to produce better bunnies of this variety and repeat the same color combination for several generations in a row.

* Quick note* A judge who didn't have much experience with Angoras recently told me that he thought most Angoras looked as though they had snips of white on their front feet. What I believe he was referring to was the fact that the footpads on a dark Angora variety like Black are light gray underneath and often 'push up between' the toes when the bunny is sitting, making it seem as though the feet have silver or white hairs on them. ALWAYS make certain that the color you are seeing is not really coming up from underneath a bunny's foot--- check your little toes carefully:).

*Also--the same principle applies to 'silvering' that can appear right beneath the bunny's nose (silver color, not white). White on TOP or anywhere around the nose can be a DQ but a 'silvery' (kind of faded black color) is normal on the upper lip of some darker color varieties (I see it regularly in my Blacks and Sables but they are never penalized for it at shows).

Also, I would like to mention in closing that there are other factors that can cause white spots/hairs in rabbits, and one of these is the Steel gene. Since I had quite a bit of Steel floating around in my lines it was entirely possible that the snips/hairs on the rabbits I had in the past was due in part to the presence of Steel, but at this point I choose to treat it as a modifier as I tackle the Steel gene at the same time using Torts, Pearls, and Fawns.

Anyhow, so this is a little bit about the color Black, one of my favorite colors aside from White, LOL. I may have missed info. here but will continue to do research as I go until I achieve the color quality I am looking for:).

Monday, November 10, 2008


If I had to design my rabbitry all over again (which could someday be a reality if I were to suddenly get rich or knock over a bank, LOLOL!), then I would do some things differently.

My current setup utilizes the standard cage stacks with plastic duratrays. While this is an excellent system for saving space, it does require alot of manual labor because the trays obviously have to be pulled out, carried outdoors for cleaning, and then carried back in. Metal trays are next to impossible to use in a system like this (although some men can handle them well) because they are just horrendously heavy, especially for cages full of does with good-sized litters.

The other thing I don't like about stacks is the difficulty of reaching rabbits in the top and bottom-most cages. Although this doesn't pose an insurmountable problem at present, I can see where it would get much more difficult as I get older and way more arthritic, LOL.

If I had to do it again, I would construct one long building with a single row of cages extending from end to end on both sides. I would have no cage smaller than 30 X 36 inches (and maybe 30 X 48 for breeding does), and there would be no cage trays at all if I could find some way to build pits or remove manure often enough so that nothing smelled and there wasn't a big fly problem. Even if I decided to continue using trays in this situation, it would be easier to slide them in and out at waist level than to raise and lower them constantly from the top to the bottom.

I would continue to use no urine guards, but my bucks would be separated from the does as they are now. I would continue to use no hay racks, but shove the hay through the bars near the doors as I do now. I would line my barn walls with some sort of easy-clean plastic or vinyl material and leave a gap between the rows of cages and the wall for easy cleaning (unless I could find some way to hang cages from the wall but remove them easily one by one) .

I would have wider aisles then I have now to enable myself to spin around completely holding a cage tray, if necessary. I would have shelving on either end to hold feed buckets and other equipment. I would put one or possibly two doors on either end of the building to make it easier to drag cages in and out (and the doors would be wide enough to fit cages through easily).

I would have numerous vents everywhere along the sides and ends of my building with hinged flaps covering them to open and close as I choose. I would also need to keep the whole rabbitry as predator proof as possible but if I could manage it, I would love to be able to open the sides of the building completely in the summertime for maximum air flow.

I would continue to use the crock-loc feed dishes that I use now which are more of a pain to dump than the 'J' feeders, but much easier to toss into the dishwasher and sterilize, and much kinder to an angora's furnishings.

An automated watering system has always been a big temptation and I may yet install one someday, but for now it seems important to be able to accurately gauge how much each rabbit drinks each day. Since Angoras are prone to woolblock and one of the first symptoms of a blockage is decreased feed/water intake, I feel like it is dangerous to take the manual labor out of this part of my operation, at least for now.

There are many other things I would do if I had to do it all over again, but this is a list of the most immediate concerns. I have left the issue of climate control out (heat in winter and A/C in summer), but that is only because the temps in this part of the country are not usually as extreme as they are everyplace else. If that should change or I feel that climate control is needed someday, then I would reconsider that too.

I got quite a bit of grooming done this week and there are lots of older juniors in long coats who need attention now, LOL. Below I have posted a few pictures of Spang's Devaki, a Sr. doe who was going to be bred this fall but who refused to cooperate, so she will head off to the showtable instead:-). Devaki is a beautiful girl who is not necessarily the densest rabbit in my barn but who is extremely well balanced. Once her coat comes all the way in (the guard hairs on her sides reach all the way down to the table and she is bigger in general) , then she will be ready for some action at the shows and maybe pick up some legs if she's lucky, LOL.

More again next time. Have a great week!:^)

Monday, November 3, 2008


Now is the time when nights (and days too) get particularly blustery in the Northeast, and Fall begins to hit with full force. Last week a few days before Halloween we actually had a blizzard that dumped 20 inches of snow in the higher elevations, so we are all now thinking that it is going to be a wicked mean season, LOL.

Rabbitwise cold means nothing, but constant drafts can cause a definite health problem, so it is important to close up a rabbitry at this time of year. There are vents along the eaves of my barn so it is never really airtight (which is important even in winter), but vents on the sides, bottom, and front always get closed so that no one is in danger of getting a straight blast of air and possibly getting ill.

My barn is not as sophisticated as it might be, and I have a really great idea in my head of what it will be some day when there is an opportunity to build a state of the art bunny operation, LOL. For now, here are 2 shots of vents sealed up on the sides and bottom of the building. Ideally these flaps will have hinges on them in the future so that I can close them whenever I need to, but at this point the dh just drills them on and then takes them off in the spring:).

Another EXTREMELY important job in the fall is to remove, disassemble, and thoroughly clean every fan in your rabbitry before putting them away into storage. I have 2 heavy duty industrial fans at either end of my building, and they usually need to be cleaned several times over the course of the summer, especially if they were running all day, every day. Here is a pic of them drying in the sun after cleaning.

Another management requirement to consider at this time of year is putting mousetraps in every corner of the barn. On this property we have a regular incursion of voles every fall and winter because they come up the hill from the garden in search of shelter and an easy meal. We set traps in the fall and continue to catch the annoying pests into the spring, baiting and resetting traps daily or weekly as necessary.
A deep cleaning, OR, at least pulling cages away from the walls and cleaning thoroughly in every corner is another good idea in the Fall. After numerous litters and rabbit rotations in every part of a bldg during the year, chances are good that there is hay and gunk built up behind everything that needs to be removed. Air exchange is not as good over the winter as it is during the rest of the year, so it is good to start out as clean as possible.
More again later as the winter temperatures kick in and bunny coats begin to R-E-A-L-L-Y grow:) Fall in the NE is Angora weather alright, the very best time of a rabbit year:^).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What is a Grand Champion?

Another post from the old blog. Please be patient while I switch them all over!:-)

Today I thought I would write an entry to try to answer the question of what a 'Grand Champion' is and what significance should be attached to this title. I suppose this is a topic that may be viewed as political and in some ways it certainly is, but since there are many people who are new or looking to purchase new stock for the first time in the rabbit world, it is important to understand what 'titles' and 'legs' mean, and how important they are in assessing the quality of a rabbit line.

First of all, a Grand Championship can only be earned when a rabbit has had 3 wins which have earned him/her 3 legs. A 'win' qualifies as a 1st place in any class, or a 1st place out of several classes combined, as in the case of BOV (Best of Variety), BOS (Best Opposite Sex), and BOB (Best of Breed). A 'leg' can only be earned toward the Grand Championship (GC) if there are at least 5 rabbits in any class being shown by at least 3 exhibitors. IF there are less than this number being shown in a class OR in the whole show, a rabbit can still be awarded 1st place or BOB and proceed to the Best in Show table, but the win will not technically 'count' and the rabbit will not be able to earn a leg towards the championship with it.

There are many instances in which a GC may be earned or 'engineered' (for lack of a better word), and it is very important to keep this possibility in mind when looking at the pedigree of a prospective purchase. A GC is NOT necessarily a superior rabbit, and a rabbit who readily earns a championship in one area may not necessarily be able to accomplish the same feat in a location with more competition or a higher level of quality in the breed.

Since Angoras are relatively uncommon in the US there will naturally be certain areas where they are numerous, and other places where they are practically non-existent on the local show circuit. The ethics of this practice may be controversial, but there is no rule against entering unregistered rabbits in a show under more than one name, so 'competition' can often be artifically created when 1 or more breeders enter their animals in such a way as to qualify the winning rabbit for a leg. I am not attempting to pass judgment on this practice, but merely pointing out that it is certainly possible to manufacture impressive pedigrees without actually showing an animal under rigorous competition. Always be sure to question breeders as to what the level of competition normally is at their shows, and whether or not there were more than 3 exhibitors physically present at the shows where their Champions were produced.

Indications of the true quality of a line can be observed in the following situations:

1-The breeder's animals regularly win or place in the top half of sizable classes with large numbers of exhibitors in local shows.
2-The breeder's animals regularly win or place in the top ranks of their classes at National shows, particularly the ARBA Convention.
3-The breeder occasionally or frequently wins Best in Show in the Open class (which is awarded out of every breed of rabbit in a show)
4-The breeder consistently shows quality stock and places well in stiff competition with different animals, not just the same rabbits week in and week out over several consecutive show seasons.

Again, I do not want to insinuate that people who do NOT show in highly populated areas do not have animals of high quality, OR that people who do not show or earn GCs at all are not raising excellent rabbits. Indeed, there are some breeders whose rabbits have never been shown, granded, or even registered who often have better stock than the breeders who show every weekend and have very fancy pedigrees. It is purely a matter of preference whether a person chooses to submit their rabbits to showtable evaluation or not, and when push comes to shove the true measure of quality is in the general reputation of the breeder and the quality of the animals they breed. A reputable breeder will always answer questions directly and will never knowingly misrepresent their stock. For those who DO show, the good thing about winnings on a pedigree is that the buyer can use this information to dissect a line further and interpret the meanings of titles that were assigned.

In conclusion, there will always be honest breeders, and not so honest breeders:(. Research sources for stock by contacting breeders with relevant questions. Speak to people who can refer you to reputable rabbit raisers, and use common sense when faced with a situation (or breeder) who does not seem altogether truthful. It is important to strive for as many GC quality animals as possible in your breeding program, but be aware--also--of what a title means and doesn't mean. Do not be fooled into thinking that a highly decorated animal is necessarily any better than the one who has rarely been shown or has never seen the outside of a barn. In the final reckoning it is the overall quality of a line that counts, not the number of awards or legs a certain rabbit has accumulated. EVERYTHING is relative, remember. Especially in the show world:^).

Also, here are some current events before I finish this post:). I have been busy grooming mature coats this week and culling my herd down to final numbers before the next litters come, and I took several pictures of some of the keepers. My oldest juniors are now approaching 5-6 months of age with the rest being younger, and I've bred 3 more does for PA Convention jrs. Also, speaking of conventions! The big National ARBA Convention starts this week and I'm sure people are frantically getting ready and grooming their bunnies before the judging starts, <:-O. Obviously I am still at home and not one of those people, LOL, but I may attend 2010 and will most definitely be at 2011, since it should be swinging back to the east coast by then and there will be no excuse not to go, LOL.
This is a beautiful Fawn buck out of Morwenna's last litter who I went back and forth about selling but who I have now decided to keep because of his great balance and type.
And this is a horrible picture of a Chestnut buck tentatively named Angelo. Sorry about the blue lines. Argh!
And this is one of two Pearl does out of Oomi who are so close in quality that I kept them both to see how they develop:
And this is the very best doe/rabbit that has come out of last summer's breedings. I don't know what her senior coat will look like so I may have to eat my words yet, LOL, but as of now she has the best type, balance, and wool out of everyone, and I am hoping that she'll do well in the future. Her name is Spang's Magdeline:
And next here, believe it or not, is an F3 NZ/FA cross doe in her first Sr. coat! She has not grown it in all the way yet and I don't think her texture is as perfect as it should be, but she should make nice babies for the next generation, and she will be ready for the showtable if her coat looks good in a few months.

And last of all is the pick of Morwenna/Oberon's last litter, a very promising Tort doe at 4 months of age.

Have a great week and best of luck to all the Convention goers!!!!:^)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rabbit Personalities

(the above rabbit is Spang's Evariste, one of my favorite does and definitely in the 'Inquisitive' category, LOL. She is friendly, happy, and a wonderful breeder and mother, proving the author's point in the article below:-)

I recently read an article that talked about the personality of a doe and how it seemed to directly relate to mothering ability. This was an excellent example of observation on the breeder's part because I have noticed similar patterns in my own herd and have spoken to other people who have noticed these characteristics as well.

Basically this article addressed 4 distinct personalities. The first profile typed the really aggressive doe (not necessarily a biter but a rabbit who is high strung and ferociously protective of her nest and babies). According to the author, this type of doe tends to be a very attentive mother, but is also more likely to trample babies out of stress, cannibalize them, or simply hurt the litter out of fear (like during a thunderstorm, for ex.).

The second type is the kind of doe who is very timid. This kind of mother can either be great or terrible, depending on whether she stays calm enough to do her job or allows her 'emotion' to get the best of her. If this type of doe gets frightened or feels threatened, she may neglect her litter entirely.

The third personality is the 'lazy' doe. According to the author of this article this is the WORST kind of rabbit to use simply because it does not care about breeding, kindling, mothering, or much of anything when it comes right down to it. These are the rabbits we work hard to get bred for months (or even years) but who refuse to cooperate, and these are the ones who drop babies on the wire with total disregard for the nestbox, and who refuse to care for them in general (in my own experience, these does often never get milk at all).

The 'lazy doe' personality type is the worst to have in the opinion of the author. This animal is simply not worth having because it is impossible to use for breeding, and apathy in this area is not something to perpetuate in future generations.

In the Angora breeds, the 'lazy doe' personality type is fairly common. Without pointing a finger or mentioning any specific breed, there are certain lines of Angora that have been selected for such docile personalities that they have completely lost the desire to do anything 'rabbit-like' such as breeding and raising litters. These animals, though they make excellent pets and woolers for certain people, are very often disastrous for breeding programs because they refuse to breed, kindle well, or nurse. No matter what the quality of any animal is, it should be culled immediately if the genetic material that makes it so wonderful cannot be extracted and easily reproduced.

The 4th doe personality type is what is called the 'Inquisitive' rabbit. According to this breeding article this is the most desired and excellent of all doe personalities. This rabbit is friendly, curious, and outgoing. She does not mind the breeder fiddling in her cage or with her litters, and is always pleased to see people and be cared for. She is not fidgety, nervous, or aggressive, but has a healthy attitude toward her surroundings and caretakers. These are those RELIABLE does we love so much!!:).

Anyway, I thought these classifications were really excellent, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. Aggressive rabbits are never preferred even when they don't actually bite, but they do tend to conceive well and raise healthy litters. Timid does can do the same as long as they are calm, and theirs is the personality type that thrives best with a predictable managment schedule. Lazy does have nothing going for them in any breeding program for the most part, and should either be culled or slated for the pet/wooler market. Inquisitive rabbits are undoubtedly the best animals, and I have correlated this type in my barn with the best and most reliable producers, too.

French Angoras in general tend to have more active personalities than the other Angora breeds, but they are also known as superior breeders and mothers, so I do not think this is a coincidence. It also seems clear that since a commercial bodied angora is dual purpose by definition, it is just as important for them to produce meat as it is to produce wool. The French, Satin, and Giant Angoras have commercial bodies, and this versatility is key to their survival, IMO. FAs continue to be popular because they are low maintenance, vigorous, and highly successful in the breeding/meat department, and commercial standards are acceptable because they are capable of high production and rapid gains in type and wool quality.
More again next time, and enjoy the Fall weather!:-)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Selection For and Against Traits

According to the same book I've been discussing for the last three entries (Rabbit Production), certain traits have certain degrees of heritability. On pg. 326 the authors say that,

"In general, traits related to fertility and disease resistance are lowly heritable (<15>40 percent)".

Improving traits that are lowly heritable is accomplished by establishing culling levels rather than by direct selection. In other words, to breed better mothers or does who conceive more readily with fewer misses, simply cull out does who do not take care of their babies or continually fail to conceive.

Improving traits that are moderately to highly heritable, on the other hand, is best achieved through Direct Selection. For example, if you are trying to improve the density on your FAs (a moderately heritable trait), then you should select and breed only those rabbits who display superior wool/density, and gradually your herd will improve in that area.

A place where much more specific selection must take place revolves around the color genetics of a herd. In this case, rabbits are born with specific genotypes (genetic codes), and when we breed them together those codes are combined in various ways in the offspring. Selective culling to get rid of certain color traits will not work in this instance, because simply getting rid of a baby who is a Chinchilla will not eradicate the Chinchilla gene in the parents or your herd. In order to completely get rid of certain genes in an offspring they must be selectively and intentionally bred out. Even Direct Selection will not eliminate undesirables, because choosing to breed only those rabbits who are NOT Chinchilla won't work. The gene can be carried even though the rabbit does not express it. Genes may lurk for generations until specific breeding combinations bring them out, and this is especially obvious in the area of color .

If I am looking to eliminate Chin from my litters completely (just as an example), the only way to do it would be to breed a Chin Carrier to a REW, and the resulting babies will then be devoid of 'chd' because of the contribution of a small c from the white parent. In color genetics, rules of selection apply that do not come into play with other traits.

There are many ways to select for and against different traits in a rabbit herd. Although methods may vary, the most important thing to remember is that breeders need to select clear goals for their herds and then stick to them! Circumstances change and goals alter whenever we learn something new, but as long as you choose your methods of selection and stand by them for the long term, your herd will progress. I once asked a very well known rabbit breeder what she considered the most important factor in developing a winning herd and she said, "Consistency". Understanding how trait selection works goes a long way toward increasing the quality of your herd, and is well worth the effort and research:).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Genetic Selection Stuff

Okay, continuing with heritability of traits, here is a chart that actually breaks down each individual component of an Angora coat to determine the heritability of each separate characteristic (I realize this is a little in-depth for even the most neurotic among us, LOL, but it's definitely interesting information:)). This chart is also taken from the 'Rabbit Production' book on pg. 334 (8th Edition):

Trait--- % Heritability

Wool Yield: 1st and 2nd harvest 0.20-0.23
1st thru 5th harvest 0.19-0.33
3rd or later harvest 0.23

Wool Characteristics:

Back bristle length 0.25
Back down length 0.16
Back lock structure 0.17
Compression 0.19
Haunch bristle length 0.25
Haunch down length 0.15
Homogeneity 0.18
Resilience 0.18
Tautness 0.09

Basically the point here and what the authors seem to be trying to say is that Wool is fairly changeable and subject to improvement by selection. On pg. 335 of the same book it says, "Since heritability is moderate, genetic progress for wool traits will largely be determined by how rigorously the breeder selects. This will in turn depend, in part, on the size of the herd. If the herd consists, for example, of only 2 bucks and 10 does, the breeder cannot practice intense selection because there will not be many offspring from which to select, despite the high degree of genetic influence for wool traits."

In other parts of this book and according to info. I have read from other sources, serious linebreeding cannot occur in herds that consist of fewer than 50 animals. While it is not necessary to have hundreds of rabbits (and not practical in our case with the maintenance needs of an Angora), a decent-sized gene pool is still important to create in order to preserve vigor and variation in your herd. Lots of breeders I know have smaller herds and simply buy stock in from other rabbitries every once in awhile, but I have a closed herd here so I have enlarged my herd to approx. 60 FAs in order to keep going without bringing in new stock.

Another interesting point according to many long term breeders is that it is far easier to improve and set Wool than it is to fix Type. I am finding that wool faults in many of my own rabbits fix themselves in 1-2 generations if I breed each doe to a mate that compliments their shortcomings, but Type is much more difficult to set, and it is a long, slow process of building and improving one section at a time. When I breed to work out a type problem, I find that I need to put alot more thought into what I am doing and who I am breeding in order to improve a certain trait because they do not fix themselves overnight:(.

More stuff next time and have a great week!:-)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bunny Misc. Stuff

I have come to the conclusion today that it is beyond impossible to take a good picture of a rabbit before the age of 12 weeks:(:(. As I think about it now I realize that I have been trying to do this for years---I have been taking them out, distracting them, encouraging them to pose, cajoling, threatening, holding them down and then releasing them at the last possible second, and using all kinds of silly/useless methods to try to make them do what they obviously do not want to do, which is sit in one place for as long as it takes me to snap a semi-legible picture, LOL.

The littlest ones are the worst, of course. Their nosiness constantly overtakes them until they become so distracted by the table (top, sides, and bottom), the room, kids, walls, camera, etc, etc, that there is nothing to do but forget the whole thing and stick the little buggers back in their cages:). This is the kind of thing that they do:





and my very favorite, which is this:

So from now on I am just going to photograph those bunnies who are mature enough to handle a .236 second distraction on a grooming table, and leave the rest for a later date, LOL:).

I got lots of grooming done this weekend and have more to do again tomorrow, but here are a few of the finished buns who will be staying around here for future showing (with the exception of one or two).

The bunny below is an Ermine, who came out of the last litter of Evariste and Pierre. The color Ermine is not recognized in the FA standard, but it is basically a derivative of the Chin gene that can be used to produce other, showable colors. I am currently playing with the idea of using this rabbit to produce some Chins in the future because it is an absolutely stunning color, but I am not quite sure if I want to add one more project (or color) to those I already have.

This bunny below is another buck out of Eva's litter, a Sable. This bunny is actually for sale at the moment because I have another Sable buck that I am keeping. He is 11 1/2 weeks old and is a very large, solid baby with wonderful density and color. If you would like further details you can email me at I will be delivering several rabbits to the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY in October and can easily take him along.

And below is an older baby who is currently in Junior Prime at approx. 4 months of age. This is 'Spang's Isadore' and she is a Sable Pearl out of Neva and Dijon.

Below also is a Chestnut buck who is nearly 4 months old (sorry about the horrendous green line running through the picture:( ) out of Devaki and Dijon. He was due to be sold a couple of weeks ago but then I noticed that the ring color in his coat was not developing as it should so I am keeping him here instead. He is a beautiful rabbit with fabulous type and wool, but Agoutis I have had in the past with faint rings in the baby coat did not often develop good definition in the adult coat, so I am keeping him here until the Sr. coat develops to see what happens. If he pans out and looks good then I may use him to produce more and better Chestnuts. If not, he will have to be culled.

This little girl is a littermate to Isadore, the Pearl doe shown above. She is by far one of the best bunnies to come out of my summer breedings---large, well-balanced, with great type and color (and good wool too, LOL). Her name is Spang's Magdeline:

And this is a Fawn buck below---a littermate to the Chestnut buck. He is also a nice bunny with particularly good fawn color, though clearly he is not at his best in front of a yellow wall (LOLOL). This is Spang's Henryi:

There are many more up and coming babies (too young to photograph now) who are also promising and who will make nice additions to the herd. All in all I am very happy with the results of this year's breeding season. Nice litters were born and none of them (with the exception of the Ermine and one lop-eared bunny) were unshowable. There were no genetic DQs, and everyone was healthy.
Anyway, last but not least---here are 3 pics that I included of our trip last week to Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium. The first is of some (crazy!!) people climbing up the mast of a 19th century whaling ship that was on display to furl the sails, and the last are of my boys clowning around behind a painted funny-board in the Seaport village, LOL.

More stuff again next time. Have a great week!:).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Genetic Selection--Part I

-Another repost from the old blog:)

Many experienced rabbit raisers say that the real skill of a breeder lies not in their ability to breed, but in their ability to cull. If we sit down and really think about this, breeding becomes much more of a challenge than it may first appear because there are so many questions to ask about why we are doing what we are doing, and so many things to consider with the variables involved.

Genetic characteristics fall into two general categories, Qualitative and Quantitative. Qualitative traits are those which require only one or a few pairs of genes to express themselves, and Quantitative characteristics are influenced by many pairs of genes. Examples of traits that fall into the Qualitative category include wool color or the presence of wool itself (vs. fur), and examples of Quantitative traits include fertility, growth rate, milk production, wool density, and disease resistance. In other words, the improvement of quantitative traits is difficult and takes longer simply because there are so many genes at work producing effects that accumulate slowly over a much longer period of time (this principle is known as additive gene action).

Here are some portions of a great Table located in the 'Rabbit Production' book on pg. 326 which describes the heritability percentages for certain Quantitative traits. Much of the info. on this chart relates to meat production characteristics, but much of it also applies to the behaviors and traits of practically any rabbit breed. Several characteristics are listed along with a % of heritability for each trait according to the studies that were conducted:

Trait Percent Heritability (range according to various studies)

Litter Size born alive 2.1--10.0
Nest-building ability 24.0
Milk Production 27.0--45.5
Enteritis and Pnemonia deaths 12.0
Body weight: 1 day 40.0
30 days 17.0
56 days 22.6
70 days 12.0--38.0
77 days 19.0
Gain: 28-70 days 17.0
30-70 days 44.0
30-77 days 23.0
Loin Width (56 days): 60.0

There is another, more detailed Angora chart included in this book that breaks down the heritability of certain wool characteristics which I will post later this week. To boil the whole thing down simply---there are certain traits which are very easy to breed into a line, and others which are much more stubborn to set and require more deliberation and effort on the part of a breeder. Things like Milk Production or Growth Rate (which according to this chart are highly heritable), are easier to improve than something like 'Litter Size born alive', which is very vague and would depend very heavily on environmental variables.

I will post alot more on this topic since it is interesting and has alot of bearing on the traits we select for and how much progress we can expect to make in our breeding programs. 'Rabbit Production' sums it up very well on pg. 330 when it says, "the higher the heritability and the more intense the selection, the more rapid the expected rate of progress". If we manipulate traits that respond most readily and then cull hard to get the desired results in our herds, we cannot help but end up with litters that consistently outperform their parents (which is the goal of any good breeder, LOL:)).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Guidelines for Color I.D.

Here are a couple of helpful guidelines to follow for identifying certain colors in the FA standard in the nestbox. Color ID gets much easier and less-terrifying over time, LOL, especially when you own the parents, grandparents and G. grandparents and have a good idea what to expect. Even when the bunnies come from brand new lines though, identifying them is not so difficult if you know what to look for. The colors below can develop into several different varieties depending on what is in the background of the baby and what it carries genetically, but narrowing the field is the first step toward eliminating confusion and helping to identify them as adults later on.


1) Pink/White--will be either REW, BEW, Pointed White, or Pearl
2) Solid Black--will be either Black, Seal, or Gold or Silver Tipped Steel
3) Solid Brown--will be either Chocolate, Sable, or Gold or Silver Tipped Chocolate Steel
4) Solid Blue--will be either Blue, Gold or Silver Tipped Blue Steel, Sable or Smoke Pearl
5) Solid Grey/Purplish--will be either Lilac or Gold or Silver Tipped Lilac Steel
6) Black with white belly--will be either Chestnut or Chinchilla
7) Brown with white belly--will be either Chocolate Agouti or Chocolate Chinchilla
8) Blue with white belly--will be either Opal or Blue Chinchilla (Squirrel)
9) Tan with white belly--will be either Lynx or Lilac Chinchilla
10) Tan with blue, black, chocolate, or lilac mask and demarcations along the sides--will be one of the Torts
11) Solid Tan--light or dark Red/Orange--will be one of the widebands (Cream, Fawn, or Red), OR possibly Sable because Sable does start off tan in some cases
12) White Splotches mixed in with any other color--will be Broken

I have not included unrecognized colors such as Self Chins, Sable Chins, Smoke Pearl Chins, Ermines, and Tan patterns, etc. in this description, only because they do not occur often and do not fit the accepted color standard for the breed. Unusual colors CAN occur, of course, but they are not that common and only confuse the issue for beginning breeders, so it is better to focus on the accepted ones first:)
More next time again as life settles down and there are way less bunnies hanging around this place, LOL. We are now down to only about 30 or 40 rascals, so soon I will be able to catch my breath and sit down again, at least until the whole thing starts over in the fall. :-D :-D

Friday, August 29, 2008

Picture Stuff

I am just posting a bunch of pictures I've taken of babies recently, though there are a whole bunch more coming up after that, LOL! The first shot here is of Giacomo right before his first clipping. At the moment he is growing in his first Sr. coat which looks very even and dense. He is a beautiful boy that I'm looking forward to showing:

And this is Arcadia, who has also been clipped and is rapidly growing in a new coat:

This is Evariste, who just weaned her second litter and is growing the rest of her coat. Time will tell if she will be ready to show this season or not, but either way she is a large doe with good type and really great adult texture.

This is Oberon, a buck out of Sadako and Dijon, who sired his first litters this summer with Morwenna and Juno and is also growing in his 1st Sr. coat:).

And here are a few of the 13-14 week old babies currently in the barn--a Sable Pearl (doe), a Chestnut (buck), and a Tort (doe).

This last bunny here is a really beautiful Black doe out of Evariste and Dijon. I took this pic of her earlier today before her first clipping at age 6 1/2 months. One thing I have noticed this year is that almost all of the babies born (that stayed in my rabbitry) seemed to hold their baby coats anywhere from 6 1/2-7 months, whereas the hold time previously was about 5-6. Even the cross rabbits (the F3 buns) all held for 6 months, which was very exciting to say the least:). Summer coats are generally slower growing and don't last quite as long as the winter coats so this is good news as long as the Prime period extends itself in addition to that and the quality of the coat stays intact. This girl here (along with the other buns her age in the barn) have only slightly begun to shed into the dropping pans, and the wool is still tight and grooms well.

More again next time---there are many more buns to clip tomorrow:-)