Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Break

Hi Everyone,

I hate to admit it but I am going to have to take a summer break from blogging once again from today until the middle of September rolls around:(. I have a ridiculously full plate at the moment with kid and other activities, and I am arranging shows to finish up the practical part of my Registrar's license which needs to be handled as well. I will be back right away as soon as Fall starts and the shows get going, and I should have an entirely new crop of babies to show off and post pics of as well:). So far there are 4 new litters in my barn with 5 more coming up over the next week or two, so things will definitely be insanely busy:-).

Anyway, have a great, GREAT summer, and I hope all the buns stay happy and cool until Fall comes again and we all have the chance to relax:-). I can easily be reached by email if anyone needs to get in touch with me, otherwise I'll see you all again in Sept.

Happy Grooming!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


--another post from the old blog!

Well, I was happily taking pictures of my babies at 9 weeks when my camera batteries suddenly went dead, and the absence of a spare set forced me to stop what I was doing and put the batteries into the recharger til tomorrow:(. Well, that works out alright since I can just post them tomorrow instead---but as I was grooming and checking out coats and texture on the babies and some of the adults today, I noticed a few extra things about wool that I thought I would brainstorm with tonight:).

Lately I've been in the habit of grooming out my babies, plopping them onto the grooming table, and then standing back to look at them from zillions of different angles:). First of all I look hard at the profile (which is probably the best angle to check for balance), and then I check them from the front and then from the TOP, in a kind of aerial view. When looking at the profile the thing I am mainly checking for is balance. Now, good balance means that no part of the rabbit is out of sync with any other part. No part is too high, or too low, or too flat, and no part sticks out abnormally far in any direction (if that makes sense:)). A rabbit with excellent balance looks good any way it sits from pretty much any angle, but a rabbit that lacks balance looks awkward, and when you look at it you find yourself wishing that it had more height, depth, roundness, etc. etc. etc, making the concept a very difficult thing to define. The longer I am in rabbits the more I realize that MUCH of what we look for in a good one is hard to explain and put our finger on, but as is so often said about anything exceptional, you'll know it when we see it:).

Next, I try to examine the rabbit head on to determine ear carriage, headset, and the 'evenness' of the coat from the front. The FA is widely known for it's distinctive 'oval' shape, but what we don't realize at first is that it is oval from the front of the animal as well. A good coat should present even density all around the head and back, and the hem of the dewlap should be perfectly even so as not to break up the baseline of the coat. Ear carriage and headset are not critically important in angoras, but I like to see that they are still in balance with the rest of the animal and the head snuggles back into a 'pillow' of wool behind the face.

Today I just had two baby REW does out (which I'll post pictures of tomorrow), and while both were perfectly equal in terms of type, one had a distinctly silkier coat than the other, which had the type of textured coat that you would usually expect to find on an adult. Interestingly, there was no real difference in density between the two rabbits because the same amount of of underwool was present on both, but there was certainly a difference in the shape of the animal, which could clearly be seen by viewing the coat from above.

In FA coats (and probably all angoras to different extents), everything seems to come down to this: there are two types of 'hair' in a French Angora coat, and each has a specific and unique function. The underwool, which is CRITICAL for density in the angora breeds, is a 'crimped' type of wool with tiny zigzags present in each shaft of hair from the skin level to the tips. These 'zigzags' are what give strength to the wool, meaning that their shape enables them to support a heavy coat from underneath. The zigzags in underwool also provide Compression (like springs), so that when you grab a fistful of healthy prime wool in your hand and let it go, it 'springs' back rather than falls limply out of your hand. An excellent coat with a BALANCE of guard hair and underwool should be completely self supporting in an FA. It should stand out evenly all around the animal and give it life and density, while a 'bad' coat will look flat and limp because there is no crimp or 'strength' to support the hair from underneath and give it loft.

Guard hair has a completely opposite function in a wool coat----it provides Shape and Finish. When I looked at these two little does today I realized that while both had equal amounts of density, the one with the textured coat had a beautiful, uniform shape which remained the same no matter how she sat or moved. The baby with the silkier coat had an oval shape too, but it was not as defined as the other one's, and it was more likely to alter it's shape as it moved around. Time would prove the difference here, but if I had to guess I would say that the silkier baby is going to have a harder time holding it's coat in the future. She may not be able to hold it as long, and when it starts to slip it will probably look disheveled and much 'messier', shortening her time on the showtable and making the quality of the wool decline more rapidly. It is very clear to me today that what I am shooting for is a perfect ratio of guard hair to underwool to provide balance and density, but I am ALSO looking for the proper TEXTURE, because that is the quality that ropes in density and gives it the shape, form, and longevity that a good FA coat needs.

I think the next thing I will check out is what happens to the crimp when the coat gets old and starts to molt. If my observation about the zigzags holds up, the underwool should gradually lengthen, relax, and straighten, which would explain why the compression of an old coat decreases (or we get 'lack of life to the wool', as a judge would say), and we find that the coat as a whole gets flatter with the straightening and begins to lose it's shape before it actually releases.

In conclusion, I guess we could say that an excellent prime coat with lots of density HAS to have nice, tight, crimp from the skin to the tips, while a molting coat or a coat without density will be lax, fairly straight, and in some cases lack crimp entirely when you blow into the wool. When choosing your keepers it is important to feel the wool but also look at it, and never hold onto anything that does not show evidence of the critical supporting underwool and textured guard hair that make an outstanding FA coat !

Monday, July 6, 2009

Current Events

It's been a busy couple of weeks in the rabbitry so I thought I'd give an update of what's been going on this week:).

At this point all the spring litters have been sorted out and the keepers have been set aside, and the summer litters are starting to come in:). Starting last week there were 2 litters from Etienne and Yvonne. Etienne is a Tort who hasn't been shown yet---she had 3 Torts and 2 REWs with Giacomo. Yvonne (one of my REW F3 doe) gave birth to a litter of 7 with the same sire as Etienne---2 Torts and 5 REWs. Yesterday and early this morning Devaki and Juno had litters. Devaki had 1 Black, some Torts and a REW or two (it is hard to tell what is what yet colorwise:)), and Juno had only 2, which were promptly fostered into Devaki's bunch.

There are more litters expected over the next couple of weeks, and I will be rebreeding Juno tomorrow along with Sabini, who was just sheared yesterday and is ready for her first litter. Morwenna was due earlier in the week but didn't have anything. It is rare for her to miss, but she is getting older now at age 3. She was rebred also and I'll see how she does in a month:).

We have had UNBELIEVABLY cool weather here in NY this summer, including a ridiculous, record amount of rain:(. The holiday weekend was the first sunny time we've had in weeks, and hopefully things will continue to improve as the summer goes on:).

I took a few pics of my new buns, though there are many more babies in the barn that need to be brought out and photographed. I am really excited about the type on some of these new buns. Both the NZ crosses and the purebreds are getting higher and higher, and there was only one DQ this spring out of 63 babies born. This bunny below is a keeper out of the first litter of the year (born 1/25) right before her clipping. This is Spang's Karenina--9SP1:

I also kept another doe out of this litter from Morwenna--Spang's Davita:).

Below is one of the dark Pearls that came out of Juno's last litter, a very nice (and BIG) buck that I am calling Anton. He has a sister who was very small in the beginning but that I have decided to hold onto to see how she turns out. She also has really wonderful type.

These next two photos are of 2 REWs that came out of NZ/FA does. Both have good NZ type, though the wool on the buck (2nd picture) is much better at this point (there are about 6 of these babies total in the barn right now). It will be interesting to see what happens with these rabbits in the F4 generation. As yet none of the crosses have been able to be shown after the senior coat came in, but maybe some of these will finally make it:).

This last series of pictures is of Spang's Sabini, who grew a beautiful prime coat this summer just as soon as all the shows were over (LOLOL!). I sheared her last night in preparation for her first breeding, so hopefully she will have some nice little ones to show off this fall:).

Aside from this there is not much else going on (other than the day-to-day maintenance stuff). I have several rabbits to get registered this week, and I need to line up shows for the fall to finish up my Registrar's license (which by some miracle I did happen to pass. LOL!).

Hope everyone out there is having a COOL summer (though I hear the temps have been high out west). Be back again next week with more stuff:-).