Saturday, April 24, 2010


Today the first four litters of the year passed the 2 week mark, and I took everyone out of their nestboxes to change the stuffing and disinfect everything. While the bunnies waited for their little 'houses' to dry and become livable again, they all hung out in towel-lined laundry baskets, which gave me the perfect opportunity to take pictures without all that hay and wool in the way:-).

This first picture is of Etienne's litter---a few Torts, Blacks, and one Sable:

This is Marin's litter--also Torts, Blacks, Sables, and one Sable Pearl thrown in:).

Yvonne's litter had lots of variety in it--Sable, Sable Pearl, Tort, and 1 Seal there in the middle:

The three pictures below are of Natalya's litter with Sables, Sable Pearls, Torts, a Black, and 3 Seals (shown close-up in the first shot):

And this is a close-up of the two Pearls in Nat's litter, where you can see the great shading that will probably indicate very good color in the Senior coats.

After each box was cleaned and filled with fresh hay, all the litters were returned to their respective nests where they promptly and instantly fell asleep (a laundry basket can wear a baby out, alright--grin). Of course all these nests will have to be covered overnight in order to keep the occupants from jumping out as soon as they get hungry in the morning, but for now they are still content to sleep most of the day and not worry about much else:).

Anyway, more again next week when new breedings are added to the schedule and everyone who is inside will permanently be moved outside. Have a great week!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rhinebeck Show and Open BIS

Well, this weekend was the final show for the buns and I in Rhinebeck NY, and it ended on a wonderful note with an Open BIS for Spang's Carmen in Show B. As luck would have it I did not bring my camera again (of all days! *grin*), but I would probably not have had much time to use it anyhow since I spent most of the day registering rabbits, talking, or zipping around on other errands (including showing occasionally:)). LOL.

There were two shows held with Deb Vecchio and Don Havlicek judging, and there were about 25 FAs entered by 5 exhibitors. Carmen took BOB in both shows with Anton taking BOS in Show B, and Diana earned BOVs in Show A & B, also.

Since I don't have any current photos of Carmen from this weekend, I will just post the same shot I took last week in Long Island while she was on the grooming table. She is also pictured from a few weeks earlier in the margin of this blog:

Carmen is a daughter of Etienne and Giacomo and the grandaughter of Juno and Morwenna. She is 10 months old at this point, so she will get clipped and bred this week to Spang's Diego, a very nice REW boy who's been biding his time around here waiting for a bunch of girlfriends, LOL:).

Aside from this exciting weekend, the latest litters are growing like weeds and have just passed the one week mark. Margaux is pregnant for sure and Juno may or may not be (that still remains to be seen:)). In a couple of days I will be adding Carmen, Bijou, Kimba, and Diana to the Momma pool, and then we'll see how everything goes.

Anyway, more again next time as life gets back to normal and the usual bunny routines are restored. Have a fantastic week and keep on breeding!:-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Old Bethpage, NY Show

Yesterday I went to the Long Island show in Old Bethpage (for the first time), and it turned out to be a very nice place:). There were few FAs and EAs entered (no SAs or GAs) and the show itself was small, probably because you had to drive through the city and onto the Long Island Expressway in order to get to it, LOL!

It took place in an old Restoration Village, and the building we were housed in was GORGEOUS. Here is a picture of how it looked on the outside:

This is how it looked like on the inside. NICE, huh??

This was the hall as it was filling up with exhibitors in the morning:

And these are some pictures I snapped of Carmen and Bijou while I was grooming:

There were only 12 FAs entered in both these shows, and the judge for the first was Donna Grimm (a member of my rabbit club at home who recently got her license:)), and the judge for the second was Bob Shaftoe. In show A, Spang's Diana took BOB with a buck belonging to Aileen Brown taking BOS, and in the second show, Spang's Diana took BOB and Spang's Anton took BOS.

Here is a picture of Donna Grimm judging:

And here is Bob Shaftoe:

One fabulous thing about watching Shaftoe judge is his extraordinary understanding of FA wool. Few people know this, but he has been a judge for 40 years and was one of the people who actually helped write the FA Standard. Something he does that practically no other judge attempts is to examine the structure of wool from the base of the hair shaft all the way up to the tip. He comments on density, density on the back, sides, and underside of a rabbit, overall evenness of density, and density as it relates to the precise stage a coat is in on that day. He examines the coat to determine whether the guards are the proper length as compared to the underwool, what type of crimp the coat has, whether a coat has the right amount of crimp to balance itself, and whether the crimp is tight enough to support the weight of a prime coat and give it body, strength, and form.

One fascinating distinction he made during the show had to do with degree of crimp in a coat. He said that if a crimp pattern is correct (the degree of 'zig zagging' is ideal) then a coat should have just the perfect amount of lift, prime texture, and condition. The gap between the length of the underwool and length of the guard hair in a well-crimped coat should be no more than 1/2- 3/4 inch, and if the crimp in a coat is LOOSE (or too relaxed, or non-existent), then the coat will not have proper strength, but will be flat and hang straight down off the rabbit instead. He said that a coat in the slipping stage will have this quality as well.

A 'slip' in an angora coat is defined as relaxation of the crimp pattern (in the underwool) of a mature coat, so that it ceases to support itself and literally begins to 'collapse'. You can see this very clearly in a French coat (and maybe the SA coat too) because the unique oval shape falls apart and becomes less distinct. As a slip advances further, 'scales' on each guard hair open up and cause a rougher appearance, and the shine associated with prime condition (where the scales are lying flat and reflecting light), also disappears. From that point the coat matts up as the open scales begin to stick to each other, and a little while later the hairs release from their follicles in a full-fledged molt.

Some other interesting points Bob mentioned (it is always a great to pick this man's brains at a small show, LOL!) is that the first place adult guard hairs begin to show up in a junior coat are at the tops of the back legs and around the base of the tail, HQ, and lower stomach. Also, the more furnishings an FA has on it's ears and face, the softer it's adult coat is likely to be. The amount of adult guards a French has is directly proportional to how clean it's face and feet will be.

I was very interested to see what Bob would have to say about my doe Bijou, whose coat is racing in but is still unfinished. I said earlier on this blog that I thought she had one of the best coats I've ever bred, so I was gratified to hear him say (after a thorough and lengthy examination, LOL) that her crimp was the best he's ever seen on an FA. (BG!)) She won BOV Colored and didn't manage to go much further, but I am glad to know that her coat is one that I can encourage in future breedings and spread the quality of to other areas of my herd.

Anyway, so that was how the weekend went. The Rhinebeck show is coming up next week, and after that I think we will be finished and the majority of my show string will need to be clipped down and bred. Last week 4 litters were born to Etienne, Marin, Yvonne, and Natalya (8,7, 13, and 11 babies respectively), and there will be more on the way as everyone else gets bred and the breeding season takes off:-).

Have a great week and enjoy this spring weather. May all your does be bred and your nestboxes be full!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Importance of Good Conformation

---Another post from the old blog

I read some posts on the Meat Rabbit list the other day that made very good sense and bear repeating for a number of excellent reasons. The posts were discussing such issues as sore hocks and other joint problems, and a poster made the important point that culling for good type and correct conformation will eliminate most of these problems in rabbits.

Good conformation is defined as a good structure ('skeletal' type) resulting in correct balance/distribution. A rabbit with good conformation is one which exhibits excellent bone and type for it's breed description, and possesses traits that are considered 'standard' for that type profile. The ARBA standards as we know them have been in place for many years. Contrary to popular belief, they were not developed solely for the purpose of developing animals that are pleasing to look at, but they were created to develop lines that are strong, hardy, and likely to endure into the future.

There are 5 different kinds of type profiles in the ARBA standard: semi-arch, compact, full arch, commercial, and cylindrical types. Since FAs are commercially typed I will focus on that here, but the same principles apply to all breeds in terms of bone, structural quality, and balance.

If a rabbit has good bone (the front leg feels solid when you wrap your fingers around it above the ankle), then chances are excellent that it will gain weight quickly and arrive at the desired weight within an appropriate amount of time. A rabbit with good bone quality is also healthier, thriftier, a better eater, and is more likely pass health and size onto it's offspring.

If a rabbit is nice and full at the lower hindquarter (not pinched or cowhocked), then the foot placement will be straighter and the feet will rest at a better angle on the wire, leading to fewer problems with sore hocks. Also, a rabbit with a wide enough rear foot placement that your flat hand can be slid between both legs will not have problems with urination on the insides of it's legs (something that can cause severe discomfort in rabbits with cowhocks).

Good depth/a proper rise will ensure that the balance point of the rabbit falls over the top of the hip and not behind or before it. This ensures that the rabbit is balanced when it moves and there is no strain over the weaker parts of the skeleton.
In terms of the unique requirements of Angoras and the necessity of being sheared, a smooth body with no protruding hips, bones, or hollow areas (poor meat condition where the flesh has not filled out over the body) will aid greatly in ease of harvest and make it much less likely that the rabbit will be nicked during wool removal.

When culling for better rabbits, always select those babies who feel solid when you pick them up, and who display excellent vigor and good appetite. When checking type on potential keepers make sure that the top of the rabbit begins to rise directly behind the ears (an immediate rise is ideal), and that the loin (very top of the hip) is high enough so that you do not feel the hip bones jutting out on either side. If the loin is high but you feel jutting bones anyway, flip the rabbit over to see whether the back legs are parallel to each other or form a 'V'. If they form a 'V' then there is probably a cowhock/weak lower hindquarter problem causing the tips of the toes to turn out and forcing the hip bones to jut higher up at the same time. Another way to check for cowhocks is to hold the rabbit under the front legs with it's back facing you and dangle both hind legs straight down. If the feet fall straight then the legs are fine, if they turn out in a relaxed position the rabbit is likely cowhocked.

Turn the bunny loose on a flat surface to see how it hops. If the hopping gait is balanced and easy then it probably indicates a well-typed rabbit. If it is awkward and abrupt (or seems to be lagging and off kilter) then there may well be a skeletal problem of some sort.

There are a few type traits that practically never improve on a young rabbit, and there are others that DO often change that we can make allowances for when culling:

Basic NON-changing traits include:

-low shoulders (indicated by a late rise or poor depth)
-lack of depth (long, flat rabbit rather than one that has a direct rise behind the ears and over the hip)
-pinched lower hindquarters/cowhocks
-jutting pinbones (a 'rocky' end)

Basic 'Changeable' traits include:

-width (a rabbit will generally not get any 'higher' but it CAN get 'wider' with age. Traits such as narrow shoulders will generally improve and fill out)
-meat condition (as a rabbit grows and eats, it's flesh condition should improve and harden. As long as the underlying skeleton is good, a breeder can expect that a healthy, well-fed rabbit will improve in this area)

Type traits do not include wool, obviously, as that is a different area that is usually a little harder to define. I have found that while I can often get an IDEA of what the Senior coat will look like based on the baby wool, it is not always as clear cut as type traits may be. A beautiful baby coat does not necessarily indicate an outstanding adult coat, particularly when you are talking about things such as non-synchronized growth which some shearing FA lines still display. The more linebred a herd is, the fewer wildcards there are and the easier it becomes to predict these factors.

Anyway, this is a little about conformation and how important it is for livestock to possess, particularly rabbits. Although there are breeders who keep rabbits strictly for wool/meat who are very conscious of these traits, there are others who feel that type is not important if they do not show. Practically speaking, good conformation should be important to EVERY breeder in the rabbit world regardless of purpose, particularly if they want a strong, thriving herd that is free of breeding and management problems.