Archive for March, 2011

Line-breeding Rabbits

March 29, 2011

baby rabbits in a nestboxIf you are starting out, you may have heard of line breeding rabbits.  Perhaps you’ve seen a “line breeding chart”  and perhaps it didn’t make much sense.  When I started in rabbits I often heard, “you’ll do best to line breed”,  but it was a long time before I realized the value of line breeding.  Now that I have developed my own lines in two breeds, I think I understand it better.  I have not made an outcross or purchased an animal for breeding in years, and yet my herd’s condition and show records continually improve.


What is line breeding?

Line breeding is a careful process of breeding closely related animals, in an effort to improve individual traits in your rabbits.


How does a “line” begin?

All great lines start with a few good rabbits.  The breeder breeds these rabbits together and keeps the best offspring.  They breed the offspring back to the parents and then those second-generation offspring back to the parents and grandparents and to each other, and so on, always selecting the strongest pairs and keeping only the best kits.  As time goes on, the herd branches out.  The rabbits get more and more distantly related as the foundation stock gets pushed farther and farther back on the pedigree.    Then what often happens is that the line produces an exceptional buck that the breeder uses on all their does, and the process begins again.


Why should you line breed? 
Line breeding is all about consistency.  If you want long-term success with your animals, line breeding is your best bet.  Sure, the occasional outcross may bring you a winning rabbit, but such an animal rarely breeds true (that is, consistently produces offspring as good or better that itself.)  The key that I think people often don’t realize is this: that rabbits can carry recessive traits for fur, type, and condition as well as for color!  These recessive traits might be good, and they might be bad.  If you consistently mate rabbits of similar backgrounds, eventually all the good and bad traits contained in a line will surface.  The breeder can utilize the rabbits with good traits and reject the rabbits with bad ones.  Eventually (at least, in theory), you should be able to produce consistently good animals without having many surprises crop up in your litters.  The other advantage to line breeding is that your will learn how rabbits in your line should look at various ages.  Kits of some lines develop faster than others, and by knowing what you can expect from your growing juniors, you can cull at an earlier age.

Having a unified line, where all rabbits are fairly similar, gives you the opportunity to tackle problems one at a time.  If you have a barn full of animals from different lines, they will show many different strengths and weaknesses.  But if you have a barn full of related animals, most of them may have thin ears, but they may also all have full hindquarters.  Then you don’t need to worry about correcting hindquarters on some and ears on others, but can set the goal, “I want to improve ears on my line”, and concentrate on that.  You get what you breed for, if you have patience—you really do.


The right way to line breed.

There’s a right and a wrong way to do everything, of course, even to line breed rabbits.  It can lock in bad traits as well as good ones.  Beware of too much inbreeding, that is, of mating rabbits so closely related that they lose vitality and disease resistance.  Also, there is some danger of going “barn blind”, and, for instance, being so used to full hindquarters that you let it slip. It helps to have a friend evaluate your animals sometimes and let you know what they think.  Always select for healthy stock.


The right time to outcross.

Sometimes, yes, “outcrossing” or breeding to an unrelated rabbit is the right thing to do. Perhaps you’re having trouble breeding out a certain fault, or perhaps your herd is becoming too inbred and losing vitality.  When you outcross, choose a rabbit (if possible) not only with strong traits to offset your faults, but from a long line of rabbits with those strong traits.  Breeders sometimes say, “you ought to buy rabbits, not pedigrees”, and while I agree that a good line can produce a poor animal, a good animal from a good line is the smartest choice of all.  Remember that a buck will go farther to impact your line than a doe—for obvious reasons.

The first generation of outcrossed babies may or may not be all that you hoped for.  Remember that the rabbit from the new line carries recessive characteristics that might clash with your line’s genes.  But take the best of those F1 babies back to your line, and soon you should see results.


Be patient in your line breeding.

Consistent winners are bred, not bought.  Line breeding takes time—but not too much time before you see results.  It takes patience, wise management, a keen eye, and a healthy environment, but with these things you should get there, sure enough.  A judge told me once that bringing your herd from average to good isn’t so hard if you know what you’re doing.  From good to great is a larger step.  Line breeding will help you get there.



Rabbit Coat Color Genetics Study Guide

Click to learn more

This article is an excerpt from “A book About Bunny Colors: The Practical Breeder’s Guide to Rabbit Coat Color Genetics.”   Written from a breeder’s perspective, the book is designed to help every breeder grasp a working knowledge of rabbit coat color genetics. Now you can use the knowledge of rabbit color genetics to your advantage, and no longer feel like its victim!


New Rabbit Supply website just launched!

We have your rabbit supply needs covered at!  We’ve got the essentials in cages, carriers, drop trays, cage stands, nest boxes, feeding and watering equipment, as well as valuable accessories such as EZ-mats, harnesses, cage card holders, and much more.  Visit to see our selection.

New Edition Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide

March 24, 2011
Announcement! If you are a youth member studying for the 2013 ARBA Convention, we are having an online group quiz/study night on every Sunday evening leading up to Convention. Dates are Sept 22, Oct 5, and Oct 13. Anyone is welcome. The place is Contact me if you have any questions.

rabbit 4H study guideOur most popular book yet, the Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide has aided hundreds of youth rabbit breeders in finding success with their projects.   Today, we are excited to release the second edition of this book, much better than before.

What’s new in the 2nd edition?

Well, everything has been redone, revised, or rewritten.  You’ll find new tips and advice sprinkled everywhere.  More info.  More ideas.  More pictures.  But for the highlights…

Guide to choosing your course in the project

Judging contest tips from judge Keelyn Hanlon

Expanded Breed ID Guide

Additional leader’s tips

Polish Breed Judging Handout

Rabbit Royalty Practice Questions

Updated to reflect 2011 Standard of Perfection

Still reproducible.

Plus, the whole thing is prettier.  With more artwork and a new color scheme, we’re offering something special in our NEW 2nd Edition Youth Rabbit Project Study Guide: Your Shortcut to Success.

For more information, check out the Study Guide’s Own Page. Here are a few sample pages for you to look at:

rabbit breed id guide

Click for larger image

Rabbit 4-H Showmanship Guide Sample Page

Click for larger image -- Showmanship Guide

Rabbit Meat Pen Project Tips

Click for larger image -- Meat Pens

Rabbit Body Type Judging Information

Click for larger image -- body types

Rabbit Breed Identification and Color Match-up

March 18, 2011

*4-H Leaders! Click here to download this post as a printable handout for your 4-H’ers!*

This post is better downloaded using the link above.  Match each picture to its breed and variety name.  The photo is really just a preview.

Rabbit in 21 Languages from Around the World

March 16, 2011

*4-H Leaders!  Click here to download this post as a printable activity for your club!*

In how many languages do you know the word for Rabbit?  Try to match the word to the language below!

Language                            Word for Rabbit

Belarusian                          Tavşan

Danish                                   Coinín

Dutch                                    konijn

Read More!


Rabbit Breed ID Flashcards for Free

March 15, 2011

Sort of an addition to today’s earlier post, here are six free rabbit breed identification flashcards for you to download and print.  Click this link.

Rabbit Breed ID Study Tips

March 14, 2011
Announcement! If you are a youth member studying for the 2013 ARBA Convention, we are having an online group quiz/study night on every Sunday evening leading up to Convention. Dates are Sept 22, Oct 5, and Oct 13. Anyone is welcome. The place is Contact me if you have any questions.

holland lop rabbitIt’s mid-March.  The snow has melted in some places;  not in others.  The rabbits are threatening to molt, and we’re gearing up for our breed national shows.  The ARBA convention seems like a long way away…

But already breedings are being planned for convention juniors, and junior rabbit breeders are preparing for the ARBA youth contests.  Tryouts for rabbit breed ID and judging  teams will be held soon: if you’re a youth member, are you planning to represent your state or district on a team this year?  Joining a team is a great way to get to know other kids and add some extra fun to your convention experience.  If you don’t know who is organizing the teams in your area, contact your ARBA district director.  Don’t delay! Teams in some areas are already forming.

If you are preparing for the big contests, here’s a quick list of rabbit and cavy breed identification study tips that you might find useful.

Kelli Slack Rabbit Judge Interview

March 11, 2011
Thanks to Judge Kelli Slack from Indiana for this month's silly interview!

1) Do you find split stops more often on the right or left foot?
Usually the rabbit's right foot, though I've seen a number on the left as well.

2) Would you be more inclined to accept an offer to judge in Australia or Switzerland?

3) Have you ever had a rabbit with only one ear?
Yes, Maya and Wispa both have one ear.  Their mother chewed off the second one at birth.  One doe has a right ear and one doe has a left ear.

4) Have you ever had a rabbit with three ears?
Can't say that I have, but it would be weird.

5) Have you ever had a rabbit with two ears?
Almost all of them.

6) Are Jersey Woolies more like French Lops than Dutch are like ice cream?

7) In what year will the 99th breed of rabbit be accepted by the ARBA?

8) Do you like to cook?
Yes, and rabbit is part of my menu on occasion.

9) Will a rabbit breeder ever be US President?
We can only hope.

10) Are Harlequin Dutch confusing?
Not confusing, but definitely challenging

Broken Colored Rabbit Patterns

March 7, 2011

It’s been an exciting week. I haven’t been so nervous for so long since maybe the ARBA convention 2008 in Louisville.  But it’s a good kind of nervous.  Keep tuned in here; we’ve got some major announcements coming up! But for now…

The Broken Color in Rabbits

*4-H Leaders!* Click here to download this post as a printable handout.

Broken patterned rabbits have spots of color on a white background. All breeds that recognize broken disqualify for complete absence of color around either eye, on either ear, or on the nose.  However, the disqualifications pertaining to amount of color vary from breed to breed.  Every breed but the Satin disqualifies for under 10% color.  The Mini Rex, Polish, Rex, Netherland Dwarf, Havana, and French Angora disqualify for over 50% color.  All other rabbit breeds, such as French Lops, English Lops, Holland Lops, and Mini Lops do not disqualify for over 50% color.

Read More for an activity and more information!


March Poll

March 2, 2011

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Poll runs till March 31!

Thanks to all who voted in our February poll!

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