I am still busy working on the website, but in the meantime I'd thought I'd share a little about our new side project. As many people already know, I think Harlequins are pretty much a mess as a breed, at least from what I have seen since I have had them. They seem to be very susceptibe to problems, have type, size, and growth that is all over the place, and even different breeders across the US seem to have entirely different goals in their programs depending on their interest.
Some breed for markings first, some for health, some for temperament, etc. Some are primarily concerned with winning at shows and some people just want to have nice pet or meat rabbits (along with everything in between). I was even shocked to find out that some Harlequin breeders have said they have serious illness in their herds, but they medicate and continue to show their stock because they are winning or have a sentimental attachments. Even aside from the issues with the individual rabbits and breeders, by doing this they are exposing everyone else's rabbits to whatever their rabbits are suffering from.
From my way of thinking, all of these differences listed above are doing a diservice to Harlies. Breeding sick animals obviously does not improve health. Breeding for markings first is not really all that much better. If there is a terribly typed rabbit underneath the pretty markings, it seems somewhat counterproducive. I know not everyone will always have the same idea of what a Harlequin rabbit should be.. but I do hope that someday health might at least be one of the criteria everyone can agree upon.
On the bright side, there are still breeders out there that make health a #1 priority and they are actively working to better their stock. I am also fortunate that there is another breeder relatively close by that I am friends with (over at OlivYew Farm). She and I share similar philosophies about the breed and I am hoping we can trade back and forth later this year or next when we both have some litters in the nestbox.
For now I just have two purebred bucks and two does to work with. The good news is that (getting back to the title of this post) I have located some lovely New Zealand Reds. They are very healthy, have great type, and are very friendly. I am hoping to use them to improve my Harlequins over time with strong immune systems, a full hindquarter, depth of body, shorter shoulders, more rapid growth, and excellent rufus. I am hoping that a fresh infusion of new (and solid) genetics would help considerably and am excited about the project.
From what I have read and those I have spoken with, I can expect Harlequin marked kits in even the first generation. I have to say that I had lost hope for a while with this rare and difficult breed but I am glad to say that it is back again and I am looking forward to what the future will bring with the Harlies.