Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breeding Goals

A friend asked the question recently about what constitutes a responsible breeder. In the culling post recently, I mentioned that I believe one important distinction is that responsible breeders have goals in mind. I didn't want to go too far off topic during that discussion to elaborate on it, so I am going to do that today instead.

I am including this stock picture because it is a good metaphor what happens when different people start working with a breed from what I have seen. Some may stay on the tracks heading due north. Although they may stop at different locations along the way, ultimately they will get to the same destination. These breeders (to me at least) represent those that have the standard of perfection in mind. Some, however, take a different path (or veer off course depending on your point of view) and they ultimately arrive in a different state, or on the other side of the country altogether.

With rabbits these differences can be readily seen when you compare rabbits from pet breeders, for example, to rabbits that arrive on the show tables. Since there aren't too many Harlequin breeders around at all these days, I am going to use Netherland Dwarf rabbits to describe some of the differences. I looked at the local Craigslist ads today just for this breed. What I found was that the people offering quantity on the cheap tended to have oversized ND's with big ears, long bodies, poor hindquarters, and were in colors that weren't recognized. The responsible breeders that I know with this breed aim for rabbits that are the opposite of this and that properly meet the standard and rabbits like the ones in the CL ads would have been culled out long ago. 

Netherland Dwarf for sale?

Anyway, here are some of my own goals (aka what I am breeding for):

Health- I want a rabbit with a strong immune systems that does not have, produce, or pass along congenital problems or disease. I also would like them to have good growth patterns/grow out, proper size, etc. You could probably put this in health or temperament categories, but I also want rabbits that are good mothers, ready breeders, and that keep themselves clean. 

Temperament- Ideally, I want rabbits that are friendly and tolerant, but I absolutely will not deal with aggression. I also want a rabbit that handles stress well due to their demeanor (high resilience).

Type- I could say simply that I want to breed better Harlequins, but there is more to it than that. Ultimately, I want to produce rabbits that are well proportioned and have the proper commercial type for the breed. They should have the right parts in the right places. Right now problems I am dealing with are pinched HQ, long shoulders, poor depth, etc. Although it is only worth 10 points, I feel this is extremely important to the multi-purpose/utility function of the breed.

Color and Markings- This is last on my list because it is my lowest priority at this time for this breeding program. Others mileage may vary and some people have been working with the breed forever, so of course they might have the order changed up at this point because they are able to and I am not there yet. Of course if I happen to produce excellent color and markings in a rabbit with the other prerequisites met then that is great, but right now I have to prioritize and know there is a lot of work ahead.

I guess that's a start. There are other goals that can be included like improved litter size, but right now I just feel fortunate to even have litters at all.

Thanks for reading!


  1. I think those are great goals. You have a couple of litters right now that I think will help you reach them sooner than you expect.

  2. Great post! LOL @ the nethland dwarf/ true! ;)