I can't remember all of the different polls on rabbit forums over the years, but I know another favorite question was which breeds would make your top 5 list?
I am also thinking about this list quite seriously as I need a backup plan if my Harlies are too old to produce. My husband thinks I should just start over now with younger stock of a commercial breed and save myself the headache, but I am sticking with the 3-strike rule. I should know something one way or the other in a couple of weeks for round 1 with the first 4 does. I am feeling some pressure to figure all of this out because we may be looking at a move to the midwest this time next year for my husband's career. Everything is still completely up in the air, but it does put a potential timeline on getting everything sorted with the rabbitry. I also feed my dog raw and really need to have a homegrown meat source again.
For my top 5 list, I tried to pick breeds that I like, but that are also able to contribute the most to my family. In the first years of raising rabbits, I had them for my own enjoyment (which hasn't changed), but I bred them primarily for show. While there is nothing wrong with that at all, these days my interests have shifted to raising rabbits more for homestead purposes. I still ultimately aim to meet the standard for my breed and may attend a show from time to time, but exhibition is no longer in the top priority list like good health, type, growth, mothering abilities, etc.
Anyway, (aside from Harlequins obviously) here are my current top 5 breeds in alphabetical order:
1. Beveren: I've wanted to work with this breed for years. Not sure if it will ever happen due to difficulty finding/purchasing. Reportedly good meat rabbits, good mothers, and would support a heritage breed. I like the blue-eyed white variety best. I am not convinced about dress-out without seeing/touching them though. They look pretty heavy on bone and hippy in almost all of the pictures I've seen. I have to wonder about their health and growth with such a small population across the US.
2. Californian: The 2nd most popular commercial rabbit. I also think pointed whites are lovely. This is a very practical breed and their pelts are considered white, which is more desirable than colored pelts as I understand the market at this time.
3. Dutch: I've worked with them before and I would again. Easily managed
size, excellent dress-out, attractive, good mothers, lots of colors,
etc. Plenty of culls since getting those perfect markings are.. well, like raising Harlequins. I don't think there would really be a market for pelts like with NZW and Californians, but would be fine for homestead use. According to Bob Bennet's book, Dutch are the way to go for small family use and I can see why he thinks so.
4. Satin: A commercial body type with a particularly fancy coat. I understand rex pelts are highly desirable right now, but I like Satins better. I've only seen a handful of these over the past 5 years at any show, so not likely to happen, just like with Bevs.
5. New Zealand: The quintessential commercial rabbit. I was able to see and
put my hands on the broken variety at the Conyers show recently and
they are SOLID. Like meat bricks with an attractive coat. Their
temperaments made them easy to work with. They had great size and were
overall very nice rabbits. The New Zealand Reds I had briefly years ago
were subpar in almost every way (now that I have a basis for
Honorable mentions: French Angoras are the only angora breed I'd work with. I would also consider American Chinchilla, Blanc de Hotot, Silver Fox,
American Sable, Argente rabbits as they meet all of my needs and could use the population boost (they are all or were on the ALBC heritage list at one point). Off topic, but I
understand why ARBA has the d'Argent breeds accepted as separate and
only partially (Brun, Creme, Champagne) when they are French rabbits and
they are all the same breed with different varieties in Europe (Bleu,
Brun, Creme, Champagne and Noir). Seems needlessly complicated, but what
do I know?
My ideal rabbit weighs between 5-12 lbs, has good health/temperament, a nice pelt, quick growth, decent dress-out, attractive. I like and prefer the topline of compact or commercial type, but I'd make an exception for Bevs only (mandolin/semi-arch type). Rollback my favorite coat. For almost every breed I'd have to make concessions somewhere, but it isn't about having the perfect rabbit. Ultimately, it is still about enjoying what we do and having a rabbit that can contribute to our family. I think if we have those two things, then everything else will fall into place.
Do you have a breed, size, fur, or type preference? I'd love to hear from others about their favorites. :)