More Evaluating Examples

Learning to evaluate is a very hands on experience, but sometimes pictures can help give perspective. So here are some specific examples of attributes on rabbits we see when evaluating…….

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Peak

In this picture the doe was probably 15 weeks old give or take.

This is an interesting example of an early peak. This doe is very tall and very short-bodied, thus her early peak causes her to slide off. Its possible to have depth with an early peak but these rabbits tend to be flat and arent balanced in width and height. Early peaks will also give the rabbit short shoulders or at least the appearance of short shoulders (although I’ve seen rabbits with early peaks AND long shoulders but those are culls to be frank…).

Now, while this does’ top-line may not be top-notch, everything else about her is beautiful. That’s partially why pictures can be deceiving. I don’t have a top-down photo, but she has a wide, super firm loin and is really full to the table. We ultimately kept this doe for those attributes as well as her texture, finish and being a self that carries lilac.

Random Tips & Tricks

While we have set criteria when we evaluate, there are also little tips and tricks we use while making general observations of our rabbits and their development.

-Our deepest rabbits have a distinct rigidity of their hip (from the table up to where their hip bones sit) when they are naturally standing or walking. How tall the rigid portion of the HQ/hip is a tell-tale of their depth and peak - its so obvious you could probably measure the height and directly correlate it to depth calculations. This rigidity is more obvious after 14 weeks though.

-If a rabbit is consistently difficult to pose, it could be a sign of long shoulders or a long length of body (its uncomfortable for them to be compacted)

-A truly well typed rabbit will stay in an 80% posed position naturally when you let go. Ever notice why all the top breeders seem to always have the perfect posed pictures with no one holding the rabbit? Its more natural.

-Rex go through phases when they grow that’s why its best to make first cuts at 8 weeks because after that they grow outward, then upward and once they balance out at 14 weeks you can re-evaluate them, but at that age they also will get hollow from growing so fast and they don’t fill out until 20+ weeks then. So recognizing what growth stage your rabbit is in is imperative.

-Head size and bone structure for bucks comes in at 7+ months, but you can tell by the size of their feet how big they’ll be. I think this is true for people and most animals as well.

- Your breeders are only capable of producing a maximum quality rabbit. In other words, even paired with the best pairing in the country, those rabbits will still produce their faults to some extent. Knowing this, the best way to make more rapid progress is to move further out in generations. A doe that always produces undercut babies needs to be bred with a full-to-the-table buck, and while those babies will likely not be as full as youd like, the best course of action is to decide if its better than mom. If the answer is yes, then replace her with that slightly wider baby. You’ll never get the perfect rabbit or the perfect culmination of both parents, but you just have to decide how big or small of improvements you need to get to justify replacing the parents. In our first two years, we retired and replaced every breeder we had as soon as possible - sometimes this meant retiring their show career at 5 months and breeding.

I’m sure Ill think of others and add them

Evaluating

I wanna preface this by saying THIS IS OUR OWN EXPERIENCE. If you find value in it then great, but I assure you every breeder has a different strategy and I don’t judge theirs I only know what works for us. Take it or leave it.

Every breeder has their own strategy and method for evaluating young rabbits for show. We’ve had some breeders tell us that they don’t make selections until 6-8 months old. That’s not how we function though at our rabbitry because of our limited space, aggressive strategy and strict selection process; However, every rabbits is different, every rabbits produces differently, every bloodline develops differently, and every pairing produces differently so you have to learn YOUR lines and how to navigate them.

We have found that the best way for us to accurately evaluate our rabbits is to frequently make notes of development and age so that we can track how specific attributes change over time. Then we can look at a young rabbit and feel relatively confident about how they will develop. Yes, there are always surprises - both good and bad. But, we then make an effort to explain why they developed unexpectedly (many times, surprises come from specific bloodlines and that’s why learning how specific bloodlines develop will help). For example, litters that come from Havana has a tendency to be coarse (some are coarse at 6 weeks, some develop temporary coarseness at junior prime, and some at senior prime). But we know that 95% of the time, the coarse coat is just a phase and eventually molts out. Therefore, when evaluating Havana litters we have to excuse texture.

Let assume a litter of 8 and no rabbits have any DQ’s…Our process is this: 6 weeks is the first time you can look at top-line so this is our first viewing and checking for DQ’s. Then by 8-9 weeks old we have removed the bottom 2 rabbits and likely declared them as pet quality just even based on ethics because they were not the top ranking in the litter. By 12 weeks we have removed another 2. In some cases the top 4 have been very consistent in quality and other litters we removed 4 at this time and decided only 2 were worthy of growing out further. 3rd and 4th place will be sold for show if they as nice enough (some at 12 weeks, others that were more consistent quality are as old as 20 weeks depending on how long we felt we needed to grow them out to make the right decision). Then by 14-16 weeks we show the remaining buns (2-4) for the first time with a favorite in mind - 90% of the time our favorite going in does the best and the show just solidifies the decision.

This process will definitely seem crazy to many long time breeders because its an aggressive strategy that many will argue doesn’t give the rabbits long enough to really mature, but personally, its extremely efficient for space and feed consumption and all I have to say is look at the progress we have made in basically two years…..if we didn’t have the high average quality, consistent success, and aggressive progress then maybe I’d agree. This strategy isn’t for everyone, but our tracking of specific attributes and correlating development stages has given us an edge by allowing for younger, accurate evaluating. I’m sure there is one or two rabbits that I probably would’ve regret not growing out, but I happy with our current progress and it works for us so that’s what’s important.

When we evaluate for type there are a few attributes that we’ve found that translate well when the rabbits gets older. Firstly, you must work under the assumption that ALL RABBITS (well Rex at least) will elongate and widen with age. When we look at rabbits under 12 weeks old, overall loin width and fill is lower on the priority (it moves higher up as the rabbit ages though).

6-10 weeks old:

#1 length of body (aka compact-ability)

#2 overall height ratio vs length of body

#3 high point (is the rabbit tall but flat over-top? Does it have a clear high-point? )

At this age the shortest bodied, tall, compact rabbits with the most “pointy” high point will turn out better in the long run. We find a flat rabbit will have an early peak, while MOST “pointy”, distinguished peaks will develop further back. One thing I think most breeders miss is that no rabbit shows its depth at this age - depth comes later for us. So a “mid-peaked” rabbit at 8 weeks develops a properly placed, deep peak later on and, again, flatter top-lines develop mature early peaks. Our deepest rabbits showed a further peak at this age, but those are the nuances you have to learn and, generally, this rule has worked. I have a theory that the reason most Rex are not properly peaked or flat is because people try and evaluate depth too young because that flat rabbit has a false appearance of depth- just a theory.

10-12 weeks old:

Assuming we have only kept the rabbits that have promising top-lines and lengths of body then we can now further evaluate other attributes.

#1 Looking from as top-down perspective, balance of shoulder width and how it carries width over the hip. Making note of pinched or narrowing loins and weak shoulder width

#2 Width of lower hindquarters

#3 Shoulder length

At this age we start looking for rabbits more balanced overall in width.

12-16 weeks old:

This stage is more litter specific but we begin to weigh pros and cons of each rabbits strengths and weaknesses. Also we take into account fur quality at this point - deciding how good is the type vs how good is the other ones fur (because you rarely get a rabbits that had the best type and fur, both, in the litter). MOST IMPORTANTLY, our decision is based on the question: DO WE HAVE A GOOD PAIRING WHEN WE BREED THEM? If you don’t have a good pairing for their weakness, or if they don’t carry an attribute that your herd needs versus the other rabbits, then there’s no point in keeping them. ITS ALL ABOUT GOOD PAIRINGS and I cannot stress that enough. Many times we sell rabbits that we liked better or that would beat our keepers on the show table because we needed a specific attribute from that one other rabbit.

This is obviously very general and every litter is different especially when we know certain bloodlines develop differently and so we have to make exceptions or no exceptions for individual litters.

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Prime Growth Example

This doe is a beautiful example of the stages of growth our rabbits go through. Some bloodlines develop more predictably or more dramatically but this doe developed consistently enough to see the phase.

Starting at 8 weeks in the upper right and going clockwise the ages of the doe are as follows: 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and finally 20 weeks. She will continue to fill out and come into a mature body but between 8 and 20 weeks they make the most dramatic changes.

8 weeks - The Baby Stage: this is the best time to do evaluating until 12 weeks old again

10 weeks - The Growing Outward Stage: this is a dangerous stage because they often don’t look as nice as you remember and sometimes this can compel you to change your 1st and 2nd place positions but stick to your original evaluations and wait it out!

12 weeks - The Growing Upward Stage: at this point the rabbits develops the height to once again balance their width and you can being to evaluate other attributes

16 weeks - The Awkward Coat Stage: the rabbit has a starting resemblance of the junior coat but also tend to begin looking hollow after so many growth spurts so give them time to fill out

20 weeks - Junior Prime: the junior now has a decent, judge-able first prime coat and is prime showing age.

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8-Week Old Buck Example

This is a promising young buck at 8 weeks old. He is a great example of what we look for at that age. He already has a great peak placement which means he will be extremely deep as he develops. He also has a gorgeous top-view with super promising width. His peak looks only slightly further back than most at this age, but we know from experience that those mid-peaked babies grow deeper peaks so his will only be better.

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Dramatic Example

This doe came as a surprise to us because she developed depth so dramatically that it was impossible to determine at 8 weeks. But by the middle picture at 14 weeks she looked like a different rabbit. It just goes to show how the peak pushes back as they develop after 8 weeks and depth always comes later!

Chapter 2 & 3

In the second year, or Chapter 2, our primary focus was type. We practically ignored fur and color in every decision we made. It was the advice of many judges that “you must build the house before you can paint it”; And, even though Rex is 50% points on fur, we decided that our fur was decent enough to sustain us while we focused on type (which was our weak spot). At the end of Chapter 2 we had a collection of exceptionally typed rabbits with moderate quality fur. And then that puts us at a nice transition into a new chapter.

As of April 2019, I would say the progression of my herd is entering a new chapter. The primary focus of this chapter will be to combine our exceptionally type rabbits with our exceptionally furred ones. I’m predicting Chapter 4 will be sometime near December 2019 or as late as February 2020 and that will focus on color (our goal is self blue and lilac).

Intro

I’m not a blogger, or a writer, or even a big social media person; But, the passion I have for my rabbits allows me to make observations about my rabbits, my breeding and selection strategy and the path that I find myself on fairly detailed and profound. And honestly, the best way to learn is to hear others experiences. So here is my experiences and may someone find value in them in some way.

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The Beginning

I went to my first show around August 2017. At the time, it was difficult for me to find high quality rabbits for sale because I knew no one in the show-rabbit community. I got what I could for stock when I could, but it wasn’t easy for sure. Little by little we grew. I showed my first home-bred rabbits in December 2017 - I wont Best Of Breed. Shocked by the win, I was then hooked.

The first year of breeding was a huge learning curve. With no mentor, I taught myself by spending a lot of time with my rabbits, posing them, and going to shows and listening to judges. Things started to click, but we still learn a lot to this day - and that’s sort of the mentality you have to take with you even through life. Nonetheless, our first year (or Chapter 1 if you will) was spent learning and replacing our original stock. Since I didn’t start out with very balanced, quality rabbits then it was up to me to make the best pairings I could based on strengths and weaknesses and then be very selective with which traits were the priority in the litters when evaluating. The original breeders out-produced themselves very quickly and I found myself retiring and breeding rabbits very young (6 months as opposed to the normal 10-12 months) because of the desire to make aggressive progressive. Along the way we picked up a few more breeders when we could (some nicer ones thankfully), but I got them based on very specific attributes that I knew my herd lacked.

The second year (Chapter 2) was spent taking my hodgepodge collection of rabbits (who had great strengths, but always huge faults) and attempting to bring up the average quality of each litter until I started producing consistently more balanced rabbits.

As of April 2019, I would say the average quality of my herd has exponentially gone up. Very few of my breeders are not home-bred, every single one is a Grand Champion, and I find myself having to be exceptionally picky about which traits take priority in litters. I would say, at this point in time, Ive entered Chapter 3 of my show-rabbit career.