Breeding


 



BREEDING TRUE TO COLOR


Diana Wiles - Oak Tree Rabbitry


NOTE:  Dee passed away in 2008 which was just 6 months later than husband Earl.  Both had been very involved in rabbits from the very beginning of the project...truly a family hobby that I try to carry on with my children and now grandchildren  The barn has changed greatly over the years and though the nestboxes are still full the breeds have changed, but much of the information that she had always wanted to print in a small pamphlet remains true.  Many people out there like to play with the genetic codes and figure out in that manner but this is just the old school methodology of dos and donts.  Right or wrong, in general it will work.  Sue (Wiles) Goote



We started our rabbitry in the late 70’s with a 4-H project that turned into a fun family activity.  We started with Satin and Rex.  From time to time there would be a few other breeds, but these are the main breeds that have stuck around and are still current in 2009.  We started with Blues, Lilacs and Lynx.  We had the common ups and downs of beginners, but we were persistent.  We attended our first ARBA show and the rest is history—we were hooked.  We have at one time or another raised every recognized color of Rex.  Today we are raising Black, Black and Blue Otter, Blue, Castor, Opal and Broken in the Rex.  


There are a few terms that may not be familiar and I hope that after you have read my tutorial for new breeders of my favorite breed of rabbit- the Rex, that you will be enlightened.  There are sixteen varieties of Rex recognized today; Amber, Black, Black Otter, Blue, Broken, Californian, Castor, Chinchilla, Chocolate, Lilac, Lynx, Opal, Red, Sable, Seal and White.   I want to break these varieties down to categories for a greater understanding of breeding.  Self varieties are the same color over the body, head, ears, feet, legs and tail.  Colors that fall under the self category are Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Red, and White.  Agouti can be defined as a hair shaft that has three or more bands of color, with a definite break between each color.  Colors in the agouti category are Amber, Castor, Chinchilla, and Opal.  Sable, Seal and Californian are considered to be Shaded and sometimes you will also come up with Smoke Pearls (also Shaded) out of Sable lines.  These are very pleasing to the eye, but nonetheless are not a recognized color and unless you are developing a line of Smoke Pearls should be culled.   The Otter falls under the category of Tan Pattern and as of February 2009 there are four colors of Otter recognized—Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac.  Broken and Tri Colors are not to be forgotten.  Broken is any recognized color in combination with white.  Tri Color is a combination of Black/Orange, Chocolate/Orange, Blue/Fawn and Lilac/Fawn with White.  This has been a brief introduction to the Rex rabbit.  The Rex comes with a plush, almost velvet fur weighing in at an average of eight to nine pounds which makes this breed ideal for meat, fur, and show.  This is truly a multi-purpose rabbit.  


Let’s get started.  If you have not bought your animals yet and are still in the learning process then my advice to you is to buy good stock.  It does not cost any more to feed a good quality animal than a mediocre one.  Do some research on breeders and maybe attend an ARBA show.  The internet is a great place to start as well.  The National Rex Club has a vast amount of information about the Rex and a Breeders Listing.  Website address is www.nationalrexrc.org.  I would recommend that if you are just starting out to not purchase a hodge podge of varieties, but one or two.  A pedigree can be of great value, as long as the breeder has kept good records, which can be a difficult task at times.  Pedigrees will assist you with making good decisions when choosing which animals to breed together.  Knowledge of basic genetics can be essential, especially if you have chosen to raise a breed like the Rex with many recognized color varieties to choose from.  I will not bore you with the scientific genotypes.  My goal here is to give you an easy to understand introduction to raising Rex rabbits.  


Colors to breed together are basic.  Self to self, agouti to agouti, shaded to shaded and the tan pattern to the tan pattern.  Study the pedigree on your rabbits.  I am in hopes that you have purchased or received stock from a reputable breeder and can search the pedigree for color combinations that will help you start your own successful line of Rex.  


INTRO TO COLOR AND BREEDING TIPS


AMBER

****************


AMBER is an agouti color with a banded hair shaft.  The surface color is to be reddish brown with a golden orange intermediate color.  The undercolor on the Amber is to dove gray.  There will be a light chocolate tipping evenly throughout.  The belly will be a cream over a dove gray undercolor.  Eye color to be brown.  A ruby cast is permissible.  


The Amber I faulted for lack of dove gray undercolor on the belly.  


Ambers are an agouti and best bred with Amber.  


Amber can be bred to Red, Lynx, and Castor.  


BLACK

****************


BLACK is a Self color and needs to be a very deep dark black free from rust and white hairs or spots.   Eye color will be brown.  


Blacks do well to be bred with Black, Blue, Chinchilla, Chocolate, Lilac, Otter, Sable and Seal.  


Some comments about the varieties listed that can be bred with Black.  I do not recommend breeding all of the colors together.  Each variety has a purpose when bred to the Black.  


When Black is bred to Blue, the Blue intensifies the Black.  Chocolate is ok to find on this pedigree as well, and works in the same way.  Blues and Chocolates are both considered dilutes and therefore will create Lilac.  These varieties have no problem genetically being bred together.  


Black is used with Californian (sparingly) to darken the points.  I would not want to see Blue or Chocolate on this pedigree because it will affect the points on the Californian.  I would also not want to keep the Blacks from this cross to breed back.


Black to Chinchilla is acceptable, as long as there are no Chocolates in the background which would tend to muddy the Chinchilla color.  


Typically, I can see the Californian, Chinchilla, Sable and Seal all fitting comfortably on a Black pedigree.  


The next combination that is acceptable is the Black to Otter.  This pedigree can easily have all four recognized varieties of Otter (Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac).  


In my opinion the best breeding is Black to Black, although it is not always an option if you have a limited herd to work with.


Fault carriers for the Black.  It is best not to breed Opal, Red or Californian.  When breeding an Opal you are breeding an agouti to a self and risk producing Black animals with grayish sides or a self with a ring color.  Opals out of this cross may have black tipping.  If your Black is carrying a Chocolate gene when bred to the Opal, you may find Opals with a rusty tinge to the tipping.  


Black bred to Red can produce rusty tipping or ticking on the black hair shaft, especially if the Red is carrying Castor on the pedigree.  


Blacks bred to White and Californian have high risk of scattered white hairs and white toenails.  


BLUE

****************


BLUE is a Self.  The color must maintain a dark, rich blue color overall running deep to the skin.  Eye color to be blue-gray.  


Faults of the Blue are scattered white hairs, spots and rustiness.  Rust is a brown cast to the blue coat.  Many times this is due to the rabbit being in the sun.  


Blue to Blue is a great combination, but can be bred to Black.  Blue has always been known to intensify the Black color.


Blue to Black is a good cross as the Blue works as an intensifier to make your Black coloring deeper and darker.  I would hope that the Black you use has mostly Black on the pedigree and not an Easter Basket of colors.


Blue to Californian will bring Blue points to your Californian and is not a recommended breeding.


Blue to Chinchilla is mixing the self with agouti and may affect the Chinchilla ring color and add an unwanted ring color or ticking to your Blue.


Blue to Chocolate is acceptable although eventually you will find Lilacs in your nest box.  



Not all colors are compatible with each other.  The Opal is not crossed with Blue as a constant cross because the Blue is a Self color and the Opal is an Agouti.  This cross will evolve into a confusion of the two varieties, bringing poor color to both and possibly disqualification for improper color.  The Blue must maintain a dark, rich blue color overall.  The Opal must carry a rich blue with an intermediate ring color of golden tan, defined over a blue under color.   cream color on the belly and the surface color must carry bluish lilac tipping.  There are three colors on the hair shaft of the agouti, an Opal has an intermediate orange band with the base being   


Blue should not be bred to Opal as a regular breeding as the colors will eventually blend into an unrecognized color.  


BROKEN

****************

Brokens usually follow the color tips for the the variety in conjunction with white. It is well known that if you are desiring to raise Broken varieties that you need at least one Broken in the breeding. Just because there is Broken in the pedigree does not mean that you will be raising Brokens. There are of course exceptions to this, but few. The exception I have found is when breeding a White to a Solid. White has a tendency to cloak itself. What this means is that the White is not really a White at all and is truly a Broken.



CALIFORNIAN
****************

Black is used with Californian (sparingly) to darken the points.  I would not want to see Blue or Chocolate on this pedigree because it will affect the points on the Californian.  I would also not want to keep the Blacks from this cross to breed back.


CASTOR/COPPER/CHESTNUT

****************


CASTOR is an Agouti with multiple colors on the hair shaft.  The castor will be a rich mahogany color over the body head and legs, intermediate ring color of rufus red with a slate blue undercolor.  Color on the belly will be white to a creamy tan with a slate blue undercolor.  Brown eyecolor.  The Castor is faulted for having too much black tipping, graying along the sides rather than brown, bars on the front legs.  The belly is faulted for having a lack of blue undercolor.  


Some comments about the Castor would be that some lines are slower to develop the belly color.  If your animal reaches the age of Sr and still lacks the proper color, I would consider culling this animal.  


Castor is an Agouti and care should be taken when breeding this animal.  Color that compliment one another would be: Opal, Red, Lynx or Otter.  


Reds can be used to improve the rufus red, but be careful of bringing smut into your Red lines.   

 


CHOCOLATE

****************

Blue to Chocolate is acceptable although eventually you will find Lilacs in your nest box.  



OPAL

****************

Not all colors are compatible with each other.  The Opal is not crossed with Blue as a constant cross because the Blue is a Self color and the Opal is an Agouti.  This cross will evolve into a confusion of the two varieties, bringing poor color to both and possibly disqualification for improper color.  The Blue must maintain a dark, rich blue color overall.  The Opal must carry a rich blue with an intermediate ring color of golden tan, defined over a blue under color.   cream color on the belly and the surface color must carry bluish lilac tipping.  There are three colors on the hair shaft of the agouti, an Opal has an intermediate orange band with the base being   blue.  Breed Opal to Opal unless the blue base or tipping is incorrect.  If the ring color on the Opal is lacking then breed to a Castor.  




WHITE

****************

Breeding White to other varieties is not always a good idea as White lines have troubles of either being too soft or too course in texture let alone the white hairs and white toenails you drag into the line.  Albinism will kill color where carriers exist in both parents, and whites will be produced.



There is a time and a place to bring in other colors into a variety in such instance as—opal needing more ring color.  To improve the ring you would need to bring in a Castor, both Opal and Castor are agouti.  If your Lynx is lacking in Lilac tipping, breed to a Lilac.  If your Lynx color is not orange enough, breed to a Castor.  It may take up to the second generation or more to improve the color to perfection.


    Keeping varieties pure may not seem too important to some individuals.  I can remember looking for breeding stock on Chinchilla several years ago when everyone was putting Brokens into all of their varieties.  I was thankful to find some serious breeder that kept their Chin lines pure.  I certainly did not care to add any white toe nails, white hairs or spots into my lines.


I like the Broken variety, but prefer to breed Broken to Broken or Sports.  Sports are solids that are direct offspring of Broken matings.  Some breeders say that they get Charlies when they breed Broken to Broken.  Charlies are poorly marked Broken with either not enough pattern or too much color.  There is a formula for breeding Broken that I learned from an old German Rex breeder.  Every third generation he crossed a Sport into the breeding program.  Remember, that the Sport is a solid that is a direct offspring of Broken.  It also helps to use line breeding.  It is important when breeding a pure line to line breed (I will explain this later).  Bringing unrelated rabbits into a line may tend to lighten, darken, or even to destroy the color variety completely.  Breeding good Rex(rabbits) is not an accident.


I have experimented with every variety of Rex at some time or other and eventually weeded out colors that I was not so fond of.  No one can raise all varieties and be completely fair to each and every variety all at the same time.  This is also true about having too many different breeds of rabbits in your barn.


I think that we try to make the mixing of color varieties a complicated affair.  There are a few basic rules on keeping colors straight.  Brown genes such as Chocolate, Castor, Lilac or Sable should not be introduced into color varieties such as Californian, Chinchilla, Opal, Blue or Red.


Breeding White to other varieties is not always a good idea as White lines have troubles of either being too soft or too course in texture let alone the white hairs and white toenails you drag into the line.  Albinism will kill color where carriers exist in both parents, and whites will be produced.


Not all colors are compatible with each other.  The Opal is not crossed with Blue as a constant cross because the Blue is a Self color and the Opal is an Agouti.  This cross will evolve into a confusion of the two varieties, bringing poor color to both and possibly disqualification for improper color.  The Blue must maintain a dark, rich blue color overall.  The Opal must carry a rich blue with an intermediate ring color of golden tan, defined over a blue under color.   cream color on the belly and the surface color must carry bluish lilac tipping.  There are three colors on the hair shaft of the agouti, an Opal has an intermediate orange band with the base being   blue.  Breed Opal to Opal unless the blue base or tipping is incorrect.  If the ring color on the Opal is lacking then breed to a Castor.  


When breeding Rex, determine the gene strength of your buck.  For example, if your buck is an Opal bred to a Castor doe, are you producing more Opal or Castor bunnies?  The experienced Rex breeder usually can tell what colors you will get with a quick glimpse of the pedigree.    Many Rex breeders do themselves a dishonor in crossing any variety to any color just because that was what they had on hand at the time.  They then come up with colors that are non-recognized.  These are the people that discredit the Rex breed.

There is an art to producing a good line of rabbits that will consistently produce animals that are worthy of the Standard of Perfection.


It is better to breed one or two color varieties well for quality animals than to cross everything in sight.  Learn your variety, join the Rex club and learn from the breeders that have been breeding for years.  It is not an accident when a person consistently brings home blue ribbons from the show table.  Listen to the judges’ comments about your rabbit, if you think the judge is having a bad day, ask your fellow breeders their opinion.  I do not know of any Rex breeders that do not love to sit down and talk about breeding their rabbits.  You can save yourself a lot of headaches if you buy good stock from a reputable breeder.  The pedigree should match the rabbit; study what the pedigree was striving for.  If you buy a Black rabbit then the largest number of animals on the pedigree should be Black, perhaps with a Blue or two as intensifiers.  You certainly would not want to see varieties ranging from Opal, Red or Californian on the same pedigree with your Black.  These colors are all fault carriers for the Black.  The Californian bred to Black allows too many white hairs in the coat.  The Red bred to Black is usually the cause for rusty tipping.  A Red is the recessive to Castor and may also cause ticking to show up in the surface color of the Black.  The Opal bred to Black produces Black with grayish sides or a self colored rabbit with a ring color on the hair shaft due to the agouti gene. I have also seen Opal with black hairs in the surface coat.  If the Black carries a Chocolate gene bred to an Opal may result in a rusty tinge to the Opals surface color.  I strongly urge you to keep your agoutis bred to agoutis and selfs bred to selfs.  Many of the faults mentioned will not show up in the first generation litters, but perhaps a couple generations later.  


It is my opinion that the best varieties for the beginner are in the self varieties, Black, Blue and White.  They have the least amount of worry when it comes to color issues.  The Castor and Amber are easier in the agouti varieties.  


Diagrams can be set up to chart the color genes.  There are programs and charts out there on the internet that can give you some ideas as well.  Computers are a great tool, but I still like to have my paperwork in hand as a back up.  It would be a nightmare to put all your recordkeeping on your computer and have a hard drive crash—it has happened to others.  If you must keep your records on a computer, please make a backup as it is impossible to memorize all of your pedigrees, especially if you have a lot of animals in your rabbitry.    


QUICK CHART

Amber-Amber

Black-Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Otter, Sable and Seal.

Blue-Blue, Black

Broken-Broken, corresponding colors from the chart.

Californian-Californian, Black, Chinchilla. Sable, and Seal

Chocolate-Chocolate, Black and Lilac

Lilac-Lilac and Black

Lynx-Lynx, Lilac, Opal, Red, and Castor

Opal-Opal, Castor, Lynx, Red, and Otter

Otter(Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac)-Otter(Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac), Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Castor, and Opal.

Red-Red, Lynx, and Castor

Sable-Sable, Black and Californian

Seal-Seal, Black and Californian

White-White, any other color but will introduce white toenails into the line.  Carries an albinism gene which affects eye sight (blindness).


Colors to breed together are basic.  Self to self, agouti to agouti, shaded to shaded and the tan pattern to the tan pattern.  Study the pedigree on your rabbits.  I am in hopes that you have purchased or received stock from a reputable breeder and can search the pedigree for color combinations that will help you start your own successful line of Rex.  


There is a great sense of pride when you can say that you are raising Rex out of animals that you have raised, even more so when the pedigree shows four generations of your rabbits.  Now that you are on your way to successfully becoming a reputable breeder of Rex…what do you do with all these extra rabbits.  Rex are a great dual purpose animal, and you can either promote the breed by selling off your youngsters for breeders or you can supplement your grocery bill.  


If you are selling your animals, then you need to consider pricing.  This is where ‘fairness’ comes into play.  You should never price an animal for more money than you would be willing to pay for the animal yourself.  Another tip is to consider how much you paid for animals that you started with.  `It amazes me that I am selling breeding stock today at the same prices that I did over thirty years ago.  


Do not offer animals that appear to have colds or stress out easily.  Rabbits are a very fragile individuals and can be ‘here today and gone tomorrow.’  It is unreasonable to expect a breeder to guarantee a rabbit longer than a week.  When I sell a rabbit, I cannot guarantee that the rabbit will breed or have babies as I cannot control what happens in the other persons rabbitry.  


When you are considering selling your rabbits consider what your terms will be.  If you are meeting a person at a show there is always a chance that the person may not show up for whatever reason and you have stressed your rabbit out.  You may feel the need to ask for a deposit before meeting up…the internet makes this much easier than it was twenty to thirty years ago.  


Marketing is very important if you are looking for the rabbits to help pay their feed bill.  There are several places to start.  Placing an advertisement in the local paper is still a great source.  There are Bargain Finders, Penny Savers, and numerous other small ad papers that allow free advertising and offer their paper for a small fee.  If you are on a budget and do not want to pay for advertising, again there is the internet and several places that allow you to place free ads for livestock.  Craigslist.com, Rabbittrader.com, and BestFarmBuys.com are very popular.  It is also a good idea to start a webpage that allows you to put pictures and info up on the web about yourself and your rabbits.  Rabbit shows are also a great tool for marketing.  Word of mouth from other breeders and becoming a member of the American Rabbit Breeders Assn will put your name in the annual yearbook categorized by state and for a small fee you can have the breeds you raise by your name.

Note: Some things have changed changed since this was originally written. ARBA no longer offers the annual yearbook free with membership although a few years ago I knew you could purchase one if you wanted. ARBA has changed with the times and offers a breeders listing on their webpage along with a great variety of worthwhile information. Some of you who find this page more than likely started out on that breeders page to get here...if you have read that far. Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this article and I hope that it has in some way assisted you in your quest for raising rabbits. Good Luck! -- Sue

Comments