Build First Paint Later

I am going to make this short and sweet and to the point.

Would you paint your house before you build it and make sure that the foundation was solid?


So why on earth would you worry about the markings on a rabbit first? I see so many that become so focused on having a perfectly marked animal that they forget about the body type. Your rabbit isn’t going to win with perfect markings and a crappy body and you aren’t doing the breed justice.

You need to take the time to work on the body type before you worry about the markings. Just like you wouldn’t paint and decorate a house that was on a shaky foundation. You also wouldn’t build a house on sand. You want to make sure you build on a strong steady foundation.

Once you get your foundation built and where it needs to be then you can start painting. Depending on the breed, you still want to avoid certain things even if you have an awesome body because they will pass it onto their offspring.

For example – Dutch with moon eyes/spots on eye/blue eyes will pass on to their offspring. Don’t be afraid to cull and cull hard. You have to be very critical when it comes to what makes the cut. Give your bunnies about 12 weeks and up before you really decide.

Take your bunnies to show and listen to all comments from judges. Make sure to listen to several judges and not just one. They all have their own opinions but it will give you an general idea. Also scope out seasoned breeders, most will be happy to discuss their breeds with you and give you some pointers.

Another thing to really watch for is BARN BLINDNESS. You may be overlooking a key aspect because you have become “blind” to it. Learn to ask for help and advice and learn to take it all into consideration. Don’t keep a rabbit just because it’s momma was your favorite.

As a breeder, you may also end up in the wrong direction, don’t be afraid to cull and step back and start over again. This is a difficult decision but sometimes it is what you have to do in order to breed correctness. This is also where keeping good accurate records will help you.

A true breeder will not only promote their breed but will also continue to strive to create better quality animals.

Best of luck to you and your bunnies!

Show Terms

Class – 1. A group of rabbits that fall into the same gender, pattern and age group. 2. Age group of the rabbit. Either Junior, Intermediate or Senior

BOB – Best of Breed – Rabbits are judged by breed and the best one determined by judge is BOB.

BOS – Best Opposite Sex – After judge determines the BOB rabbit then judge determines the best of the opposite sex of the BOB rabbit. For example, if a buck wins BOB, then the judge will choose the best doe for the BOS.

BOV – Best Of Variety – The rabbit judged best of its variety. “Variety” is the same as “color” in most breeds. Some breeds only come in one color, and BOV does not apply. “Variety” can mean something else in some breeds, so research your breed.

BOSV – Best Opposite Sex of Variety – Rabbit is judged and the best rabbit of the opposite sex of the BOV rabbit.

BOG – Best Of Group – In some breeds, varieties are lumped together, and shown in groups (Jersey Wooly), or first shown in individual varieties, then the best of each group is chosen (Netherland Dwarf).

BOSG – Best Opposite Sex of Group – Judged the best rabbit of the opposite sex of the BOG rabbit. Best 4-Class – Judged the best rabbit of all the breeds that have four showroom classes. The four classes being: Senior buck, senior doe, junior buck, and junior doe. This is an optional award. Best 6-Class – Judged the best rabbit of all the breeds that have six showroom classes. The six classes being: Senior buck, senior doe, intermediate (also called 6-8) buck, intermediate (also called 6-8) doe, junior buck, and junior doe. Some of these breeds also have a pre-junior class, which is not counted. This is an optional award. BIS – Best In Show – Judged as the best rabbit in the rabbit show. BIS may be chosen by comparing all the BOB winners, or a Best 4-Class and a Best 6-Class may be chosen first, and the BIS chosen from these two winners. Another method, is to designate several groups, with several breeds in each group, choose a Best of each Group, then choose BIS from the group winners. Usually, only very large shows use this method. All shows are required to choose a BIS.

RIS – Reserve In Show – Judged the second best rabbit in the show. This is an optional award. If a Best 4-Class and a Best 6-Class are chosen first, the RIS is the one not chosen for BIS.

Runner-up BIS – Same as RIS. Termonology may be different in different areas of the country. In a 4-H or Non-ARBA Sanctioned Show: Champion – Judged the best rabbit in a certain “group” of rabbits, as designated by the show committee. Rabbits may be grouped by breed, or some other criteria, such as “fancy” and “commercial”, “all other breeds”, “grade”, “meat pen”, “single fryer”, etc. Reserve Champion – Judged the best of the opposite sex of the Champion rabbit. For instance, if a doe wins Champion, then the judge will choose the best buck for the Reserve Champion. Except, in meat pen or single fryer, Reserve Champion is the second place pen or rabbit, regardless of sex. Grand Champion – Judged as the best rabbit in the show, or a certain part of the show. This award is chosen by comparing all of the Champion rabbits. Meat pens and single fryers are usually divided from “breeding” classes, so two or more Grand Champions may be awarded in a show. Reserve Grand Champion – Judged as the best of the opposite sex of the Grand Champion rabbit. Except, in meat pen or single fryer, Reserve Grand Champion is the second place pen or rabbit, regardless of sex. The above terms are common all across the US. But be aware that in 4-H and non-ARBA sanctioned shows, the show sponsor is free to make rules, and award placements as they see fit, so there could be variations.

ARBA Terms:

ARBA – The initials of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc., which promotes rabbits in the United States and foreign countries, provides for licensing of judges and registrars, and publishes a book of standards (The Standard of Perfection) which describes the desired characteristics for each recognized breed.

Grand Champion – A rabbit who has won at least three “Leg” papers (under at least 2 different ARBA judges, and with at least one win as an intermediate or senior), is registered, and has obtained a Grand Champion Certificate, with a Grand Champion number, from ARBA.

Pedigreed – A rabbit who has a written record of at least three generations of ancestors. This information should include name and/or ear number, weight and color, plus any other information available, such as winnings, registration numbers, and Grand Champion numbers. A pedigree form is made out by the breeder of the rabbit. A pedigreed rabbit is usually a purebred, but not necessarily. A pedigeed rabbit usually has a tattoo in its left ear, which corresponds to the ear number on its pedigree paper.

Registered – A rabbit who is purebred, fully pedigreed, has passed the inspection of an ARBA Registrar, and has received a Registration Certificate and number from ARBA. A registered rabbit should have a number or circled “R” tattooed in its right ear.

Leg – An official certificate issued by a Show Secretary, designating a certain win. In all cases, a leg will only be issued if there are at least 5 rabbits competing for that particular win, with at least 3 breeders of those rabbits. A “Leg” may be awarded for First Place in a class, BOB, BOS, BOV, BOSV, BOG, BOSG, or BIS. A rabbit can only get one Leg per show.

Breeding Time and Babies

When can I breed my rabbits?

So you are ready to breed your rabbits! There are several factors that go into determining if they are old enough to breed. The first is based on their breed and development. Generally, smaller breeds up to 8 pounds can be bred at 5 to 6 months old. These would include but not limited to Dutch, Netherland Dwarfs, Dwarf Hotots, etc. Examples of medium size breeds would be New Zealands, Californians, etc and can be bred around 6.5 to 7 months old. Your large breeds like Flemish Giants, Giant Chinchillas, etc should be bred around 8 to 9 months old. Please remember this is a general rule and you must learn your bred; example – English Lops don’t need to be bred until 10 lbs and 10 months old. Growth is more important than age, you can stunt a doe’s growth if bred to early.

You always want to take the doe to the buck’s cage unless table breeding. Does can get cage aggressive and injury your buck.

If doe refuses to bred then try again the next day. There are also some great tips here. Once you see the buck fall off ( I will work on video to help explain this), this means a successful mating. The buck will mount the doe and if he ejaculates into her then he will fall to the side. All matings will vary – some will scream, some will grunt, and some just get stiff looking.

You will hear all kinds of methods, tips, and tricks. Keep great records so that you know what works best for you. Some say to only allow the buck to breed same doe twice. Some will tell you to breed buck to a couple does at a time. I will say that every time the buck breeds then it decreases size of litters. Also remember that bucks do go sterile in excessive heat especially in the summer , this is nature’s birth control. If you want babies during the heat then make sure you have a cool barn.

Once you have your doe bred, then on day 18 try test breeding or palpate her. If she refuses buck, starts whining and attempts to escape then that is a good indication that she is bred. Palpating is an art that takes lots of practice and basically means that you are feeling for babies. They will feel like small marbles.

You need to put in a nest box on about day 25 after the doe has been bred. Kits are normally born between 28 to 32 days. Some does will go longer than others. This is another reason to keep great records. Nest boxes¬†are generally¬†made of wood or metal but breeders have been known to use other items including cardboard boxes. You want to make sure you provide some sort of filler. I personally use hay, some use wool, shavings, shredded newspaper, etc – don’t use cedar shavings (it is too strong for them).

Once the kits are born then check the nest and remove all the dead ones. The general rule is don’t expect the doe’s first litter to make it. I am NOT saying that first time litter won’t live, I am just saying that don’t be devastated if it happens. She is a first timer. Check the nest daily and pull out any dead ones that may be in there. You don’t want them making a mess of the box.

Handling the kits from birth will not cause doe to abandoned them. You probably won’t see her nurse the babies. Babies nurse about twice a day. As long as the baby is plump, clean, and sleek then it is being fed.To make sure that the doe is producing adequate milk you can help by giving full feed, oats, and calf manna.