Rabbit Breeds - DOC by jRlV16S


									                                  Rabbit Breeds
                                   Booklet No. 401
                           Animal Husbandry- Rabbits: RBS-2
I.     Introduction
II.    Breed Groups
              A Heavy breeds
              B. Average breeds
              C. Light weight breeds
              D. Small breeds
III.   Conclusion


        The main objective of this booklet is to impart knowledge about the various breeds of
rabbit and to show how rabbit production can be used for income generation. This booklet will
help the social activists working in this field to provide sound advice to farmers on rabbit

Dr. K. T. Chandy, Agricultural & Environmental Education

I. Introduction

        The rabbit has been the subject of a general revival of interest since 1960s. This animal
was domesticated rather recently compared to other farm animals, and systematic research on
rabbit meat production has only been undertaken in the last two decades. All today's breeds of
rabbit are derived from the wild rabbit, which originated in the Western Mediterranean region.
Wild rabbits were once very common in Spain and North Africa, and it is probable that the
Romans started to domesticate them during the third century B.C.

       It has been suggested that as a result of domestication, these rabbits produced a very
hardy strain which proved adaptable and spread, or was introduced, into Northern Europe.
Rabbits gradually came to be semi-domesticated animals. Areas of land were put aside to allow
them to breed. Rabbits were first tamed and selectively bred in the monasteries and had been
kept as pets since the 19th century. Emigrants took them to Australia, where they escaped and
became serious agricultural pests. Even though rabbits have a long association with man the
pet breeds of more than 60 were developed only after the late 1890s.

        Rabbits are popular pets, being responsive and are very easily tamed. They are ideal
pets for the older children, who can take on the responsibility for their daily needs.

II. Breed Groups

       A breed is a collection of individuals within a species who share a certain number of
morphological and physiological characters which are passed on to their progeny as long as
they breed among themselves. Thus, a breed is the outcome of the combined impact of artificial
and natural selection (environmental adaptation).
       There are many breeds of rabbits in the world and they all have different qualities. Within
a breed also there is lot of variation in their qualities. These differences are passed on from the
parent rabbits to their young. Careful selection of rabbits for breeding can, therefore, lead to
improvements in the herd of rabbits.

         For commercial purposes, the most important differences between rabbits are their size;
breeding ability and suitability to the climate. Hence, there are different kinds of breeds.
i. Primitive or primary, and geographic, from which all other breeds have come.
ii. Breeds obtained through artificial selection from the above, such as Burgundy Fawn, New
Zealand White and Red, Champagne d' Argent.
iii. Synthetic breeds obtained by planned crosses of several breeds, such as Blane du Bouscat,
iv. Mendelian breeds, obtained by the fixation of a new character of simple genetic
determination, appear by mutation, such as Castorrex, Satin, Japanese.

       Breeds are conveniently grouped by adult size, which is also related to production
characters such as precocity, prolificcacy, growth rates and age at maturity.

A. Heavy breeds
       The growth potential of the heavy breeds can be exploited, especially in cross-breeding.
The Bouscat Giant White, French Lop, Flemish Giant and French Giant papillon are examples.
The fur of the Lop varies greatly in colour and can be white, agouti, iron grey, or black. Adult
weighs more than 5 kilograms. Its body build would make it a good meat rabbit. However, it is
bred for show and therefore found only in small units. The breed is more important in other
European countries such as the Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark.

1. Bouscat Giant White
         The Bouscat Giant White is a synthetic albino breed. It is a large rabbit known for its
prolificacy and fast growth rate in traditional French rabbitries. The Flemish Giant from Belgium
comes in several colours. It is one of the largest rabbits (potential adult weight 7 kg) and is still
farm raised. This breed could furnish a gene pool for improving growth in other breeds; Flemish
Giants could be pure bred for this purpose.

2. Flemish Giant
       These breeds are also very large rabbits which are used for meat production. An adult
Flemish Giant has a very wide back and weighs 5 to 6.5 kilograms. This is the largest of the
domestic breeds of rabbit normally bred in Britain for meet.

3. Giant Blanc
        The breeds are very large white rabbits and are sometimes mated with Californian
rabbits and New Zealand White rabbits to produce a large hybrid which is good for meat
production. An adult Giant Blanc buck weighs 6.3 to 7.3 kg and an adult doe is about 6.8 to 7.8
kg in weight. They have white fur.

4. British Giant
        This is the largest of the British breed of rabbit. There are many different combinations of
coat and eye colours.
B. Average breeds
       These are the basic stock of breeds used for intensive rabbit production for meat in
Western Europe and are the most numerous. Normally, an adult weight varies from 3.5- 4.5
kilogams. Only a few examples are described here.

        Silver rabbits are found in several countries (English Silver, German Silver). These
varieties differ from the Champagne d' Argent in adult size (English Silver is lighter) and colour.
Like Burgundy fawn, Champagne d' Argent is an example of a breed that has developed with
selection over many years from a regional population (Champagne). The breed is known for
both its fur, its productivity, high fertility quick growth, good muscle development and good meat
quality. Its adult weight is 4 to 4.5 kg and it is farm bred in France, usually on straw litter.
Research has begun on intensive breeding of Champagne d' Argent.

1. Burgundy Fawn
         This is also of regional origin. It has spread throughout France and elsewhere in Europe
(Italy, Belgium, Switzerland).

2. New Zealand Red
       This was first developed in California, with a system of selection very similar to-mat used
in France on the Burgundy Fawn, with the difference that the New Zealand breed was raised on
wire mesh floors which were introduced much earlier in the United States than they were in

3. Californian
        This is a synthetic American breed. It was presented for the first time in 1928 in
California by its breeder, whose objective was a meat animal with very good fur. The adult
weight of the Californian is 3.6 to 4 kilograms.

4. New Zealand White
        This breed originated as a breed in the United States. It is the albino offspring of
coloured rabbits. From the outset it was bred selectively in large meat production units,
especially in southern California, for its breeding qualities: prolificacy, maternal performance,
fast growth rate and precocious body development which makes it ready for slaughter at 56
days, the objective being a light carcass. The New Zealand White adult weight (4kg) slightly
exceeds that of the Californian. The New Zealand White was used in the first studies on the
rabbit at the Fontana station in California. Since, 1960 this breed has spread through Western
Europe and other regions with the growing use of mesh floors for rabbit cages.

5. Chinchilla Giganta
        These rabbits are raised in Europe and are of German origin. They are fairly large and
light grey in colour. They mature early and have a good meat to bone ratio. An adult Chinchilla
weighs about 5 kilograms.

6. Angora
        This is a wool producing rabbit. The coat needs daily attention, so it is not a beginner's
rabbit. The albino form is the most common, although other colours are available which have
specific names.

7. Argente Champagne
       These are medium sized rabbits weighing about 4 kg and are kept mainly for their fur
which is light or dark grey. They can come in four colours: Champagne, blue, cream and brown.
The Argente rabbits originated in France, probably in the province of Champagne.

8. English
       This breed has evolved from the 'old English' .This popular breed is white with a
coloured nose, ears, eyes and chains of spots on the flanks.

9. Harlequin
       This is a long-eared rabbit with attractive and unusual markings reminiscent of a chess
board. The most popular colouring is black and orange, although it is possible to obtain brown
and orange, blue and cream and lilac and cream. When the orange portion of the pattern is
replaced by white the variety is called a Magpie.

10. Rex
        In 1927 a rabbit with a completely new coat type was imported into Britain from France,
the Rex. The coat is soft and velvet like with no long guard hairs. Over the years breeders have
selected for a plush, even coat, of which there are now over 30 different coat and eye colours
and patterns. Nearly, all possible colour combinations are available. There is also a long haired
variety of Rex: the opposum rex. The only colour regularly seen is black, and this variety is now

C. Light weight breeds
       These breeds have an adult weight of2.5 to 3 kg and they include the Himalayan, the
small Chinchilla, the Dutch and the French Havana.

1. Russian or Himalayan rabbit
        They are white with black extremities. It is thought to have originated in China and
spread from there to the USSR and Poland. They are very attractive patterned rabbit. The main
colour is white with the nose, ears, tail and feet coloured black, blue, lilac or chocolate. The
young are all white until they leave the nest, when the colours start to develop.

2. Dutch
        The Dutch rabbit is a small, compact, early maturing rabbit. It has very good mothering
qualities and has been used in meat production for this reason. An adult Dutch rabbit weighs
about 2.3 kilograms. They have a half black and half white coat.

3. Havana
         These are also fairly small, compact rabbits, but they produce well developed, meaty
joints. An adult Havana weighs 2.7 to 3 kilograms.

       The light weight breeds usually develop very quickly and make excellent mothers. They
eat less than the medium and large breeds and could be crossed or used, pure in developing
countries to produce a light, meaty carcass of 1 to 1.2 kilograms.

D. Small breeds
        These breeds weigh about 1 kg at maturity. They are represented chiefly by the Polish
rabbit, with its many variations of coat colour. Selection for small size has led to very low fertility
and a marked decrease in growth rate. These breeds cannot be used for meat production. They
are bred for show, for the laboratory and as pets.
1. Lop (Dwarf Lop)
        This rabbit has the same features as the English Lop although it is only a quarter of the

2. Netherland Dwarf
       This delightful little rabbit is one of the most popular of the modem breeds and
undoubtedly makes the best pet. Even when fully grown, it will sit in the palm of one's hand.
Two points to look for are small ears, less than 5 cm (2 inches), and large, bright eyes. There
are more than 30 different colours.

3. Polish
         The Polish rabbit is almost identical to the Netherland Dwarf. It was developed as a
breed in the UK over many years. Until the Netherland Dwarf was imported during the 1950s
only two varieties were recognized. Since then the number of colours available has increased
until it rivals the Netherland. The Polish breed is more hare-like, with slightly longer ears and

III. Conclusion
        Careful selection of rabbits for breeding is one of the most important ways in which
rabbit keepers can increase their production. However, for commercial purposes, their size,
breeding ability and suitability to the climate should be taken into consideration.

        Rabbits are fast breeders and can produce large quantities of rich meat for home
consumption. They reproduce faster than the pig, goat or sheep. One Doe can produce more
than 15 times her own weight in offspring within one year if she is properly cared for. Rabbits
are raised for both meat and pet production.

       Rabbits are almost always family pets and it may be important 10 choose a breed of a
small size. Dwarf rabbits weigh about 1 kg but a Flemish Giant, weighing 5.5 to 10.0 kg,
requires the help of an adult. Most cross bred rabbits weigh about 2 to 3 kilograms. In all the
recognized breeds of rabbit, we find more than 20 colour variations within them.

       However, the importance of the domestic rabbit as a supplier of meat for human
consumption is widely recognized throughout the world. In Europe and the United States large
scale commercial rabbit farming has been practised for many years and breeds are being
constantly improved and standards of husbandry has been raised.


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