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What Do You Think?

Ask the Breeder July/Aug/Sept 2007 Issue


Some people feel type is just about size and larger rabbits have a better chance on winning over the smaller ones.  As a breeder, could you give your thoughts on this issue?
From Fran Schettler:
Type is about a whole lot more than just size. In fact, I would say that size has little to do with it.  Type is about head and body shape, proportionality, balance, and a short cobby style of rabbit. A rabbit of any size can have good type, just as a rabbit of any size can show poor type.  What makes up good type is a whole separate question.
After showing for 23+ years, I find that larger rabbits (which I will define as being 5 - 5-1/2 lbs) have a far worse chance of placing well than smaller ones (which I will define as 2-1/2 lbs to 5 lbs). Judges always seem to conclude that a large Dutch, even though it might be well balanced and of good type, is somehow long and of poor type.  A baby size Dutch (defined as 1-3/4 lbs to 2-1/2 lbs) generally will not receive fair consideration from most judges, even if it is in good fur and is well developed for its age.  Thus, the weight range of 2-1/2 to 5 lbs. seems ideal.  When choosing between two otherwise equal animals though, the rabbit closer to the 4-1/2# ideal weight should prevail.
Sometimes I will promote a junior Dutch to senior status at the show, usually when the animal has already won at least 2 junior legs.  However, the animal must be of a size to compete well with the real seniors, which means the animal must be at least 3-1/2 lbs, and preferably closer to 4 to 4-1/2 lbs.
We breeders need to remember that the weight range of a Dutch indicates that 4-1/2# is ideal senior show weight.  Once in the breeding pen, I prefer larger does (4-1/2 to 5-1/2 lbs) for better baby making, larger litters and easier birthing, and smaller bucks ( 3-1/2 lbs to 4-1/2 lbs)  to offset the larger doe size.  I also find that does with a lot of rise have an easier time giving birth, while does that tend to be flatter over the top can have greater difficulty giving birth.
From Allan Gerhart:
I think that bigger or more mature rabbits have a lot better chance of winning in the Jr. classes. I prefer my Dutch to be somewhere in the middle range 4.5 pounds, I believe this weight goes well with a good body type.  Bigger does will and often do better than a big buck in my experiences.  And some judges just prefer a certain size Dutch no matter what the type might be. As long as they are set up properly and posed, size shouldn't matter if they meet the standard.
From Bob Bergene:
Type in the Dutch rabbit is the external appearance of the skeletal structure of the animal.  We in the Dutch world have defined what "good" type is.  This desirable skeletal structure has changed over the years in the Dutch in the United States.  I have looked at pictures of winning rabbits in the 1950 Dutch guidebook and their bone structure is completely different than that of what you see winning at shows now.  Now keep in mind that type is the external appearance of the Dutch and that we want the body to form a nicely rounded back with nice full round hips and the curve should rise at the nape of the neck and rise gradually toward the hip bones and round off smoothly.  Now this definition of "good" type can be seen in the larger Dutch which would be in the 5 to 5 1/2 lb range and it can also be seen in the smaller Dutch in the 3 1/2 to 4 lb range.  Also, you can have a large Dutch with terrible type and a small Dutch with terrible type.  (I have both!!)  So you see, there is no correlation between type and size.
When I was first getting into rabbits and selecting stock, a knowledgeable rabbit breeder told me that "YOU SEE TYPE AND YOU FEEL CONDITION". When I evaluate my Dutch, I like to set them up properly and then take several steps back and see what the outward appearance of the structure of the animal is.  This is what I feel we are discussing when we talk about type.  You may want to confirm what you see by feeling the rabbit to check the strength of the shoulders or the degree of fullness at the base of the hip, but your first reaction when you see that rabbit from a distance is usually best indicator of type, good or bad.  I felt the man that gave me this above advice must have known what he was talking about, because he has won three Best in Shows at the ARBA National Convention in 1984 and 1985 and 1990.
I initially referred to "good" type, because we think this is better type than what we had in the Dutch 50 years ago, -- but "good" type is relative and is perceived differently.  I note this as I look at the British Dutch winners and what they consider the best type.  Hopefully each of us are evolving toward the ideal type rabbit in our rabbitry. 
From Dennis, Barb, & Megan Kline:
There are times when a more mature rabbit will do better on the table but we feel that if a younger animal has everything, including good fur, then it should win.  An example is the gray junior doe we had at the 2005 National Dutch Show.  She was only 13 weeks old and won BOSV and some said that if she had won BOV she would have been right in there for BOB.  So our feelings are that if a younger animal has the type, markings, fur and condition, it should do well over the older animals.  Some judges like the more mature junior but we don't agree with that.
From Jill Pfaff:
Balance to me is a big part of Type, which isn’t about size at all. The only measurement we have to guide us in our Standard is a two pound weight range which makes Type analysis quite subjective.  My personal philosophy is to raise the type of rabbit that appeals to me and my interpretation of the Standard. 
When I look at a Dutch rabbit I start with the head and ask myself is the head rounded in shape and do the ears balance with the head shape?  I look for ears that have substance, which to me means enough thickness to stand open and not fold at the tips and well furred, I am especially critical of a bucks head.  Ears can be too short as well as too long to balance.  I also look at the eye shape and size to balance to the head.
Next I look at the head size balance with respect to the body size.  I dislike heads that are too small and just look like they don’t fit.  Finally I look at the balance of body width to height.  I believe the current trend is for a slightly taller than wider animal.  Animals with extreme width tend to be flat especially as they age. 
If anything I find myself biased against small Dutch under 4 lbs as Seniors, they tend to be what I call old style with very bold heads but flat.  Small does in my experience have difficulty kindling too.  In my herd I prefer my bucks to be 4- 4 ½ lbs and my does are usually 4 ½ - 5lbs.  Overall balance is the key to a winner.

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