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Ask the Breeder Jan/Feb/March 2007 Issue

When trying to decide what animals to keep for a breeding program, I always keep the best-typed animals; but in your opinion, what marking flaws are unacceptable?

From Fran Schettler:

Assuming that an animal is well typed, marking flaws should be looked at in a few different ways, depending on your particular needs. Keep in mind that some marking flaws are a disqualification, while others just reduce the competitiveness of the rabbit.
First, for example, if your rabbits typically have stops that are too short, you may not want to keep a rabbit that has even shorter stops. You might even consider keeping a rabbit that has stops that are too long, so as to try to breed away from your trend of too short stops. Try to breed for balance and to counteract a particular fault.
Secondly, I prefer to keep a rabbit with one large marking fault rather than one with multiple smaller marking faults and I prefer that the doe carry the marking fault(s) as opposed to the bucks. Bucks impact the herd much faster than does do, and I don't want his marking faults bred in too strongly. I am therefore much harder on my bucks at culling time than I am on the does.
Thirdly, it takes as much care, effort, and expense to keep a badly marked rabbit over a well-marked rabbit. If you only have a few holes, you may not have room to keep a mismarked rabbit. Why keep a mismark when you could have a show marked one that can go the shows with you?
Fourth, if you are a supporter of the ARBA registration system, keeping a mismarked dq'd rabbit will keep you from registering, thus breaking your chain of registered rabbits on the pedigree.
Personally, I particularly dislike very high cheeks, very low cheeks, badly hooked cheeks, huge undercut or saddle jogs and very long stops and will seldom keep animals with these faults. I also don't usually keep animals with large drags of color onto the shoulder area. I find that these faults are not only very ugly to look at, but seem to breed through more readily than some of the other faults.

From Jill Giron:

In my breeding program I never breed the rabbits with the following DQ's:

White ears (larger than a few hairs), spots in the eyes or freckles on the nose or lips.

From Allan Gerhart:

What marking flaws are unacceptable?

            Lets start out with bucks, we like to keep two Sr bucks for breeding in each variety. By limiting breeding bucks to only two it helps us save on cage space for does and upcoming Jrs. So we don’t want any flaws on our bucks. The faults that they do have I would consider them to be small or slight flaws. We want a well-balanced buck with good bone and substance. We want our breeding bucks to do well on the show table, as well or they won’t stay in our barn very long. I looked at the winnings of our six best bucks; two blacks, two blues, and two steels. Those six bucks have a combined total of 66 G.C. legs, an average of 10.6 per buck. So for breeding bucks we only keep the best of the very best that we have.
            As far as does go we are a lot more forgiving on marking flaws as long as we have adequate cage space. We still keep mostly does that don’t have any DQ’S. One major fault is acceptable if the doe has everything else going for her. We have kept does with poor under cuts, offset saddles, and dirty necks. I would rather see short stops than long stops and have kept does with splits stops in the past. What we like to see are good cheeks (void of drags into the neck) and as round as possible. A good blaze is also important. It’s just hard to look at a Dutch with a bad looking head. So a doe with one big flaw or a couple of small flaws would be acceptable in our breeding program.

From Jill Pfaff:

For the question concerning marking flaws that I find unacceptable: I never keep animals for breeding who have eye spots, white tipped ears or tails, very high cheeks or long stops. I have a few very productive brood does in my herd with colored patches or a large spot on the white collar area along with a split stops and a close tied elbow. In my experience these traits are much less heritable or passed on to the next generation.

From Bob Bergene:

Determining which marking flaws are unacceptable will vary from one breeder to another. As a breeder achieves a degree of perfection in his breeding stock, he will tolerate less marking flaws and he or she also has to look where there is strength and weakness is in their blood line.
I sell a lot pets from my herd in the Kansas City market and when I go through my Dutch litters when they are four to 5 weeks old, there are certain marking flaws that will make it an automatic pet. I like to get a second opinion also, so when I sort litters for potential show, breeding and pet stock, I enlist the help of my fellow breeder and neighbor, Rich Lehmann. Sometimes we don't agree, but for the most part, we are on the same page. However before we even look at the markings, we first look at the type, -- does it have enough depth to go into the herd despite any marking flaws? Depth is very important. Now, we are ready to look at markings.
LONG STOPS - stops approaching the hock area are a definite no no. I prefer short stops and will tolerate a split stops. But I don't like long stops.
EARS - ears that are long and thin are undesirable. Also if they have a white spot on them, this is not good and they are pets. However, I will keep a good rabbit (markings and type) if they have a slight frosting of hairs inside the ear, as it sometimes disappears after the baby fur molts out.
CHEEK MARKINGS - I do not like cheeks running into the mouth. I would sooner have a nice round high cheek than a low cheek.
SADDLE - I have recently started to cull for very short and narrow saddles & also for very wide band saddles. In your herd if you are having trouble with biased saddles, you might want to consider looking closely at that trait when selecting replacement stock.
FRECKLES - it's a pet
EYES - china blue eyes or an off color eye is a pet
At our rabbitry, we are more lenient on markings of does than for bucks, as I keep back fewer bucks for show and breeding than does.

From Kevin Hooper:

Great question. Here is a less than clear answer. It depends. I don't know if there is a specific marking flaw I will not keep if it is on an animal that is great in all other aspects! Now, whatever that fault may be, if it is severe, it had better be the only marking flaw on the animal, and the parents had better not have that same flaw. I have kept many does with a severe flaw, but not many bucks. If I have a fantastic doe, with a spot in the saddle, or a small white tip on the ear, or a tied elbow etc., and their parents did not have this fault, I will keep that animal.

With that being said, I have recently been culling harder than ever on markings. I now consider any stops longer than 1/2 of the hock a DQ – at least for my breeding program.

Jack Wireman told me years ago, it is a lot easier to get color off of a Dutch, than to put it on! This means, lower cheeks are better than high cheeks and shorter stops better than long stops, etc.

Keep your markings even or balanced- stops, cheeks, and once you have what you want in type, don't tolerate less than what you expect to produce!

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