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What Do You Think?

Ask the Breeder July/Aug/Sept 2009 Issue

How do you get started in raising Dutch? How do you choose a breeder to purchase from? Do you ask for a pair of Dutch or a trio? What should a breeder sell you (type, color, markings)?

From Kevin Hooper:
I like many other breeders got my start when my brother had rabbits in 4-H.  We lived on a small farm and dad said we did not have the room to raise hogs.  Well, in looking back, how much room would a few hogs have taken?  I know how much room about 15 – 20 outside rabbit hutches took!
My first rabbit – a Dutch – came from a friend of my brothers.  She was a typical pet rabbit.  After I showed an interest in raising them, we bought one from a local breeder.  Then after attending a few shows, I bought from a state breeder, then another and another.  We had many to choose from in Ohio, and still do!
When starting, it is important to purchase animals that will work together.  Usually, this means animals with some common ancestry.  This could mean any number of animals, depending on what you might want.  I always would try to find what I needed preferably in one rabbit, but often you would have to bring in more than one to find the desired traits.
A breeder should sell you what you want.  What you want should always include a good Dutch body, with good type – thicker ears, bold eye, good bone, straight legs, etc.  Even if you want or need some marking improvement, don’t sacrifice much in the way of Dutch type.
From Jill E. Pfaff:
Getting started raising Dutch in my opinion is like anything else, do your homework so you can ask questions and don't forget to listen.  Join ARBA & ADRC, go to shows, at the show table you can learn a lot about the rabbits and the people which will help you choose the breeder to get your start from.  I recommend starting with just a pair to new rabbit breeders but if you are an experienced rabbit breeder a group of 5 is the best way to get going fast so that you have two bucks and you can breed offspring to the other buck for your second generation. 
Type should always come first in my opinion, new breeders shouldn't expect someone to hand them perfect Dutch, for one thing they don't exist which is part of the fun!  Many animals are what I call parts rabbits, they have a trait you want and then some you don't want so try to match up with one that compliments the faults.  Bucks are the most important part of your breeding herd genetically speaking they have more impact, look for a masculine buck with a nice head, good ears that have substance and are well furred. I don't usually keep herd bucks that have more than one marking flaw.  I look for overall evenness in markings: cheeks, belt and stops.
From Fran Schettler:
Getting started in Dutch can happen in many ways depending on many factors.  If you’re already in rabbits, you will have much more access to a wide variety of breeders from whom you can purchase stock and gain knowledge of the breed.  If you are not already in rabbits, it pretty much comes down to finding your closest local Dutch breeder and establishing a relationship with them.  Hopefully this local breeder is reputable and has good stock and good knowledge of the breed. 
This is pretty much how Jim and I got started in Dutch about 25 years ago.  We didn’t even know that rabbit shows existed, but Jim, who was born in Pennsylvania, had had pet Dutch as a kid.  In my great wisdom after we got married, I decided to give him a pet rabbit for his birthday and found a newspaper ad from a local breeder of American Chins.  So Princess was our first rabbit, but, more importantly, the breeder let drop that there were RABBIT SHOWS!  We were astounded.  We went to a nearby show and thus acquired our first pair of Dutch.  From there we found a couple of local breeders and thus met Dorothy Bayliss and Bobbie Meyer.  Dorothy Bayliss took us from our first pair of black Dutch purchased at that first show into all six colors and much of our beginning knowledge was gained from her over the next few years.  We were very fortunate that she was relatively nearby and was extremely knowledgable about rabbits.  Even more importantly, she put up with all our questions and phone calls.  Without her mentorship, we would not have made it. 
Needless to say, California Dutch back then were a major joke when it came to type.  Once we were smart enough to realize this, we knew we had to bring in stock from elsewhere in the country.  About then, Scott Williamson came to California.  Between animals that we brought in from the national shows and the animals that Scott helped us acquire, California Dutch have become some of the best in the country.
When we were first purchasing our new stock for each variety, we either bought a pair or a trio from Dorothy.  Once we knew more, we purchased the best all around bucks at the national shows that we could talk people out of.  These bucks were usually not intended for sale!  Crossing these bucks with the Bayliss does who were great mothers and well colored although too large with poor heads was our starting challenge.  It took several years before we were nationally competitive, but we made it!
Finding a supportive mentor who has the breed smarts and rabbit husbandry is likely to be the key to your success coupled with the willingness to buy AND cull smartly, work hard and persevere in the bad times  is what will ultimately make you a success!
From Kristy Hume:
Our family originally got into breeding Dutch rabbits when I was very young. It was our 4-H project for my older brother and I. We had gotten a Dutch rabbit from a family friend, and I was so young I honestly can’t tell you how we acquired any of our other initial breeding stock. I have heard stories of the first time my brother showed our rabbits, the notorious “I’m a newbie!” Pet Taxi in tow and almost, if not all, of our rabbits being disqualified for being mismarked. We had basically no guidance, but we figured it all out sooner or later. We never showed much but 4-H shows, so it’s hard telling with the knowledge I have today what our animals were really like.
Anyway, my older brother lost interest in rabbits, I found myself spending all of my time with my pony, so we sold everything; all of our rabbits, cages, crocks, etc. to a lady for an insanely low price. No one realized that years later we’d be kicking ourselves on that decision! I have always been very active in showing animals at my county fair, and when I got a new, young Warmblood horse that I was going to ride strictly dressage, I needed a new animal to take to the fair to show. I offhandedly decided I’d like to get a few Dutch rabbits and breed them again.
This time around though, we had my step-mom, Julie. She is the research queen! She got online and looked through articles and on websites to see who the big names in Dutch in our state were. We wanted nice rabbits, so we went to those who were winning at the time. We connected up with open breeder Tom Dietrich and youth breeder Steven Stump. We didn’t really know what we were looking for as far as the standard of Dutch went. Markings were easy enough, but type we had no clue about. We went to breeders with the intent that we didn’t need “perfect” rabbits- we actually were looking for older brood stock that they were replacing, but were still young enough to use. I really think this was a wise route, because I know now that personally, I have sold some really exceptional older brood does that were being replaced by their daughters, but if someone had coming looking to buy those daughters instead, there’s no way I would have sold them because I want to show and breed them! Another thing that pertains to this conversation is that I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to breeders necessarily looking for show rabbits. I think that for the most part, especially with does, you’re going to end up with a lower quality animal that probably will do average on the show table, and then when it hits breeding age, there is always the chance you’re going to end up with the one rabbit out of every dozen or so that doesn’t want to breed, passes away during maiden birth, etc.
When we went to Tom’s place, he showed us a variety of rabbits and talked to us about colors and right then and there I set in stone that I was going to raise blacks and blues by buying an older blue brood doe, a black buck with blue background, and a nice little black junior doe. We didn’t have any knowledge of torts, steels and grays, so we never were really interested in them, but  we did know about not crossing our blues and chocolates because of the lilac issue. The rabbits Tom sold me were exceptional, and I can never thank him enough for selling such quality animals to a youth breeder just starting up. Within months I was raising my very own babies that were winning on the show table from the two older animals, and the junior doe I showed once just to see how she would do, and the little gal ended up winning BOB.
I wasn’t able to go to Steven’s house, so my parents bought a pair from him for me. We got a pair of blacks, both older, proven breeding animals. They were a little different breeding from my other three, but still went back to the Tommy D line. I had a lot of success crossing them into my other three.
Now that it has been a few years and my knowledge of Dutch has grown in leaps and bounds, these are the tips I have for someone just getting into the hobby. First and foremost, research is the key! The web is an un-ending source of information of articles, breeders, etc. I also recommend going to the shows and meeting the breeders. Most of them are more than willing to show you what type and markings you should be looking for in your rabbits, it is so much easier to learn when you can actually get your hands on rabbits. Buy a Standard of Perfection to become familiar with markings, but type will just take practice. I think that if you have the room and want to seriously get into Dutch, a group of 5 rabbits (2 bucks and 3 does) is a nice number, preferably not all from the same breeder. You want lines that cross well, but not that are so similar that your rabbits get inbred. Make sure your colors are breeding compatible (again, all this information can be found in books and online). When looking for breeding animals, it’s important to remember that markings are only half the points, your rabbits also need type! These days, if your rabbit has poor type, it is going no where on the show table. Judges are a lot more forgiving to a few marking flaws than a flat, long rabbit. Personally, I like my bucks to be really nice animals. They should have good markings and great type. You can use one buck on so many does, that you don’t want an animal with a severe flaw, whether it be marking or type, when he is crossing on so many animals. As for does, it’s the opposite, you can afford to have one with a marking flaw or two, even ones that make them unshowable (tied elbows, split stops) and it’s much easier to breed those flaws out. But I never compromise on type on my does!
Last but least, if you’re serious about raising quality Dutch, remember that what you buy is what you get. Nice animals are going to cost more money, but in the end, it should take less time to establish your rabbitry with nice animals and if you get a winning reputation, you will be able to recoup that money in the sales of their babies.

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