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Inbreeding, Line Breeding & Out Crossing

by Kevin Hooper

Many different breeding systems have been tried throughout the years to produce that "perfect" Dutch. Inbreeding, Line Breeding, and Out Crossing all have worked to varying degrees of success. Let's look at what they are, and the results you can expect (from my experience and perspective).
Out Crossing - Many of your top breeders have done this for years. They buy two superior animals which are unrelated, and breed them together, and bam, they have their litter. Since both were superior, you should have superior babies, all show stoppers and NDS winners, right! Well, as you know with Dutch, there is no guaranteed cross which will work, not one!
What I would expect with a cross like this would be one nice one, with traits from both parents, one with traits from neither, some with traits from one of the parents, and some weird stuff!
You do get a bit of "Hybridization" by out crossing. (see below)
Now, this may not sound much different from what you may get with the other systems, but myself, I shoot for consistency of good traits. With out crossing, you will get some good animals, but the consistency is not always that good - from great to weird, all in the same litter.
Inbreeding - This involves using one buck (or doe) on everything, offspring, siblings, and even the bucks Dam. Now, this is and can be done, but when you do this over and over for generations, it is inbreeding. This is a method to try and get those traits from that superior animal in everything you produce. When inbreeding, often you will see the same buck as the only grand sire, or great grand sire on the entire pedigree.
I did say, this can and does work. You are after all of those traits the superior animal carries. Well, remember the saying be careful of what you ask for! You will get those desireable traits, bt you will get all other traits too.
If you have ever heard of hybridization, this involves out crossing, or even crossbreeding. What you normally get are very hardy animals, that are great mothers, have extra milk production, and grow quickly.
Inbreeding will give you no hybridization, the genetic traits will be common and you may loose some desirable traits. It is common for inbred animals to be slow growing, with less milk production and are not as thrifty. This is what happened to my torts about 10-12 years ago. While the animals you get may be good, if the good does only raise two or three per litter, and the bad does raise none, you are not left with much to work with. So, if you go this route, breed in something that is not entirely related every once and a while.
Lastly, we have Line Breeding. This is what I have been doing for several years. This involves using related animals only. I keep two to three bucks per color usually. Two of the bucks will be half brothers. Buck "A" will be bred to the offspring of buck "B". If I use a third buck in that color, it might be another half brother, or the father of both buck "A" & "B". Now, these are just rules of thumb, and I do some sibling breeding occasionally - but only occasionally.
What you get from line breeding is consistency of traits. Those may be good traits or bad, but they are consistent. Once you eliminate the bad, you are left with litters that are fairly uniform in type, coat, and color, and somewhat in markings as well.
Once I get a good "Line" going, it is common to get three or four well marked babies per litter, with the mismarks looking very good as well. That is where my Grays have been the last few years.
What do you do when line breeding and things are not working? I bring in a rabbit that is out of my line, but from someone who has mixed it with anotehr line. That seems to be the best fix. I rarely try an out cross. When I do, it seems to bring unwanted characteristics more often then those desired.
Whichever method you prefer is your choice. Try them all and see what works best for you!

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