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Breeding and Judging Good Dutch

by Kevin Hooper

I have been meaning to write part of this article for the last few issues, but I did not make the time. Now, after talking to a breeder at the ARBA Convention, I believe it is needed.
Breeding good Dutch is not that hard. But what constitutes a good Dutch? Most of us, with some decent stock and some good luck can raise Dutch that are competitive on a local level. What do we have to do to be competitive against the best in the country?
First, I want to touch on how I go about striving for the best Dutch. The three things that I look for are structure, balance, and fanciness. I try to have both parents showing these traits, or the two of them will combine to have these traits.
Structure deals with body type. Balance deals with how everything fits together (including their markings), and fanciness - they have to have that flash that says, "look at me!" (This would be a bright bold eye, and a shiny, rather short coat - this gives the crisp markings.)
I use the example of a gray buck that I had for sale at the National Dutch Show this spring. I consider him a "Standard buck". He meets the standard, but he is not the show winning buck. He is a big, rather heavy boned buck, who is balanced in markings, but he is not that sharp in his markings (coat is a bit long), and he is darker in color than what I want. He has a good full body. One breeder looked at him and decided to buy one that was flashier. I kept that buck and used him on a well marked, flashy doe. She is not the best in any one aspect, but she produces well. The combination of the two - his body, bone, and markings - with her color, crisp markings, and that flash - produced a buck that has two Best In Shows this fall.
I could have bred her to a flashy buck, that had the color and markings, and a good body, but would I have gotten that bone and structure?
The old saying that you start with type comes into play here. The breeder at the convention told me it seemed like the judges were going in the opposite direction of what long time Dutch breeder Tom Shufflebottom taught him when he was a kid. He was told to work on the markings first, that you did not have a Dutch without the markings. I agree with that, but I will add that you have to have the type as well as markings to make a Dutch!
If you look at the points assigned to the Dutch in our Standard, you will see that we only have 17 points for body type! Cheeks are allotted twelve points! So, a good set of cheeks and the neck marking are equal to type? This is why I don't add points when judging. Points are simply assigned to show importance. Type is the highest number of points, so body type is the most important aspect of a Dutch.
You must also consider that breeding two mismarked Dutch can produce a fantastically marked Dutch. But, breeding two Dutch that have bad type, will not produce good type. Success in the long run, requires you to start with body type.
Every once in a while, you have to take a step back to go forward in breeding Dutch. I am one of the judges for the 2005 National Dutch Show. It will be an honor to judge the NDS, but I hate not being able to show there. The one plus that comes from this is my breeding program. I am not going to be focusing on producing the winner for this show, so I can take a step back and see what I need to do to improve my herd. I keep my most balanced animals, cull out those with any type flaws or marking flaws that are common in that color, and sort of start over with some of my breeding combinations. This usually slows me on the show table for six months or so, but in the long run, I make plenty of progress.
You must also consider the aspect of balance. We want a balanced Dutch. What does that mean? It means that we need the best markings on a properly typed rabbit, or it will be out of balance! A Dutch with the best markings, but slightly long in body, or low in shoulders, or even pinched hindquarters, will be totally out of balance. They will not do well in a show versus those animals that have the bone, body, flesh, coat, and color, with a couple of marking flaws.
The other aspect that I strive for is flesh, I want a good, hard well fleshed animal. One judge at the ARBA Convention last year in Wichita said on one of my animals, "excellent flesh, not that it matters much in this breed!" My jaw hit the ground. It may not sound like it is important when reading the standard as condition is only 5 points. but, that means it is equal to the shape of the Dutch head! We all know that is important!
This also goes back to bone. It is not easy to get that good hard flesh on a Dutch of fine bone. More bone will carry more flesh. It will also give us a thicker ear, as well as a thicker hide. A thicker hide will make the rabbit that much more smooth.
So, it all boils down to you need it all plus some, to compete with the best. You need body, head, coat, color, and markings, as well those things not mentioned in the Standard: bone, flesh, flash, and balance! The first five are easy. If you can add in the last four, then you will have the best Dutch and everyone will be trying to catch you!

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