Breeding Dutch - A Breeding Method for the Small Breeder
by Al Meier Jr, submitted by Rick Billups
The system for breeding Dutch as outlined in the following paragraphs is, I think you will find, contrary to some of the more common bits of advice tossed out from time to time. The ultimate goal in raising Dutch is to produce the maximum number of show-quality Dutch from as few does as possible. If you want to be merely a raiser of Dutch, you can obtain a bunch of mis-marked does, turn them loose in a barn with a buck and from time to time, as months pass, open the door and pick out a couple for the coming show. This is not any more absurd than the advice most freely given; select animals with good type and color, and the markings will take care of themselves. This will, in time give you a fine collection of good-typed, good-colored junk. If good type and color can be maintained, or improved by selection, why then cannot the variables within the markings be eliminated by the same method?
Select for Markings: My system of breeding is to select for markings, thereby not putting more variable into my breeding than already exist. How many variables in type could you possibly have other than a tendency to ranginess or flatness? The hybrid of the two closely approximates good type. The number of deviations from good head markings alone more than out-weigh these two extreme types. Poor head markings can have any of the following faults: blunt blaze, rough blaze, high cheeks, low cheeks, odd cheeks, square cheeks, wavy cheeks, angular cheeks, hooks and drags, and full or dirty necks. This is quite an impressive list, and yet many breeders ignore them, hoping that by selecting for type and color, the genes controlling all these little variables are going to get lost someplace during gestation.
Before going into explanation what to buy, I'd like to say a few words on from whom to buy. My advice is to buy from a color specialist, or at least from a breeder who keeps his colors pure if he raised all the colors - this is something difficult to be sure of because of the temptation to keep that good show specimen no matter what his breeding.
Blacks and blues are compatible crosses, but I can see no advantage in blue blood in blacks, although a black cross can be beneficial in blue breeding, but only if the color seems to be diluting too much.
How to Start: Now finally as to how to start. No matter how much you have to invest, allot 60% of it for the purchase of the most outstanding buck you can find. He should have the very best cheeks and stops procurable - don't make any concessions on this, don't buy the best buck you happen to see on a given day just because this is the day you decided to go out and buy a buck. Horse breeding farms buy mares to suit an outstanding stallion, not a stallion to suit the mares they happen to have gotten a good buy on. Look over the breeder's other stock and note if these qualities seem to be general through out the majority of his animals.
In addition to the outstanding cheeks and stops, the more other good markings you can combine on the same animal the better (don't always look for the perfect animal - it's always the one that died in the nest box!)
I would buy one doe from the breeder of the buck, and would pick up two more does from a different breeder of good typical stock. The reason for doing this is to give myself a little better chance of making a click. These does should have at least good, well-shaped cheeks.
The four best young does are saved from these matings and retained for breeders, only one of which should be retained from the doe of the same line as the buck -and the other three must be better than their dams. The old does are then disposed of and the young does are bred back to their sire. the three best young does of these matings are retained along with the best-producing doe of the dams; if a good young buck is produced in the litters, he is also retained for breeding to these four nucleus does. If a young buck is produced, now is the time to recover some of your investment in the old buck. Line breeding is now at an end and from now on the program is on inbreeding. In the event no outstanding young buck is produced, you can line breed one more time and then save the best young buck produced, along with the four best does.
From here on, the program calls for nothing but strict selection for the complete Dutch. I personally never retain anything that will not at least register, and nothing is kept that has poor type.
You may have gathered by now that the whole basis of such a program is in rigid culling and the gradual elimination of as many variations from marking faults as possible. A point to remember about all markings is that the shape of the markings is of primary importance and not the amount of coverage. In a choice between heavier, well shaped markings and lightly marked animals, the choice is always with the heavier.
The above article is a reprint from the March 1966 edition of the Dutch Reporter, written by Al Meier Jr submitted by Rick Billups.
If you agree or disagree with this old article, I thought it would be fun to reprint an article based on a small rabbitry. I currently have only 30 holes in my barn, so I would consider myself a small breeder. This is the fewest cages I've had in my 26 years of raising Dutch rabbits and I often find myself struggling to find room to keep one more rabbit.
The article reminds me to cull hard and to maintain strict standards when selecting which Dutch rabbits to keep. A small rabbitry also forces you to move out older rabbits when better ones come along.