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starting out Raising and Showing Dutch

by Theresa Schwandt (Kortbein)

I can remember back when I got my first pair of Dutch at the age of 10. My Mom bought them for me so that I could show them at the fair as my 4-H project. Little did I know that the Dutch rabbit would become such a huge part of my life, even today, almost twenty years later.
I think many times youth will choose to raise Dutch and not really have a good idea as to what they are getting into. Raising, breeding, and showing Dutch is a wonderfully rewarding hobby to get into, but also a continual challenge.
Once you have picked out your first pair or trio of Dutch and have done the research on the breed, are you really ready? One can only read so much, but then must start the process and learn by doing, seeing, and exeriencing. This is where it gets fun and also challenging. This is important to remember with raising any type of show animal. When purchasing your new Dutch, you need to look at overall body type in your Dutch. Many times youth will purchase nicely marked Dutch with not so nice type because markings are a little earier to understand and visualize than what good type is. Learing about good type comes with time and with getting your hands on some good and bad bodied Dutch rabbits. This is where a youth that is just getting started in Dutch really needs the help and guidance of an experienced Dutch breeder to steer them into the right direction and mentor them. (For all of you experienced breeders keep this in mind next time there is a youth looking to you to get started. The nicer the stock you set them up with and the more education you provide, the better the chance they will succeed and fall in love with our incredibly enjoyable hobby.)
As a new Dutch breeder, it is important to understand that just because you have a pair of Best In Show winners, this does not mean that breeding them together you are guarenteed to get a litter of more Best In Show winners. Raising rabbits especially, Dutch is tricky that way. You can breed your pair of Best In Show winners and get a bunch of mis-marked bunnies; not one that is showable or on the other spectrum, you can breed two well-typed, mismarked Dutch and get some very promising, well-marked bunnies out of that litter. Your next show winner will most likely come out of a pair of just average marked, nicely typed Dutch that believe it or not just "blend" well, compliment each other and make the perfect combination. This is not always easy to see or predict and that goes back to "learn by doing". Raising Dutch or any breed of rabbit is always a learning experience and you need to take the bad with the good and learn from it. Learn from mistakes and learn from experiences that may not have gone your way. I understand that it is difficult to really get hooked unless one does well on the show table. Doing well on the show table sure gets me energized as I am sure that it does with any exhibitor of Dutch, but in the long run that is not the only reason I raise my Dutch. There is so much more to the Dutch hobby than winning; like the enjoyment of the "Dutch Friends" that you make and the excitment of the next litter starting to hop out of the box.
When you begin to raise "your own stock" and you begin to learn what you are looking for and eventually you win with one of your own, that feeling is wonderful. To know that your animal that you have invested so much into has won is tremendous.
As a youth Dutch breeder myself (almost twenty years ago), I encountered many challenges, but with the encouragement of my Mom and many others, guiding me and teaching me, I developed into the Dutch breeder that I am today. It was not always easy and I had disappointment along the way, but more importantly I received so much reward and enjoyment from the process, the people, and the rabbits. I can't picture my life without that little belted bunny.
So when you get started, be persistent and determinted. Learn from others and develop your own Dutch herd.

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