Rabbit Coat Colour GeneticsWritten by Sarah Giers
Genetics are what make a rabbit, or any living organism, look way it does. It makes a rabbit be a certain size, be a certain colour, have a certain type of coat or ears, and more. This introduction, however, is just for genetics concerning coat colours of rabbits. Chromosomes and Genes
Chromosomes are strands of DNA that act as a map. They map out exactly how rabbit will look. In each cell, inot including sex cells and red blood cells, a rabbit has 22 chromosomes. Each one of these pairs controls a different thing about rabbit. For example, one might control rabbits gender, some control colour, others control fur. Each chromosome pair has two genes in it. These genes may be same, or they might be different, but there are always two (unless there is a genetic mutation, but we will not discuss that here). For example, a rabbit might have two genes for blue eyes. Conversely, a rabbit might have one gene for red eyes, and one gene for brown eyes.
If a rabbit has two of same type of genes in a certain chromosome pair, it is referred to as being homozygous for that particular gene. If it has two different genes in a certain chromosome pair, it is referred to as being heterozygous.
If a rabbit is heterozygous, one of genes is usually stronger than other. That means that stronger gene will be one to cause effect n rabbit, and weaker one will just hide, though it can still be passed on to rabbit's offspring. Stonger genes are referred to as being dominant, and weaker genes are called recessive. For example, if a rabbit had one gene for red eyes and one gene for brown eyes, rabbit would have brown eyes because gene for brown eyes is dominant to gene for red eyes. For a rabbit to have red eyes, it would have to be homozygous for red eyes, since gene for red eyes is most recessive.
Sometimes certain genes are not really stronger or weaker than another. These genes are referred to as being incompletely dominant to each other. This means if two different genes that were incompletely dominant to each other were in same rabbit, rabbit would have traits from both genes. In flowers, and example of an incompletely dominant gene can be found when you breed a white flower and a red flower and you get a pink flower.
Each variety of rabbits requires many genes in order to look way they look. Certain genes are related, and they are all found on same are of DNA strand. These groups of genes are called loci, or locus if it is just one.
You may have seen some genetics stuff written with a bunch of ABC's and other letters. Well, those are how various loci and genes are written. Genes have their own alphabet. When "letters" of genetics alphabet are all put together, it is referred to as rabbit's genotype. This is basically a list of all colour genes that rabbit has, or at least ones that are important to understanding that particular variety.
The first "letter" in genetics alphabet is "A." This determines basic pattern of rabbit. The genes are as follows:
A: Agouti Pattern - These rabbits have tan, white, or fawn markings on belly, underside of tail, inside of feet and legs, inside ears and nostrils, around eyes, and in shape of a triangle at nape of neck. On body, fur has rings of different colours when you blow into coat.
a(t): Tan Pattern - Like agouti pattern, these rabbits have tan, white, or fawn markings on belly, underside of tail, inside of feet and legs, inside ears and nostrils, around eyes, and in shape of a triangle at nape of neck. However, body does not have different colour rings when you blow into coat.
a: Self Pattern - Each hair is a solid colour, and there are no tan, white, or fawn markings.
"B" is next "letter". This "letter" tells rabbit how intense colour of fur is. The genes are as follows:
B: Black - The rabbit is black based, meaning base colour is black or blue.
Showing RabbitsWritten by Sarah Giers
So, you have either decided to raise rabbits or are considering it? That's wonderful! Rabbits are special creatures that will steal your heart in an instant, and nothing is more satisfying than seeing your hard work as a breeder who is trying to improve breed pay off when a home bred bunny wins a prize at a show. However, getting to that step requires some effort.
DECIDING WHAT BREED
Before you get started, you obviously have to decide what breed of rabbit you wish to raise or show. Each breed of rabbit is a wonderful breed, and each has its good and bad points. Before choosing a breed, make a list of what you can realistically have and what you need. If you don't have much space, it might be best to get a smaller breed. If you want to use your rabbits for dual purpose showing and meat or fur, get a commercial breed such as New Zealand, Satin, Rex, or Californian. Ask yourself following questions:
1. How much space do I have to keep rabbits? 2. Do I just want to show, or do I want to use rabbits for meat and/or fur as well? 3. How will I get rid of my culls (the rabbits that you can't keep)? Will I sell them, give them away, use them for meat/fur? 4. How much of a challenge do I want? [Some breeds, such as marked breeds, are far more challenging than others]. 5. Do I want a lot of competition or do I want a rarer breed? 6. Do I want a laid back breed or a more energetic breed? 7. Do I want a breed that produces a small amount of babies per litter or a large amount? 8. Do I have time to spend on a lot of grooming or extra care? 9. What do I like? 10. Anything else you can think of.
One you've answered those questions, start researching breeds. Go to a local show [show dates and locations can be found by going to www.arba.net], and ask breeders about their breed. Watch judging of breeds that you are interested in. Make sure to ask a lot of questions from breeders.
Once you've picked a breed, get equipment you will need for it. Get right size cage, food dish, and water dish or bottle. If it is a wooled (long-haired) breed, you will need a brush. You will need nail clippers as well. Talk to breeders of your breed and ask what, if any, special equipment or care your breed needs.
Once you've decided which breed to raise, fun really starts. Now you get to find a bunny or two! Go to breeders of your chosen breed and ask them to show you what to look for in a good show rabbit of that breed. Purchase American Rabbit Breeders Association (here on out referred to as "ARBA") Standard of Perfection which can be found at most shows, then study your breed's standard. Also look at general faults and disqualifications from competition. I can't emphasis enough how important knowledge of your chosen breed is.
Once you have a good understanding of your chosen breed, look for a reputable breeder. Said breeder will be glad to answer all your questions, will not have a problem with you getting a judge or registrar (or even another breeder of same breed) to evaluate rabbit you wish to purchase, and will have healthy pedigreed rabbits. Make sure to get best rabbits that you can afford. If you just want one or two rabbits to show, and don't wish to breed, it is a good idea to purchase a rabbit that is 4 to 7 months old, with a win or two to its name. If you wish to breed, purchasing a compatible pair or trio is usually best way to go. I usually recommend getting a show quality buck (4 to 7 months) and proven producing breeding doe (7 months to 1 year) if you're getting a pair. For a trio, I recommend purchasing a show quality buck (4 to 7 months), a show quality doe (4 to 7 months), and a proven producing breeding quality doe (7 months to 1 year). That way you will have at least one rabbit to show until you have produced your own show bunnies.
Depending on breed you have chosen, price for show and breeding quality rabbits can be anywhere from $10 to $200. Usually a decent quality show rabbit that is good enough to win a few classes and maybe even a variety (colour) win will cost between $20 and $50.
If you can, get some of food that rabbit is used to from breeder. That way you can transition it to new food. Make sure that you get pedigree for each rabbit when you purchase rabbit. Many people have purchased a rabbit with promise that pedigree will be sent and never got pedigree. Note: Rabbits do not have to be pedigreed to be shown, but they do have to be pedigreed to be registered or to become a grand champion. Rabbits do not have to be registered to be shown or to produce show quality offspring.
PREPARING FOR THE SHOW
When you get home, put rabbit in its cage with some food and water, then leave it alone for first day. The second day you can handle it some, third more, and gradually work up to more and more time handling it until your rabbit is used to you and trusts you.
Rabbits need fresh, clean water all time. The cage and dishes should be cleaned frequently. The amount of food given to your rabbits will depend on its breed, age, and size. Be sure to ask original breeder about feeding.
Grooming is usually pretty easy. The nails should be kept trimmed, and occasional brushing may be required for short haired breeds (except Rex and Mini Rex, which can be groomed with a horse slick pumice block). Wooled breeds will need more frequent brushing. Loose hair on a short-haired rabbit (Rex and Mini Rex included) can be removed by dampening your hands with water until they are just sticky then running them through coat to pick up loose hair and kill static. Loose hair can also be removed using a horse slick pumice block.