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Non-color genetics

A place to ask about rabbit colours and to discuss rabbit genetics -- and how to breed for the desired results.
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Non-color genetics

Post Number:#1  Unread postby eco2pia » Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:30 pm


I'm curious about genetics of type, and mothering ability (defined as retaining condition for fast rebreeding, milk production, litter size and general protective/attentive instinct). In cattle these are selected-for traits, often tracked over generations and in some meat breeds (ie NZ and CA) these have obviously been selected for in rabbits. Has anyone had any nifty experiences doing that? Maggie has mentioned breeding up mutts for meat rabbits.

Other than observation of traits as expressed over time(ie weaning weights, carcass condition, litter size), can you think of any other predictors of these traits?

It sounds like fun, but in a micro-small herd you would have to watch for too much inbreeding, so how would you select replacement stock, since you wont have all the tracking for them?

And how much inbreeding would be too much, anyway? Are there rules for that?

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#2  Unread postby avdpas77 » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:00 pm


It is my premise that rabbits, in general are already inbred to a great degree. It is often the show breeders that keep animals in existence when they aren't otherwise cool as pets or live stock. Having been a show breeder, I know that most successful show lines are inbred, and that the next "champion" breeder will most likely have stock in a line that is already established (and inbred) Having tried for a number of years to get great (show) stock by crossing different lines, I can tell you that the approach is largely unsuccessful. Most backyard rabbits are show "culls" though they may have been passed down for a generation or two.

There are certain meat breeds, in which entire separate lines have been developed just for meat production. The problem with this is that they have tended to become inbreed also. So while they put on weight fast and with a minimum of feed, they may not be as fertile or have as much vitality as desired. My solution to this with my meat rabbits, is to introduce as genetically different stock as I can find every so often. I have crossed in NZW and Cals for their excellent conversion qualities, Brazilians and San Juans for their genetic diversity, and French lop/Flemish for their size.

I am selecting first and foremost for health and vitality under a wide range of environmental situations and feeds. Rabbits that are unhealthy, unthrifty, poor mothers, not tolerant of heat, poor tempered, etc are culled. Only the very best of the rest are kept as breeding stock. I have been extremely happy with the results, and have started having people come to me for meat breeding stock (pretty unusual for some one who raises "heinz" rabbits) because the rabbits hold up so well. Heh, it is hard sometimes to not make decisions based on "pretty" or "cute" or "typey"

Don't know if that helped, but I would cross breeds of rabbits every chance you get, if raising meat (for yourself..not commercially) is your prime motivation.
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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#3  Unread postby eco2pia » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:26 am


huh, thanks. I see your point, hybrid vigor is good.

I have heard totally opposite views from others, of course, more along the lines of "get pedigreed stock only". It makes sense if you are hoping to offset feed costs with show/pet/breeding stock sales. I knew a piece of paper wasn't that important to me(or my freezer), but the idea of tracking the ancestry to keep from inbreeding makes sense. On the other hand the only catagory other than meat I might aspire to would be pet or other backyard homesteaders like me.

Outcrossing would definately solve that problem admirably! As long as some are cute, I can craig's list a few and cover my feed costs...

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Anntann » Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:39 am


Inbreeding/linebreeding is, when you think about it, pretty much what happens in the wild...at least in animals that run in flocks or packs. RARELY do they get outside blood. One male covering multiple females. Only the strong offspring survive. If it shows undesirable traits, it's usually shunned or forced out of the pack. Weaklings will end up prey of the wolves/tigers/predator.

With a strict closed herd, if you relentlessly remove any rabbits who show traits that are undesirable, eventually (over 6? generations) you should see a pretty clean herd. The "bad" genes will pop up once in awhile, but it will be rare. The problems I've seen with the horse or dog people who linebreed come from breeding for ONE trait and ignoring the others...if the animal has <flat back/long coat/black color> and then ignore things like weak legs, loss of "nose", poor health..then you end up with bizarre gene crosses all showing up in the same animal.

With good linebreeding or inbreeding (closed flock) techniques, you're breeding OUT the bad genes..not necessarily breeding FOR one trait.

All that said...there is a reason that hybrids are STRONG...like in the garden. The FIRST generation gets a boost from both sides of the cross. Bigger and faster growing if the genetic material crosses well. (like..both sides have LARGE in it so you end up with 2x LARGE..not that that's really a gene, but you get the drift). The problems show up when you take the offspring/seed from the hybrid..you can get something that is like EITHER parent...or that shows the BAD traits that are recessive in either parent.

It's an interesting debate...to keep a "pure" herd, or to bring in new blood. And I've probably digressed and gotten off topic long enough :)

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#5  Unread postby eco2pia » Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:12 pm


no, no, this is the topic!! I am trying to do something I think is a little silly, improve a herd of three main critters by selective replacement. Now give me an acre and I could do this in spades, but in my little outdoor side-yard rabbitry? I need to be focused! And an idea like "6 generations", and breeding OUT the bad genes, gives me more focus.

Sure I could just buy the 3 best buns I can get and call it good(I am doing that anyway, as my budget allows) but how much more fun to select as I go, planning for better and better rabbits. The danger is calling anything "too good to eat" or I will have a population problem about two litters out!

I have a junior NZR, who is beautiful(to me-I don't know about showing), she started this. I always had mutts before, funny scroungy little things I still wonder what they had in them, they are common here, broken color, about 6 lbs with a little bit of a roman nose and short stubby ears. They are the "free" rabbits. The new NZ doe is so elegant and huge by comparison, I got to thinking, time to upgrade! I plan to get a new NZ buck from Stump Acres in August.

I am thinking, do I breed a second doe or buy? And do I get another NZ or go with a CA, or a Flemish cross (also common here), or try to get a beautiful American Chinchilla? If I just picked what I like, I would probably put the Chin on top of the wish list and the CA on the bottom. I don't really like CA's, I just know they are a common meat type breed...known to be a good cross with a NZ.

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#6  Unread postby MaggieJ » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:18 pm


I started with three yard sale mutts... and just kept saving the best of the best. I noticed considerable improvement in just a few generations. Sometimes I have had to save two rabbits until they are a few months old to determine if I wanted them as breeders. If they don't do well for me, I have no problem with sending them to freezer camp as roasters. Sometimes a rabbit that looks promising at 16 weeks will not look as good at 24 weeks.

It is no doubt easier and more efficient to start with good stock, either purebred or a purpose-bred cross of two or three breeds. But I've learned a lot doing it this way.
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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Anntann » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:27 pm


Starting with fewer rabbits means a smaller gene pool to start with, so it wouldn't take that long to get to a point where you have what you want...as long as everything goes well. large litters to choose from. make good choices. everyone grows up. etc. You would probably what...increase the heard by 1 or 2 from each litter? Does that sound about right, Maggie? So that you'd have replacements that fit your criteria.

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#8  Unread postby MaggieJ » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:07 pm


Sounds like my experience, Ann. I have only six good cages and no room for more, so I save very few rabbits. Two or three per year is about tops. Sometimes I will grow out two sister does together in a large cage; this works fine as long as they have always been together. Then I can decide later which is a keeper, perhaps even after their first litters. (Obviously they are separated before they are bred.)

My original gene pool has been enlarged twice in 5 years by introducing a new buck. Our original buck was small but chunky. We sent him to camp and replaced him with one of his sons. The younger buck did well for us for a few years, but eventually failed. We had brought in an outside buck that sired one good litter and then dropped dead. This was last summer and we were suddenly without a buck. Thanks to the kindness of forum friends, I was able to get a New Zealand Red buck as a replacement. So the gene pool is considerably larger than it was when I started and I think this is likely a good thing. Those original yard sale mutts did well for us, however, and taught us a lot. :)
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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#9  Unread postby rabbitgeek » Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:17 pm


avdpas77 wrote:There are certain meat breeds, in which entire separate lines have been developed just for meat production. The problem with this is that they have tended to become inbreed also. So while they put on weight fast and with a minimum of feed, they may not be as fertile or have as much vitality as desired.


That would be result of poor herd management. Fertility and raising litters are just as important factors as weight gain. These factors can be selected for.

Have a good day!
Franco Rios

__________ Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:17 pm __________

MaggieJ wrote:My original gene pool has been enlarged twice in 5 years by introducing a new buck. Our original buck was small but chunky. We sent him to camp and replaced him with one of his sons. The younger buck did well for us for a few years, but eventually failed. We had brought in an outside buck that sired one good litter and then dropped dead. This was last summer and we were suddenly without a buck. Thanks to the kindness of forum friends, I was able to get a New Zealand Red buck as a replacement. So the gene pool is considerably larger than it was when I started and I think this is likely a good thing. Those original yard sale mutts did well for us, however, and taught us a lot. :)


Because rare breeds are hard to find, I can totally empathize with having a sole herd buck dying. So I tried to keep two bucks on hand. One senior buck and his replacement. Hopefully you pick a buck out of a large litter and that trait is carried over. Should not keep a buck more than two years if you are growing new ones.

For outside blood try using a doe so you can see how well the genes work with your existing herd.

There are some isolated rare breed herds that are vital and active because they are using line breeding and bringing in occasional outside blood. Linebreeding and strict selection standards will produce a herd that reinforces positive genetic traits while removing negative traits.

Some of these breeders are even apologizing for not having fresh blood, but the fact they are continuing to produce litters in isolation proves they are doing the right thing.

Have a good day!
Have a good day!

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#10  Unread postby chinbunny1 » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:24 am


__________ Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:17 pm __________

Because rare breeds are hard to find, I can totally empathize with having a sole herd buck dying. So I tried to keep two bucks on hand. One senior buck and his replacement. Hopefully you pick a buck out of a large litter and that trait is carried over. Should not keep a buck more than two years if you are growing new ones.

For outside blood try using a doe so you can see how well the genes work with your existing herd.

There are some isolated rare breed herds that are vital and active because they are using line breeding and bringing in occasional outside blood. Linebreeding and strict selection standards will produce a herd that reinforces positive genetic traits while removing negative traits.

Some of these breeders are even apologizing for not having fresh blood, but the fact they are continuing to produce litters in isolation proves they are doing the right thing.

Have a good day!
Have a good day![/quote]





I agree with this. I am doing the same thing with my standard chins. I always keep more then one buck. Actually i have several boys to chose from. I use strict line breeding, and bring in new blood when I can. Otherwise its hard to get a hold of.
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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Devon's Mom Lauren » Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:26 am


Just a point of interest here.. if you take two rabbits that are both inbred but not related to each other and breed them, you are not going to get some sort of "hybrid vigor" out of them (ie better litter size)!You will get what each rabbit carries and nothing more!If both rabbits are poor growers or have small litters then that is exactly what you will pass on. SELECTING means you take the best examples of what you want and breed them.The degree of inbreeding has nothing to do with this per se. Linebreeding shortens up the gene pool so you have a lot better chance/odds of getting the desired effect. Rabbitgeek has already pointed this out as being poor herd management NOT a result of inbreeding in and of itself. So yes if your herd is not performing like you want and you have been inbreeding for a while it would be a good idea to bring in something else, BUT that something else must carry what you are looking for to be any help!

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#12  Unread postby eco2pia » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:22 pm


True. Unless these inbred rabbits are really excellent specimens, and even then I think hybrid vigor may be at times overstated--I read a study comparing crosses to purebred preformance in NZ, CA, and Flemish, and they did get better performance out of the CA/NZ crosses, but it was measurable by just a few percentage points. Not a big enough factor to overwhelm my love of pretty colors!

I am trying for an excellent meat rabbit, who grows to butcher weight and is still tender with economical feed use, hardiness and good mothers. NZ are a good start.

I ALSO want an attractive variety of colors for the occaisinal pet sale, mostly aiming at local people like me, breeding for meat. Again NZ has that.

Sure meat is meat and color doesn't affect that per se, but if I am looking for a replacement and expecting to pay about $15-20 for it I will choose the pretty colored rabbit over the REW every time, all other factors being equal. I think an attractive rabbit is just more fun, so long as they retain their meat characteristics.

Hence the interest in the American Chinchilla, grey is pretty too, and they seem to be tough hardy rabbits who are good growers...:)

All this because of one pretty Jr. doe! Who better do well, because I am starting to love her.

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Re: Non-color genetics

Post Number:#13  Unread postby MaggieJ » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:50 pm


I had a buck that had a lot of American Chinchilla blood. He looked the part too. I was quite impressed with him and he sired a nice litter -- before dying suddenly last summer. :( We kept three of the kits from that litter and have one doe that resembles him -- by far the biggest and meatiest of that litter. I'm hoping for good things from her offspring if she will let herself be bred. Last round she was a stubborn refuser but I think it may have been because she was still housed with her sister at that point. I'll try her again early in August.
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