A Commonly Stated Concern!

by Dwayne Neal, NY

A typical inquirer recently emailed me with what seems to be a common situation for the relatively new breeders/showers. They then ask me for my recommendations on what to do to understand it and/or what they can do to learn about the standard so they know if they have decent animals or not. The email was as follows:

“As for me I must say I am very frustrated.  We have been to two shows this month so far my daughter placed BOB with a 6 month old doe.  Then, the next week we went to a show in Columbus, and it was eliminated very quickly.  Granted there were more rabbits there at the Columbus show, so I will assume tougher competition.  However, the judges comments were exactly opposite. (???) This is what bothers me.  The one judge said, the ears were too short, excellent hindquarters, excellent color.  The next week the judge said there ears were too long, lacking in the hindquarters, and the color too dark.  How can two judges using the same standards come up with opposite opinions?  I have ordered the book of standards.  I ignorantly did not realize there was such a book separate from the ARBA hand guide.  So I decided I would get the standards and make my own determinations.  But still, these judges decisions truly baffle me.  Thanks for letting me vent my frustrations.  Any thoughts?”

Doesn't this sound familiar? At times I think of this experience as a "rights of passage" for any breeder and especially a Holland breeder. I wanted to just say, "Oh well, welcome to the world of Hollands!!!" (smile). But, there are some reasons for this as most of us know. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1)  In a perfect world, should this really happen? Can there be such disparity in assessments? Of course, we know that the answer should be no, but this does happen. In fact, I remember it happening to me several times, even recently! The net is that this can happen because we are dealing with the human condition in all of this where everything is subjective. It's what makes the world go around and shouldn't upset you. Could the judges be way off! If they don't really know the standard, shouldn't they? Could they be improperly applying and balancing the appropriate number of points for each animal based upon their specific pros or cons across all the animals in the class? Could they be a "meat breed judge" vs. a "head or fancy breed judge" and in either situation only seeing what they want to see? Could they just be having a bad day? Is it that you really do have awesome animals? Could it be that your animals are junk? The answer to all of these questions is YES. You will only learn what animals are best by continuing to get a multitude of opinions from different breeders, showers and judges to see what the majority of the comments are. This simply takes time and patience.

2)  Also, work to develop your own sense of what you believe to be the perfect standard. You are part of the process too and your opinion is part of the collective mix. Don't judge and animal from just a few showings and don't automatically think that what you have is no good just because a few judges said so. But, create an image in your mind's eye of what you think is right and stick to your beliefs. That was one of the things I was glad to see in the email, where the writer stated they were ordering the standard guidebook.

3)  Realize that even if there are meat judges and head judges out there, everything balances out over time. If you consistently have bad comments from someone you think is a meat judge, then maybe your Hollands DO need better bodies even though they might have the most awesome heads in the world. The reverse applies as well. As a Holland breeder for 10 years, I think I can say that I believe we all know that the Hollands, as a collective whole, do not typically have the most perfect bodies. This is partly because we have spent so much time and energy working on making those preciously adorable heads! But, I often tell people to do what I did when I did not understand or appreciate the concept of a good body..... go get to know some meat rabbit breeder and have them show you! Put your hands on a rabbit that has an awesome body and feel how full, solid and smooth it is. Gain some respect for this feature. Then compare that with your Hollands and you may finally start to appreciate what some of the judges are feeling when they're trying to do their jobs!

4)  Try to keep in mind, THE BIG PICTURE! You can only do this by realizing that all the parts of the Holland are important which makes it such a difficult breed to raise and master. You have to learn as much as you can to create the perfect line and perfect Holland which may mean reaching out to other breeders and/or other breeds to learn the nuances. As I said, Hollands are a complex and demanding breed to raise, but, then again, that's why..., they rule! 

5) Lastly, remember to keep the faith, persevere and keep breeding and culling. And don't be too hard on judges as they are only human too!

The Hollander / Summer Issue - August 2000