by Dr. Stephen Roush, ARBA Judge
Too much ear control! Ears carried poorly. The ears are airplaning away from the head. Appearance is spoiled by ear carriage.
It seems these comments keep coming up at rabbit shows whenever Hollands are in competition. These are comments that I put in the "so-what" category. For years I showed rabbits and heard the comments similar to these from judges. My response was, "So what do I do about it?
When you get disparaging comments about Holland ears, you may ask the same thing. So what do you do? First of all, judges need to be educated to tell you what you need to know. If you believe that they do not do that, show them this article.
Judges have no need to comment on Holland Lop ear carriage. If it is bad, controlled, or perfect, you already know it! Any exhibitor who mistakes poor ear carriage for good ear carriage either 1) doesn't show Holland rabbits, 2) doesn't read about Holland Lops, 3) doesn't look at pictures of Holland Lops, 4) raises some other breed of rabbit, or 5) doesn't talk to or associate with other Holland Breeders.
Ask judges instead to comment on the Holland Lop crown, and the comments will sent you home knowing what to select for in future litters. If the judge is good, he or she will comment about:
I have broken each of the above four categories into two sections. The first is what you should see, and the second is why you should see it (structure is first, function is second).
Before I begin, let me say that whether you are culling at home, or the judge is evaluating on the show table, the ears must be relaxed. Rabbits' ears, including the Holland, were intended to have control. Muscles attached to the ear base were meant to rotate the ears to hear. Survival in the wild depended on it. The only way to get no ear control is to sever the muscles or the nerves that activate the muscles. When we started playing with genetics to develop the Lops, we were performing an unnatural act regardless of now much eventual pleasure we got from doing it. To expect the ears to be lifeless is unrealistic.
However, a rabbit will not try to exert control over the ears if it senses no need. Thus, when you examine the crown and ear carriage, you must catch the Holland at a fairly restful condition. Easier said than done.
At a show, I visually examine the crown while the Holland is still in the holding box. (Once I bring it out, it tries to control the ears, and distorts the crown's appearance.) At home, I just observe the Hollands in their cage. To do otherwise is not to make the best use of your time. So, get the Holland relaxed to observe its crown, and then.
The Side-to-Side width of the Crown
Structure: The crown should wrap from behind the eye, up over the top of the head, and down behind the other eye. It must not be narrow, and should appear to sit on the head like it is secure and cannot be knocked off.
Function: The wide crown is a basal ridge of cartilage. All this means is that it is where the ear base begins. It is not a socket but should be a ridge across the head. When it wraps from eye to eye, the ear exits the ear base behind the eye. It is already pointed downward as it starts to develop. This dimension (side-to-side width) is the first trait to develop of the ones I will discuss. It must come first or you will be distorting the appearance later when you have to come back and work on it.
The Front-to-Back Depth of the Crown
Structure: Without a doubt, a close second in importance to side-to-side width is front-to-back depth. A minimum width of 1 inch should be your goal.
Function: As the ear exits the ear base (crown), its shape is determined. A narrow front-to-back depth gives a narrow start to the ear. Thus, the ear usually comes out wrapped like a tube and then must flare to its full width.
Perform an experiment. Get out a Holland with a shallow front-to-back crown dimension. Place it in front of you and grasp each edge of the ear (one hand on each edge) at the point where the ear exits the base. Now, gently pull the edges, making the base of the ear spread out against the crown. What happened?
If you did it correctly, the bottom half of the ear moved downward toward the jaw. Thus, a deeper front-to-back measurement on the crown will cause the ear to wrap slightly under the jawbone giving a horseshoe appearance. That's the function of a deep crown.
The Top-to-Bottom Depth of the Crown
Structure: This dimension is not structurally important to ear carriage but it is important to overall appearance. This concerns a little about cartilage, but a lot about fur. The appearance of mass, given by dense fur on the crown, helps immensely to add to the "massive" appearance we want.
Function: As I said, the reason we want this structure is to provide the appearance of a massive animal. We can make the analogy of a buffalo's horn base, or a bull's head. That is really the effect we desire.
Overall Structure and Definition of the Crown
Structure: The overall impression should be wide, thick, and massive All the previous dimensions must be in concert to provide this impression. The location of the crown on the head tends to be a talking point so I'd like to address it.
In some places, judges say a crown has "slipped". They mean it is too far back on the head. In my mind, the only way it can be too far back is to be on the neck. The real situation is not one of crown location, but rather one of head shape.
When Hollands start getting the head shape of Fuzzy Lops, the forehead is more massive. This is the aspect that makes the crown appear to be back on the head. Usually a crown that is too far back on the head (or "slipped"), is really too narrow in front-to-back depth, and that may be coupled with a poorly shaped skull.
As far as a discussion of the Lop crown, I think I have exhausted my topic. However, I must remind you exhibitors of a fact of life. If your judges are doing a poor job of explaining their reasons for placement (NOTE: I did not say a bad job of judging), you must educate them.
Xerox this article, hold a seminar or visit them at home, but make the effort to educate the judges. Don't complain to the HLRSC officers, Standards committee, or directors until you do what you can to correct the problem. I hope this has helped.
HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002