Don't Give Up
by Debbie Vigue
One of the best pieces of advice for the novice breeder and also for us "oldies" - don't give up on getting the traits you want. You might not be able to get short ears the first generation but may be able to fix it in second or third generations. If you are culling for EVERYTHING at 5 weeks of age, move to another breed. Some things are hard to fix and you can't always do it in the first generation even if one of the parents exhibits the trait you are trying to get. The proof isn't only in the bunny sitting in front of you, it's what you do with it. Don't rely too heavily on the intangibles like some big name breeder listed on the pedigree a zillion times or a list of legs on the parent a mile long. Why? Because shortly it will become your line dependent on which direction you take it.
Take the next step - you have nothing to lose but the experience. Years back I had a doe that was real nice and did her share of winning. She threw a doe with terrible ears and no crown but I kept her anyway. Her body was decent so she had that much going for her and you never know when something will happen, like losing the mom. Good thing I kept her as I got few babies from her mom. The poor eared doe threw me two very nice bucks. One placed at two conventions. His ears and crown are wonderful as is his half brothers'. If I hadn't had faith and taken a step towards the next generation, I'd never have produced the second generation that worked for me. I would have thought the doe's first breeding a failure. I may even have gone out and bought more stock to "fix it". There have been nice animals subsequent to the third and fourth generations. The best part is that the later, nicer animals, are "my" animals from the line I created.
It's easy to look at two rabbits and want to combine the best traits but genes don't always work that way but once they are "there", they can show up in successive litters. You will seldom have one superior animal that has a great impact on your herd. They are out there and it happens but the majority of improvements are done piece by piece, one generation at a time.
Problem with looonnnger hollands? Longer bodies, heads and ears? You will notice that once you start shortening the body (adding more dwarfing gene), the shorter ears, shorter face, shorter feet and shorter bone will follow. Usually rabbits that are longer in their feet are also longer in their body and ears. So take a good look at those tookie toes. A longer face goes along with it. I find it helpful to check their feet even when 6 weeks old. If you have a few short bodied animals, take them out and compare their feet with your longer bodied animals. It is easier to see it, then have someone tell you about it. Honest, try it. If you don't have any that are short coupled, ask to look at another breeders bunnies. Do comparisons.
Play nice -
Remember! You are not the only one responsible for ultimately getting the type of HL you want. Treat other breeders the same way you would like to be treated. I've been witness to some nastiness lately and would like to see it stop for everyone's sake, rabbits and humans alike. Some are personal issues which isn't what my column in the Hollander is for, so they won't be mentioned here. One issue, however, I don't consider personal on my part and a practice that I haven't heard any ethical breeder agree with; that being a poor practice of culling animals. We all get some pet quality animals, when possible, they should be sold as pets. There is another level that hopefully comes out more often, breeder quality and show quality animals. Please, please DON'T thoughtlessly kill Hollands that could better the breed and help other breeders out just because you are too selfish to let anyone else "get their hands on them". If you are truly dedicated to improving the breed and not just into gratifying yourself, you wouldn't even consider this manner of culling. There is always a market for good quality animals in both Open and Youth. This selfishness and "win at all costs" destructiveness gains no respect in our breed.
To end this column on a positive note, here is an example of constructive self gratification. A recent email from a fellow HL breeder in Texas summed this up. She said, "I came home from the show and didn't do too badly, placed several in fact. The best part was coming home from the show to find several Thank You notes from satisfied buyers that were pleased with stock they had purchased from me. This means more than any win at a show". Yah, you go girl, that is what it is all about!
The Hollander/Summer issue July 1999