Holland Lop Body Type
by Allen Barr, ARBA Judge
The foundation of every standard bred rabbit, regardless of breed, consists of body type, weight and condition. Body type that is not aligned to the proper type structure will cause problems. An example would be a Holland Lop with the body of a Himalayan. An example for incorrect weight would be a Holland Lop weighing 6-7 lbs. Do note that this rabbit would not appear like a Mini Lop if the top line, head, and ears were correct. For the true body type description, try to visualize in your mind, or if this is cumbersome, try a rabbit out on the show table, a Holland Lop which is close to the ideal weight of 3 lbs. This will help to visualize the sense of balance to the 4 lb. top weight limit. Also try to compare the size of an animal which would only weigh 2 lbs. The comparison of the weight and size is necessary to help visualize the ideal. Remember, when judging, that the comparison of weight for the ideal is only if all other traits are equal. This has seldom occurred to me when judging Hollands Lops as there are many traits to help make the proper point judgment to the standard.
To properly analyze the body type of a Holland Lop, it is necessary to start with the proper posing of the breed. The following posing parameters should be followed, without a proper pose a true body type assessment is hard to make.
Handling. When handling, a gentle hand will lead to a more successful job than a firm hand. Handling as little as possible prior to the pose is a good idea, but can not always be followed, due to an individual rabbit's disposition for the day. Patience is the norm.
The Pose. The pose to me is broken up into three components: set, lift, view or review.
Set: Place the rabbit in a comfortable position on a judging table to where you are easily able to work and both of you have adequate room to move around for the final view. The first component of the set is to square the rabbits body, not to push or extend the front legs, but to get the rear legs setting straight with the rabbit in a natural posed-up position. It can be helpful to lightly keep one hand captured behind the rabbits rump but softly and without pressure.
Lift: The next step is to place one or two fingers under the jaw and with a light touch lift upward to get the rabbit's weight transferred to its rear feet. This effort may need to be attempted more than once, as very few rabbits will conform the first time unless previously handled or worked. The results are to show a head set carried high to the shoulders. The question has been asked as to what height is a good measurement. If the head is measured 3 1/2" across, then the distance from the floor to the lower jaw should be 3 1/2". This not to say that a Holland can have a very impressive and massive head that is low carried. This rabbit can go on to easily win, but it is this "ideal" condition we are working for? The better the head set, the quicker and better an evaluation can be given.
View: With the pose complete then the rabbit should be viewed from the side, the front and also from the rear. Holland Lops generally do not stay in the proper pose for too long, so you will learn patience and persistence! Keep at it, and then you can key in quickly for your overall evaluation. The review of the body type is for a short, massive, thickset body. The shoulders and chest should be broad and well filled. There is a significant factor which controls or helps to guide the above body type, this characteristic is bone. Bone must be well defined to show the massive, thickset body. Breeders with Hollands of fine boned animals will have a difficult time consistently winning in large shows. The shoulders should be deep, with the depth exhibited at the shoulders, of an ideally posed animal, carried back to hindquarter of equal or slightly greater depth. The width of the shoulders should be nearly equal to, but not exceed the width of the hindquarter.
Faults There are a number of faults that need to be reviewed to better understand what it takes to make the "Best" Holland. The following faults are those which every breeder should be making plans to improve: pinched hips, loping hips, flat over the top, pinched loin, thin fleshed spine, narrow saddle, flat over the shoulders, narrow shoulders, narrow chest, neck too long. An article can be written to cover each of these in detail.
Hip: The hip is the greatest fault area to overcome. The structure of the hips on a weakly developed Holland needs to be compensated by breeding to another which has strength in this area. Breeding to a normal shaped hip Holland may not breed through the commonalty of the situation. Pinched hips are not quite as hard to breed through. The key to this problem is to only breed those Hollands which have straight rear legs that track evenly with the body line. Sloping hips would the next severe fault to work on. This again can not be solved with breeding to normality, it must be gained or overpowered with the breeding to a Holland which is strong in this area.
Saddle: This area is somewhat easy to fix by breeding to a Holland with good width. A narrow and thin fleshed saddle can be only solved with the breeding of those Hollands which show strength in the saddle and have a higher amount of flesh. Flesh is an inheritable characteristic which is not gained by feeds or supplements. These help but don't add flesh, the supplements only preserve it. A starved Holland can gain the flesh back when fed only if the flesh existed in the first place.
Shoulders: The biggest fault with the majority of Hollands shown currently is a dip or flat spot at the top of the shoulders. If focus is made in this area, it can be improved or bred out in the next two or three years. This is difficult to fix if any of your existing Hollands again have this fault. Adding Hollands with wide shoulders may not help, as the flat spot would be larger to fill.
A last note: never breed two Hollands with the same fault together, as it may years to breed out.
Summary - As you can see from the problem review, the only way to solve serious faults as listed in this article is to breed only those Hollands which can dramatically compensate your herds weaknesses. These types of animals are extremely hard to come by. It is also a process used by experienced breeders, known as "Buying Pieces". At large shows you can see these experienced breeders buying stock which may not be the winner or even in the top five of its class, but the Holland expresses a key component to fix an existing problem. Breeding and selection is a fundamental which takes time and effort. There will success only with extreme amounts of failure along the way. Culling is the method to make the improvements. As with any breeding program your foundation Hollands may not be up to carrying your breeding program through. Test breedings and proper records are also needed to understand and measure your success. This is an enjoying experience which is fun and makes good friendships along the way. I welcome the opportunity to discuss your results and hope that this article has given some a new insight on how to make the winning Holland Lop of the future.
HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002