Holland Lop Does

by Debra Sandoval

This article focuses on the care, feeding and culling of Does. It contains a list of questions that both beginning and experienced breeders may have pondered at one time or another. The answers are ones that I would give, please keep in mind these are only my opinions based upon my experiences with my rabbits. Other people may have different opinions as not all rabbits are the same in their development or their behaviors.

Are does just under 3 pounds to small to breed?

No, I have had does as small as 2 1/2 lbs. have babies just fine. Sometimes the smaller does have more difficulties kindling and the babies may be born dead, but this is not always the case. Just be patient and keep trying and also be sure to breed to your smallest buck, at least for the first litter.

What should be done with a doe that has had two dead litters?

Depending upon the doe and how badly offspring are desired from her, I would probably keep trying. I have had does have three or four dead litters then finally start producing and become good mothers. Sometimes, I have found it helpful to try to foster some live babies from another mother to the problem doe immediately after she has had the dead babies. I think that the hormones released during lactation help to soften the tissues of the pelvic bones so that she may have an easier time with he r next delivery. Of course, the other consideration to keep in mind, is that the ease with which rabbits breed and kindle their babies is inheritable and do you want to possibly deal with breeding difficulties in future generations? As in all things with rabbits the advantages and disadvantages of the situation need to be weighed and the choice made by the breeder for that particular rabbit involved.

In a certain litter there are 2 small does and 1 large doe, if only one can be kept which one should it be?

I always base my decisions of which babies to keep on what their overall type is and/or what particular attributes I am trying to develop in my line, as opposed to what the size of the rabbit is, at least as far as does are concerned. A small doe that has poor hindquarters, weak shoulders, poor ear carriage etc., is not, as far as I am concerned, better than her larger sister who has better overall type. On the other hand if they both have equally good type then the smaller doe may be the better choice since it can probably be shown better than the larger doe, although the larger doe may be easier to breed.

A doe has been molting for two months, should you wait for her to finish before breeding her?

I think that the main consideration of whether or not to breed a doe is what her flesh condition is like. If she is not thin or bony then I would go ahead and try to breed her even if she is molting. She may not conceive if she is in a bad molt, and that should be allowed for, but it won't hurt to try.

What is the difference between "show" and "breeding" stock when purchasing rabbits?

A "show" doe, in my mind, is one that I would expect to be able to take to shows and be able to place well, which means that it not only does not have any disqualifications but that any faults which it may have are minimal. A "brood" doe on the other hand is not meant to be shown but rather is intended for breeding purposes. There are any number of things that could make a doe a "brood" doe, such as, uninheritable disqualifications like a severely torn or chewed off ear, a missing toenail, or an injury that subsequently developed a white spot. "Brood" does are also of ten what are called "normal" does or does that do not have the recessive dwarf gene. Rabbits which have one dwarf and one normal gene are the smaller "dwarf typed" rabbits with shorter ears and rounder, bolder heads. Those which have two dwarf genes are the very small "peanut" babies that die a week or two after birth. Rabbits which have two normal genes are larger (over 4 pounds), have longer ears, and narrower, less round heads. I often use these normal does in my breeding program since they will throw just as many dwarf typed babies when bred to a dwarf typed buck as smaller does, and they usually have larger litters with less kindling problems. A doe can also be referred to as a breeding doe if it is just not good enough to do well on the show table but yet does have some good traits which may be useful in a breeding program.

A grand champion doe has not produced any good babies, what is the problem?

Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon of a problem since in many Holland Lops there is a great deal of genetic diversity, which means that they don't always produce what they look like. This is especially true when outcrossing, that is breeding animals with no common ancestors. This becomes less and less of a problems as the size of the gene pool in a rabbit's background is decreased. What this means is that as your rabbits become more related to each other and have more of the same ancestors in their background they will breed more true and predictably.

What should be done with a litter of in week old babies whose heads look narrow despite having looked good for the first few weeks?

Between the ages of 6 to 7 weeks and 10 to 12 weeks I try to look at my babies as little as possible because they almost all look ugly to one degree or another. They also change so much that I have found myself greatly misjudging them based upon their appearance during that time. About all that I do during this time period is to cull out things like bad teeth and normal bucks (big with disproportionately long ears, bodies and heads). I especially don't look too much at their heads at this age because I have often been fooled by some that looked so ugly I thought there was no way they could ever be any good, but yet later developed into pretty nice looking rabbits.

I hope that some of these thoughts have been of help. As anyone who has been breeding Holland Lops for very long knows, they are a very challenging breed.


HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002