Judging Holland Lops

by Chris Zemny, ARBA Judge

The judging and breeding of rabbits to a set standard is actually based upon several special relationships. It really boils down to simple lessons in Geometry. Every rabbit, and its components, is made up of various versions of length, width and height. Let's explore some of these dimensions.

When first looking at a Holland Lop, it helps to step back away from the animal to see the general body proportions. At a distance you will better be able to evaluate head to body ratio and proper head mount.

The Holland Lop is a short coupled rabbit. Its body length to head ratio should be approximately 2:1, unlike a commercial rabbit which is approximately 3:1. When evaluating the size of the head there are two important factors to consider. First the size of the head is proportional to the size of the body and will be smaller on a 3 pound Holland than on a 4 pound Holland, which is why the ratio method works well. Also, a junior head will not be as developed as a senior animal in curvature, but should still have proper proportional size. As a postscript on head size, I have never seen a Holland with too large of a head, but have seen lots of Hollands with heads that were too small.

This is also a good time to evaluate head mount. The head should be mounted high upon the shoulders of the animal. The "Pose", as many call it, is the result of correct head mount, rather than training the animal to sit a particular way. Animals with their heads resting down on the show table are usually long and low in the shoulder. The body should start right at the back of the crown, with no apparent neck. There are times that it would help to be able to play "Mr. Potato Head" and remove a Holland's head, only to reattach it higher up upon his body. Unfortunately this isn't possible. To illustrate proper head mount, please refer to the attached pictures.

I have been quoted as saying that "A Holland has to have a head." In my mind, it is the head structure and mount that gives the Holland its unique and special "look".

Another important thing to view at this time is the topline. The topline is the Holland's profile when it is viewed from the side. The Holland Lop topline carries straight back from the shoulders to the hindquarter. This is what gives the Holland its blocky look. It is because the shoulders are deep, and short, and not that the hindquarters are flat, that the topline is straight. Hollands still need a deep, and well filled hindquarter and loin area. It could be said that animals with proper topline do not have a visible rise.

Please study the photo below:

Holland Lop with proper Head Mount & Top Line

When evaluating the Holland head, you need to look again at width, length and depth. The head is basically a large ball mounted high on the shoulders. It should have good curvature (are) between the crown and the nose.  An older animal will exhibit better curvature than a junior. There should also be good width between the eyes This width should be carried down to a short muzzle that is also rounded. A good rule of thumb is to visualize a triangle superimposed upon the head with the eyes in the upper corners and the nose at the lower point. It should be an inverted equilateral triangle, and the sides (the lines from the eyes to the nose) should not be longer than the base (the line between the eyes). Another aspect of the head to evaluate is the cheek structure. A full round cheek is preferred over a flat-sided cheek. This full-jowled look helps to complete the ball shape that gives our Holland Lop its characteristic look.

The crown is next and is the deciding factor in ear control. Steve Roush's article on crowns, in this Guidebook, is excellent. The crown has three dimensions. It must be wide across the skull, have good front to back width and be deep from the head to the top of the crown in order to ensure proper ear carriage. A crown that is too narrow from side to side will cause the ears to exhibit quite a bit of control. The crown should ideally round down to the top of the eye. A crown that is too narrow from front to back will produce a small ear opening, and often folded ears or ears that look like they need to open more at the base.

Proper crown placement is also important. The crown should be placed on the head so the ears hang down right at the side of the eye. They eye almost appears to peek out from the side of the ears. Far too many Hollands have "slipped" crowns or crowns that are too far back on the head. I have seen some crowns placed as far back as two finger widths behind the eye, which is a serious crown fault.

In regards to ear control, by definition lops are supposed to lop. There is currently a disqualification in the ARBA Standard which states that lop eared rabbits which have ears carried above horizontal are to be disqualified. An important point to remember is that Hollands tend to be very excitable and need to be allowed time to relax in order to demonstrate natural ear carriage. Also note that if a Holland does exhibit ear control, the crown is responsible.

The ears are not as simple as you would think to evaluate. The standard calls for a short, wide ear. Ear length should be evaluated when the ear is lying in its natural position on an animal with a properly placed crown. The ear should extend not more than 1/2 to 1 inch below the jaw line. Keep in mind, however, that improper crown placement may affect your perception of ear length. When evaluating ears, also pay special attention to ear shape. You do not want ears that are long and narrow, or wide ears that are pointed at the tips. You want an ear that not only shows a great deal of width but also that rounds at the tip. The ears should also have good substance or thickness. The thickness compliments and enhances the Hollands massive look. The ear should also be well-furred.

Bone is often overlooked on Holland Lops. You want front feet that are as short and wide as possible. Long, thin front legs should be faulted. A short thick leg is often associated with a wide full chest and good head structure. The rear feet ideally, at the widest point, should almost be half as wide as they are long. A rear foot that was 3 inches long by 1.5 inches wide would balance nicely.

Type can be evaluated by observing length, depth and width of body. Overall proportion, or balance, is key inĚ evaluating Holland Lops. Be sure to view the rabbit from the side, top, and the rear when evaluating the body.

The shoulders should be deep and wide. You want a well balanced shoulder, both low and narrow shoulders should be faulted. Likewise, shoulders that are too wide should also be faulted, the shoulders should not be wider than the hindquarters. There should be a very slight taper from the shoulder to the hindquarter, and there should be a smooth transition, or blending from the shoulder to the hindquarter. The midsection should not be noticeable.

We've all heard about the "depth to approximate width" rule in the commercial breeds. This also holds true for the Holland Lop. A good experiment for the novice breeder is to take a Holland and actually measure the width of the hindquarter and compare it to the depth, with a ruler or yardstick. You will be very surprised at what you find.

Another way to visualize hindquarter faults is to set up a mirror behind the rabbit. With the mirror you can really see around the whole rabbit. Sometimes it helps to visualize what is missing, rather than focusing on what is actually there. This exercise will also help increase your perception of depth.

Be sure to check for well filled upper hindquarters as well as lower ones. The animal should not be "catchy" in the hips, or have protruding hips. The loin should be deep and wide enough for flesh to cover the top of the hip bones and round gently to a full lower hindquarter. Watch for sloping hindquarters, a pinched or narrow loin, pinched hips, and undercut lower hindquarters.

In regards to fur, you want a dense coat with a lush roll back fur. Fault for coats that are too long, thin, or off in texture, being too soft or coarse.

As far as color and pattern are concerned, just be sure to give the proper point dispersion and priority to color and markings. Color and Markings are currently allotted four points in our standard, which means that if you are looking at a broken Holland Lop, there are only two points on color and two points on markings. With only two points on markings, how much would you fault an animal with white tipped ears, half a butterfly or a light broken pattern?

In overview, remember to consider length, width and depth ratios as applied to head, crown, ear, and body. Watch for proper head mount and topline, and don't forget bone. The perfect Holland is a very massive, compact animal that must be balanced. When making your judging decisions, be sure to keep in mind that the most balanced animal with the least number of faults should win.

Good luck and have fun!


HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002