Thoughts on New Varieties

by Steven Westberg

Have you ever thought about developing a new variety of Holland Lop?

Are you crazy?

My first question for anyone embarking on a new variety would be have you had your head examined lately? Our current standard places virtually no emphasis on color or markings. As a matter of fact with so few points on color and markings it would be relatively easy to make a strong case that there is no longer any purpose for showing Hollands in two classifications. However, assuming there are others out there like me who like a particular variety I have learned a few things along the way.

A good understanding of color genetics is essential!

Read everything you can get your hands on and talk to as many knowledgeable people as you can about color genetics. Color genetics is not so complicated that us normal people can't understand it. However, you must be willing to put in some time and effort. There have been good articles in the Hollander recently, our guidebook contains information on the subject, and I would recommend Bobby Schotts' book "Color Genetics of the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit". One word of caution though, there are those out there who think they know what they are talking about but don't. Fortunately, if you keep at it long enough you'll be able to sort through a lot of this on your own. My suggestion would be to approach everything with a healthy bit of skepticism. At any rate a good understanding of color genetics is invaluable in moving your project along with as little unproductive trial and error as possible.

Recognize how difficult your project is!

Some varieties are much more difficult to develop than others. Your knowledge of color genetics will be very helpful in this area. For example, we all know tort is by far the most prevalent color in Hollands. Nice blacks are a "relatively" easy project because black Hollands exist and black is closely related to tort genetically (bet that surprises some of you). A Black Silver Martin on the other hand is a totally different matter. The black in a Black Silver Martin is dependent upon the chinchilla gene which is rare in Hollands and genetically quite different from a self black. In addition the tan pattern is not prevalent in Hollands. To obtain these genetic traits had to introduce them from another breed. Needless to say crossing my Hollands with Netherland Dwarfs caused other problems with respect to coming up with a rabbit that looked like a Holland.

Without patience and persistence forget it!

Even the simplest varieties are going to take time. I've been working two years and have culled almost 100 rabbits to get the ten Black Silver Martins I have now. Everything that happens with your Holland herd is going to happen with your new variety. The one Martin in a litter will be the one born dead. The one Martin in a litter will be the one with the double dwarf gene. The one Martin in a litter will be the rabbit to die of enteritis. The nicest Martin buck you've raised that just turned six months old will be one of the rabbits to die when Tyzzers strikes your herd. It will be your Martin does that misses, etc. etc. etc.

Your project will consume valuable space.

I only have 40 holes in my whole rabbitry. For the past year my Silver Martins have taken up half of them. The impact on the development of my Holland herd is obvious. It's really very difficult to do justice to both in such a small rabbitry. I have been toying with the idea of giving up my regular Hollands for a couple of years. It's either that or my three year project is easily going to be five. This is happening and I am only working on one variety of Martin.

Is this something everybody should try?

Absolutely not! I don't know of anything that is, do you? When I told Clyde Jones I was going to make Black Silver Martin Hollands he told me I didn't have enough space (and gave me a look which left no doubt as to his feelings). Steve Berkshire told me I should concentrate on breeding good Hollands. Sharon Shumaker told me Hollands should always be tort and broken tort. None of this bothers me. Each of these people has a legitimate point when viewed from the perspective of what they are trying to accomplish. That's what is great about this hobby. I really can't think of any two breeders that are trying to accomplish exactly the same thing.

Would I do it again?

You bet! One look at that typey Black Silver Martin Holland sitting in its cage makes it all worth it. I'm only about half way to my goal of introducing Black Silver Martin Hollands. I have learned a great deal by making the rabbit I wanted. The experience and satisfaction can't be replaced. When they go up on that table some of you are going to like them! Good luck with your project!


HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002