Variations in Hollands

by Floyd Edmondson, AZ

Since man began domesticating animals there have been variations in all that he has touched.

In nature there is practically no variation due to the practice of inbreeding and the survival of the fittest.

Variations man has brought about can be favorable or unfavorable depending on how skillfully we use them. Without variations there would be no chance for either improvement or deterioration and the fact that individuals vary, makes improvement possible through selection.

According to Eugene Davenport in "Principles of Breeding" there are four types of variations: MORPHOLOGICAL, SUBSTANTIVE, MERISTIC, and FUNCTIONAL.

MORPHOLOGICAL is quantative in character and has to do with differences in size, a very common type of variation on Hollands. Without morphological variations, the Holland Lop breed could never have been developed. Can you imagine the variations starting with a Netherland Dwarf/French Lop cross and then later English Lop? It took Adrian DeCock of Tilburg, Holland 15 years working with this variation alone to create a Holland of the size it is today. He also had two other types of variations with which to contend.

SUBSTANTIVE VARIATION is shown by the differences in quality of the individual as distinct from mere size and form. Such variations are qualitative rather than quantative in nature. Such variations are of the greatest service to the breeder in that they are associated with efficiency, utility, color pattern, color quality, quality of flesh, fur and bone.

MERISTIC VARIATION is not important to the average breeder for it represents variation in the form or repetition of parts, so we will pass over this variation.

FUNCTIONAL VARIATION relates to variations in the normal activity of various organs or parts of the animal such as muscular activity, glandular secretions, etc. It pertains not with the form of the organs, but with their functions. An example is the variations in the number of eggs formed by the female and the number that might be fertilized by the male. This type of variation can be affected by management and also by environment.

Then there is MUTATION, a form not considered in the four because of it's infrequency and usually lack of economic value. For years I have thought this form of variation should be considered as a fifth type of variation, since the advent of the Rex and Satin rabbits. However, during my research, I realize that the Rex and Satin fur is merely a SUBSTANTIVE VARIATION in the quality of the fur as is the flyback and rollback quality.

So, with all these variations, we have very important tools to use in our breeding endeavors. If used wisely, we can improve our herd. Unwise decisions can lead to retrogression or atavism, a tendency to revert to the original type.

Random breeding can be an influence in retrogression and should be avoided. Always have a well thought out purpose in mind when forming a pair so the best possible offspring may be obtained. Always breed a male closest to the standard, to a female closest to the standard without pairing up faults so that the young are as good or better than the parents.

Breeding parts, or attempting to offset a serious fault by breeding to a mate superior in that respect, only breeds more parts in most cases. If one does breed an ideal youngster from such a mating, it will not usually be prepotent in that respect and able to pass on the good quality.

For years pigeon breeders have had the theory that by breeding a bird with a deep keel to one with a shallow keel it would result in pigeons with an ideal medium keel. Usually they got more deep and shallow keels, and the few with medium keels did not pass it on to the next generation.

The same goes with Hollands. By "breeding the best to the best and eliminating the rest" we have a better chance of breeding a winner. So whether you inbreed, line breed, line cross, or breed only unrelated Hollands, selection of variations that are nearest you own to meeting the "Standard of Perfection" is the best policy for improvement of your herd and your placements.

Eliminate any Hollands have any type of inherited disqualification. Copy "Mother Nature" in your breeding endeavors. "She" inbreeds for uniformity and is very ruthless in her culling where it pertains to lack of vigor.

A few words now about Morphological Variations: DeCock started in 1950--actually 1949, but his first year was a complete failure. As of this writing. 48 years later, I feel we are doing a very poor job of stabilizing variations in size. Personally, my Hollands vary from as little as two pounds to as heavy as 4.09 lbs. For shame! FIE on me. However, I have only been working this family for two years and have hopes of improving.

In Substantive Variations, we are doing very well on a national level but there is still much to be desired on the local level. I believe this could be blamed on the lack of good Holland Lop judges being hired for All-Breed shows. The majority of rabbits being shown at All-Breed shows are meat breeds, so meat rabbit judges are preferred by the majority of fanciers and we Holland breeders are only occasionally blessed by a good Holland Lop judge.

Functional Variation, it seems, is on a level with Substantive Variation and far, far ahead of our control of Morphological Variations, by breeding closer to the ideal weight of 3 lbs. I feel we can vastly improve our record in controlling size in our Hollands.

We need to use variations for improvement in our individual herds, but in moderation. Unfortunately, there are far too many Hollands showing up in Pet Shops and later at the pound, or in Rescue Organizations, who have the responsibility of hopefully adopting them to more responsible, loving owners than their previous ones.

The Hollander / Fall Issue - October 1998