Monday, September 23, 2013

When to Break the Rules

I have posted many rules on my blog, and they are an excellent guide. I see many of the angora breeds being bred without any regard to color breeding rules, which has lead to the deterioration of many of the wonderful rare colors. Then, you often hear breeders saying that they have never seen a decent (insert color ) English Angora that could compete with the torts and whites. It isn’t the fault of the color, but those that breed the color, so step up to the challenge if you are a fan of the rarer colors, breed top quality bunnies that can compete. When a judge sees a nice specimen of a color that is not tort or white, they LOVE it, and it will go a long way to being noticed on the show table. While keeping in mind color is just five points, those five points will come in handy on the judging tables with the colors that are not tort and white. But what do you do if you are breeding one of these rarer colors and they are not up to snuff? Then you look across the barn, seeing the perfect cross, although you know it will set back your color breeding. My suggestion – go ahead and do the breeding, just do it smart, have goals, and stick to those goals. I will use an example that I am currently working on to demonstrate some guidance to use when you are “breaking the rules”. The chestnut agoutis that I have do not have that nice intense fawn/reddish color in their rings like the chestnut agoutis that I used to have. There are two reasons for this. First, they are out of tort lines, and the tort genes can lead to the coats showing a long white ring at the base of their coat. Second, they lack “rufus” genes, which are the genes that, if you get enough, change a fawn to red. Now, I don’t mean that I want to breed actual reds into my lines. The rufus gene appears to have degrees. For example, a pretty intense fawn or tort has more “rufus” then a light washed out fawn or tort. In my barn, I have a very nice pretty intense, dark black tort doe who almost appears to be pumpkin orange in color. She is not the washed out tort colors that are often seen, she has a brilliant deep color. She is a keeper in all respects of course, not just her color. So, I am going to breed her into my agoutis to get those rufus genes into my agoutis. Here is how I am going to do it: 1. I will select a rabbit that is a match in respects other than color. This doe needs better texture but has super body type. I am going to breed her to a buck with better texture. They are keepers in all other respects. If this tort was pinched or had any mediocre qualities, I would not be doing the breeding. Also, if she did not match up with any of the rabbits that carry my agouti line I would not be doing the breeding. Any breeding, when breeding for color, needs to be a match that you would be making even without considering color – that is one of the best secrets to breeding top quality rabbits in a rare color. Why do rare colors often lack compared to their more popular counterparts? Because many of the breeders who breed them do it just because they are color compatible. You will just generate more mediocre specimens, causing the myth that your favorite color is inferior. 2. I will carefully select the breeding so that it does not have to be done more than needed. The tort does genes could cause my agoutis to not have the rings that I would like them too. Therefore, I want to bring in her blood as little as possible, but be as effective as possible. She will be bred to the best buck that I have so that, hopefully, the breeding only has to occur once. After that, she will go back to breeding with my tort and white line. If for some reason that pairing does not work, then I will not use any babies from that litter, and possibly try her with another buck to see if my results are good. But, I will not be using a bunch of her babies in my agouti line, only the best one, or possibly two if the results are good. 3. When doing the breeding, I have a goal. The goal is an excellent show quality agouti that carries more intensity, or rufus color. So, when I select a keeper or two out of this cross, that is what I will select. If there are none, I will keep none in my breeding line. If you do not accomplish the desired goal from the cross, then chalk it up to experience, and move on to other things. 4. Remove any rabbits from the breeding line that demonstrate the problem that arises with bringing in the new color. For instance, a tort gene often makes agoutis carry a lot of white in their coat. So, with each generation, I will select babies from this new line that do not have this problem, and with each generation attempt to fix the problem. Eventually, you hope that that pesky recessive gene is no longer a problem. When I have worked on color projects, it sometimes takes awhile for me to find something that “makes the cut.” And, when I do, the logical breedings to take place might be ones that I would not want to breed if I was following the “rules.”. So, when I start a new color, I am often breeding against color rules, even though I do not like to. Through the generations, I use the above rules to try and improve the color. It is a necessary evil. Currently, my agoutis carry a lot of tort. If those are the pairings that I need to make to make nice rabbits, then that is what I have to do. Sometimes when breeding a rare color that has “rules, these rules will have to be just a goal, as it may take you years until you have enough of a line to really start working to improve that color. The important thing is that you are working toward your goal when you are breaking the rules and there is a reason for each breeding that you are doing. Your ultimate goal is to create the perfect English Angora, which should guide you. One of the goals that is a piece of it when you raise certain colors, is to breed them correctly. But, a goal is the place you want to end up, so if you are not there yet, that is okay – and it is why it is called a “goal” and a piece of that goal cannot override the ultimate goal.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Common Grooming Problems in the English Angora

Some common frustrations that people have with English Angoras are often solved when they get the correct knowledge.  Below are a few items that sometimes perplex the new and intermediate breeder unnecessarily.

Matted Feet.  Whenever I have an English Angora with wool on the feet that has become unmanageable, I simply trim the wool off.  It is best do do this a few weeks before the show, but in any event, once they become difficult, it is time for a trim.
The wool on the feet grows back quickly, so if you do this 3-4 weeks before a show, it will most likley not even make a difference.
In fact, I rarely hesitate to do this unless I am very close to a show. Matted Cheeks.  With matted cheeks that do not comb out, I try to trim a layer off if possible.  usually, the matt is occuring under the first layer of cheek furnishings.  I will trim the underlayer of cheeck wool once it becomes difficcult, making sure that what I am removing is unnoticable.
This can sometimes make the remaining cheek wool easier to groom. However, prevention is the best cure - make sure to groom the cheek wool once a week at least and you will hopefully avoid this problem.
Matted Behind the Ears.  If a bunny starts to matt right behind the base of the ears, I simply cut it off.  This does not apply to any wool that is located on the rabbits shoulders, that will meed to be groomed so as not to ruin the rabbits show apperance.  Once again, it is a far better practice to maintain the wool and keep it on the rabbit.

Dirty Bottoms.  fIf your english angora bottom is dirty, keep the area trimmed.  If the wool is dirty, it is in the way.
To prevent this, it is important to keep the area trimmed neatly, especially the wool behind the feet. In addition, taking hydrogen peroxide or white venigar, and quickly spraying the floor f the cage daily, and wiping down with a rag will save you ALOT of headaches.
Also, trimming the genital area is not a bad thing, and is something that I do commonly as routine maintence. If it does not detract from the look of the rabbit, it should not count against you on the show table as it is often necessary for the health of the rabbit. Webbed/Matted Wool on the Shoulders.  Unfortunately, difficult shoulders do not have an easy fix, and must be prevented in order to keep your show rabbit looking fabulous.  Be very diligent about applying spray or ivermectin to kill fur mites, as explained in a previous blog, and keep up with the maintainence grooming. If you have a problem you will need to get to work using two tactics - pulling the wool apart and blowing with the blower. Remeber, that your goal is to keep the wool on the rabbit! So, pull apart webbing, and then blow. Repeat, repeat, and repeat. Take it as punishment for not keeping up your maintenance which would have prevented the problem! As you can see, most of what I have written is saying that PREVENTING the issue is the best solution. In the long run, taking the small amount of time to PREVENT the probem and doing your normal maintenance grooming is a FAR better solution if you are trying to maintain a nice show English Angora. The tricks above will help you when things have gone wrong, but these areas will never look as good as if they were properly maintaned to beign with.