Tag Archives: Blanc de Hotot

Arizona State Convention 2017 Show Report

One of the door prizes handed out at the banquet. It's missing it's movie theater gift card in this pic!

One of the door prizes handed out at the banquet. An Arizona coffee mug, theater candy, and a movie gift card. (It’s missing it’s movie theater gift card in this pic!)

Last weekend we attended Arizona State Convention. The state convention is a wonderful time to meet new breeders, see friends, and compete against a wider pool of exhibitors. Many breeders who aren’t able to attend shows regularly will attend the state show, which is a wonderful treat.

 

We took a full carload of rabbits in six breeds: Cinnamon, Champagne d’Argent, Blanc de Hotot, Silver Fox, New Zealand and mini satin. Many bunnies. Much fur. My body is still telling me we were busy shifting those carriers around! A carton of approximately 30 lbs. is not so bad when you first move it… but when you move it over and over… yikes! Oh my achin’ bones!

 

It’s really exciting to report that we came home with a Best of Breed or Best Opposite of Breed in all the ones that we took except mini satin. (We only took one mini satin and he just couldn’t compete against the animals there. Arizona has some phenomenal animals! But we listened, took notes, and know where to work for the future!) What an encouragement that we’re doing something right!

 

I think that encouragement is pretty huge. It’s very, very easy to get consumed with the hard things of raising rabbits – the litters that don’t work out, the poop that needs to be scooped, the grumpy intermediates who scratch you and make your hands look like they’ve been through a blender… there are plenty of things about rabbit raising that aren’t at the top of the “fun” list! For us, while receiving the recognition of having a top animal is great, I’ve learned that listening carefully to the judges will help encourage me about the strongest attributes of even our worst rabbits! Encouragement is awesome!

 

The thing is, very few rabbits have nothing to commend them. If may be that this rabbit has a great head or strong shoulder or wider hindquarters. Maybe they don’t compete with the top animal, but there is always some thing encouraging to work with in the future if you’re able to see them all lined up together on a judging table. Even if it’s just validation that the rabbit I think it pretty awful is actually awful, going to a show is a great encouragement!

 

I also really can’t talk up the folks who put on the Arizona State Convention enough. They know what they’re doing and they’re kind. There’s always a bit of drama (people being people) but the show committee isn’t the start of it or spreading it. Whether it’s addressing difficult decisions or making sure the judges are able to maintain a constant flow of rabbits on their table, these people are amazing. If you’re looking for a great show to add to your routine, consider Arizona!

7 Ways to Improve a Rare Breed With a Gene “Puddle”

A. Volodov / freeimages.com

A. Volodov / freeimages.com

Let’s face it: In some breeds we don’t see a gene “pool,” we see a gene “puddle”! This can be extremely challenging, especially if you don’t have the luxury of an extraordinarily large rabbitry and unlimited bank account! Recently there was an interesting conversation going on the Rare Breed Rabbits facebook page. In a nutshell, the original poster asked, “How do you improve a breed when the gene pool is tiny to begin?”

This is a great question, and one we have faced ourselves raising our rare breed rabbits. For example, when we started raising Blanc de Hotot there were only about six breeders we could find in the continental U.S. raising them. Every rabbit we have has one particular buck in their pedigree – and we’ve worked to bring as many diverse lines in as possible from all areas of the continent!

Here are some excellent suggestions generated by the discussion:

  1. Get other breeders involved. I am a firm believer that if you’re raising a rare breed your first step should be to work your hardest to get your breed OFF the rare breed list! While there’s a certain amount of prestige to raising a rare breed, the reality is that a rare breed means you don’t have the volume of rabbits being bred and culled. Over time this can significantly, negatively impact the overall health, appearance, and efficiency of the breed. So, recruit, promote, and network with others to widen the impact of the breed!
  2. Be willing to travel/transport. Raising rare breeds means you’re going to have to be willing to either travel yourself to get rabbits or jump through the hoops necessary to have rabbits transported to you. When we started our rare breeds the closest breeder to us was seven hours away. If you aren’t a fan of buying sight-unseen rabbits off of the internet or going off of the reputation of other breeders… don’t choose a rare breed.
  3. Buy new stock whenever possible. Utilize larger shows, like the ARBA national show, breed nationals, West Coast Classic, or PSRBA, or Ohio Mini Convention to purchase new stock. (Trading for new animals is even better!) Don’t miss any opportunities to widen the gene pool. The larger shows are great because with the number of people moving across the country during those times it’s easier to find transportation. (And don’t forget to institute a quarantine area for at least six weeks whenever you bring a new rabbit into your rabbitry.)
  4. Take risks. It’s absolutely possible you’ll add a new line to your rabbitry and end up breeding a lot of animals better suited for the stew pot – some genetic lines just don’t play well with others. It’s still worth it to try. We have a general rule that every doe has a litter with every buck before we make a decision, and our bucks typically represent different lines. Also, perhaps the original parents don’t create beautiful animals that are an improvement, but their offspring crossed back might make some show stoppers! Don’t be hasty in your judgements.
  5. Breed hard. We tend to keep our rabbits working all year round because we don’t want fat rabbits! You’ve got to breed the rabbits in order to see whether you’re making any progress in the breed, as well as know your lines and what they produce.
  6. Cull HARDER. We are personally experiencing this right now! This spring we had five of our Blanc de Hotot does have two litters each. That resulted in 50+ hotot juniors! (And a general feeling that our rabbitry has gone monochromatic with all the black and white rockstar bunnies! Haha!) So far we have already filled our freezer with 42 of those juniors. At this point we are actually excited about three of the juniors (although we’ll be saving more than that back for genetic diversity and the breed backs to lines I mentioned above). We’ve also kept rabbits we can’t be absolutely certain about to see how they look with a few more weeks growth on them. It is incredibly discouraging to see so many rabbits culled out of the program… but we can see a noticeable difference in the ones we’ve kept back and we’re hoping next spring we’ll have far more keepers because we’re making the hard choices right now to improve our breeding stock.
  7. Outcross. This is the last point of the options because it really stinks. If you have a rare breed rabbit you want to keep the bloodlines as pure as you can, right? Outcrossing to another breed shoots that philosophy in the foot. That being said, in wisdom, an outcross might be the best thing to improve the breed. (There is one longtime breeder who does an outcross every fourth generation in his rabbits to increase the hybrid vigor and type. The philosophy is working – his rabbits have won their class/variety so much their rabbitry is a legend in their breed.) If you do decide to outcross, make it to another breed that is compatible with the one you’re working with, and make sure it is a bang-up representation of the qualities you’re trying to improve upon. Keep accurate records and disclose the outcross to potential buyers.

What are your suggestions?

Blanc de Hotot Sports — Photo and Classification

Obviously, this is not a rabbit. It is a sport. Or a hat. Your call.

Obviously, this is not a rabbit. It is a sport. Or a hat. Your call.

Don’t you just love it when something forces you to think and learn? We do!

 

Raising Blanc de Hotot have given us a whole new topic to explore and learn. To be frank, we’re just working to figure out the genetics piece, and I’m also deep in the research different factors affecting spotted rabbits.

 

Genetically speaking, the Blanc de Hotot is a black bunny with a really, REALLY large white spot! Here’s the starting point: the genetics of a purebred Hotot should be aaBBCCDDEEEnEnDudu. And the broken gene in an Hotot is also called the “English Spotting” gene.

 

I’m sure that means something to you genetic gurus out there. I’m still figuring it out, personally!

 

Since I’m not fluent with the genetic identifications here, another thing we’re learning is that different Hotot sports have different names. I’ve collected photos from around the internet with explanations of what these markings are called. Thank you to anyone who actually took these photos – in many cases I haven’t been able to identify the owner of the photo or rabbit.

 

If a “broken” Hotot produces a show marked animal (dark eyes, white rabbit, black spectacles or eye bands) and looks like this:

Is this not a beautiful rabbit?!  Photo Courtesy of Autumn Denistoun

Is this not a beautiful rabbit?! Photo Courtesy of Autumn Denistoun

 

Then a “solid” Hotot produces a Piebald, which looks a lot like a Dutch rabbit:

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Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

Now, within the piebald category there are also silver pied. This is a rabbit exhibiting the Dutch markings but with silvering throughout the black blanket of its coloring:

 

See the white silvering in the black? That's a giveaway that you've got an  hotot! Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

See the white silvering in the black? That’s a giveaway that you’ve got an hotot! Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

Piebald with spots - baby fur. Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

Piebald with spots – baby fur. Photo courtesy of L. Staley.

 

The markings of the Hotot also have specific names. When an hotot has only one eye (instead of both) with the black fur rimming it is called a boxer:

Finger is on the boxer baby. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

Finger is on the boxer baby. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

Older boxer, missing one of the eye bands. Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

Older boxer, missing one of the eye bands. Photo courtesy of Evil Bunny Rabbitry

 

(And reminds me of Petey from Little Rascals!):

 

I know, wrong animal. Cute nonetheless, though, right?!

I know, wrong animal. Cute nonetheless, though, right?!

 

The original goal of the Blanc de Hotot was to build a breed of pure white rabbit with dark eyes. The woman credited with starting the breed is Madame Eugenie Bernhard of Northern France. Because of her influence, when you run across an hotot with NO eye bands at all, it’s called a Bernhard:

A bernhard, named after the founder of the breed, has no black rings of fur around their eyes. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

A bernhard, named after the founder of the breed, has no black rings of fur around their eyes. Photo courtesy of L. Staley

 

Another interesting variation of the Blanc de Hotot sport is the evidence of blue “marbling” in their eyes. Marbling refers to having blue spots or streaks on an otherwise brown iris. This is not a desirable trait, but does come up:

Most of the time the marbling will not be the entire eye, although it's possible for an entirely blue iris to occur.

Most of the time the marbling will not be the entire eye, although it’s possible for an entirely blue iris to occur.

Do you see the blue there in the bottom of the eye?

Do you see the blue there in the bottom of the eye?

 

Many times I am confused by descriptions and need a visual to understand what people are mentioning. I hope this little pictorial will help others as we learn about this wonderful breed. Many thanks to all who offered photos for us to see! We welcome your comments!

 

Blanc de Hotot Breeders

Hotot logoOne of the things we have committed to in our rabbitry is raising rare breeds in as quality a manner as possible. That means not only breeding them, but also culling hard toward the breed standard and promoting them whenever possible.

One of our breeds is the Blanc de Hotot. It is ranked #1 on the Rare Breed list and adds a certain challenge to the breeder because it is a marked breed – the Standard of Perfection calls for evenly marked black eye bands — “spectacles— round dark eyes on a perfectly white rabbit. Additionally, the fur has a frosty appearance due to longer guard hairs.

In our litters we often have show marked rabbits, as well as “sports,” those rabbits who aren’t completely white and have black markings on them in random spots. We see our spots most often in between the ears or along the spine. Unless a sport has incredible body type, we cull them out of our program, and are working toward having exclusively show marked rabbits. But it’s a long process!

One thing that often confuses people is that there is a difference between a Dwarf Hotot and a Blanc de Hotot. The Blanc de Hotot is what we raise, and it is a commercial breed rabbit… BIG! It’s comparable to a Champagne d’Argent, Satin, Silver Fox, Californian, or New Zealand. The Dwarf Hotot is also white with black eye bands but it’s a little thing, more along the lines of a Netherland Dwarf. It’s much more common to see Dwarf Hotot around, we have often gotten comments from people who are shocked at the size of the Blanc de Hotot because they’ve never seen them in real life!

Since the Blanc de Hotot are a rare breed rabbit, it’s often difficult to figure out where other breeders are located. There is a facebook group called Blanc de Hotot rabbit breeders that has been very helpful to us as we have gotten more involved with the breed. We recently came up with a breeder listing and now have a map to generally see where people are located:

We're a small but mighty group! Would you like to join us in preserving this rare breed?!

We’re a small but mighty group! Would you like to join us in preserving this rare breed?!

Doesn’t Arizona look lonely?! It’s just our single little dot on the map! We’d sure love to see other Blanc de Hotot breeders come forward and work with us to preserve this breed! They’re funny rabbits, solid for meat production, curious in temperament, and in need of people to work on improving their type and competitiveness!

Blanc de Hotot Babies!

I posted these photos on our facebook page, so I really don’t have to post them here… but they’re so darn cute I can’t help it! It’s exciting to have Blanc de Hotot babies around!

 

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This is Carol’s classic “whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?!” look. She’s been an awesome mama and is fostering 3 kits from other does.

 

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Every time we turn a nestbox on its side the moms find their own way to get away from the babies! Velma is safe… for now!

 

Cuteness!

Cuteness!

 

Is there anything sweeter than those cute, pink ears?!

Is there anything sweeter than those cute, pink ears?!

 

How Do You Find Starter Stock?

Asking the right questions is the first step to locating great foundation stock.

Asking the right questions is the first step to locating great foundation stock.

I loved this post over at Rabbit Ranching and got permission from Ms. Cahill to reprint it on Mad Hatter Rabbits. If everyone who contacted us for rabbits followed this advice it would be so awesome! (I have added a few thoughts at the end.)

Q&A Session #2 from Rabbit Ranching by JuliCahill

This is the first part of an ongoing series allowing readers to ask questions about the rabbit hobby. There are no rules or guidelines. Have a question? Ask away! Post your question as a comment on our blog or email oakridgerabbits@gmail.com.

Readers are encouraged to share their own ideas or opinions in the comments below.

What questions should you ask a breeder when choosing “show” foundation stock?

Ah, the age-old question. When you’re starting out with rabbits or starting a new breed, your foundation stock will ideally carry you through the first generations of creating your own line. But it’s easy to get burned by lesser quality animals or fake pedigrees if you’re not sure how to search wisely.

The best place to start is ARBA’s recognized breed page, which can be found HERE.

From this page, you can click on the photo of any currently recognized breed, and it will take you directly to the breed’s specialty club. To my knowledge, every (or at least most) breed clubs post sweepstakes standings on their website. Sweepstakes is a contest based on show wins, and only club members are eligible. Look to see who is at the top of the list and keep those names in mind.

Next, visit the registered breeder directory, which should also be available within the breed club website. Keep in mind that this will only list contact information for breeders who are currently members of their specialty club. ARBA has a more general breeder directory on their website. If you don’t find the name you’re looking for on one, check the other.

I would choose about five names of people local to you (or within the distance you’re willing to travel). There is usually an email or phone number listed for contact.

Now…what to ask? …

How should a newbie, who wants to show their favorite breed, approach a show breeder to purchase stock?

Tell them them exactly what your goals are:

Example: “I want to show and raise Holland Lops.”
Example: “I am looking for two Satins to keep as pets and show locally.”
Example: “I want a pet Dutch.”

The breeder needs to know exactly and directly what you want the rabbits for. If you just email asking, “Could you send me a list of rabbits for sale?” you’ll probably find few who take the time to respond. Everyone has rabbits for sale at some point in time, but they need to know exactly what you’re interested in.

Other information to include:

– The number of rabbits you’re interested in buying.
– The time frame in which you’re looking to buy.
– Your location.

Example: “I would like to start with one buck and two does. I am hoping to find my starting stock this spring, and I’m located in Dallas, TX.”
Example: “I want to find two bucks and three does before September. I’m located in Trenton, NJ.”

This is all of the information specifically needed to get you started, and I recommend leaving the rest up to the breeder. If they have other questions, they will ask. Mentioning other specifics (wild, unusual colors being a common one) not only narrows your search, but also makes most serious breeders question your intentions.

Instead, ask the breeder whether they have rabbits available that meet your criteria. If you are unsure of which color, group, or variety is strongest and most developed – just ask! This is what you will want to start with, and an experienced breeder can guide you directly to it.

So, how do you know you’re speaking with someone reputable?

Ask everyone within your original inquiry – “I am new to this breed. What lines do you recommend working with?”

This is the golden question because it will reveal the authority in the breed of your choice. Like it or not, the success of every breed is strongly influenced by a handful of very dedicated, very successful breeders. They are the names you’ll see over and over again on pedigrees all over the nation. If you ask five breeders this question, you are likely to find out quickly which lines are “go to” in the breed.

If you can (whether they are local or whether you have to arrange transport from a national convention), try to purchase stock directly from those people. If you can’t, try to find someone who has used their rabbits to build their herd.

A name doesn’t mean everything, but it does mean a lot. A reputation is something that’s built by word-of-mouth and personal experience. If people, in significant numbers, speak highly of someone in particular, they are likely to be a trustworthy source. If it’s someone no one has heard of or mentions without prompting, it’s generally not a good starting place.

I could talk more about this topic, but I think I’ll save that for another day. This is where I recommend starting. From there, many reputable breeders will be interested in helping you learn more.

 

A few thoughts from Mad Hatter:

I completely agree about the recommendation to follow breed sweepstakes… and I don’t. We have six different breeds here and are members of the national clubs of only three. Some national clubs have far too many politics for us to want to get too involved right now… or it just isn’t the right time for us to have many memberships… what not. So, while I believe sweepstakes points are one factor in determining a reputable breeder, I would consider it with other knowledge as well.

Another research option is to check the Domestic Rabbits publication from ARBA for those owners who have Grand Champion rabbits in their breeds.

Being completely clear about your intentions is important! For us, since we raise mostly dual meat/show rabbits this is especially significant around here. If you tell us you are going to show rabbits we will set you up with the best-typed rabbit we can. If you tell us your entire purpose is for meat we won’t put as much emphasis on show promise as your desired outcomes will likely have more to do with production, making weight by a specific age, and mothering abilities than the length of shoulders or whether their body is conformed to the Standard of Perfection!

Blanc de Hotot!

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We are so excited to welcome Blanc de Hotot to our Rabbitry!

Our friend, Lisa, of Trinity Hallow, lured us into the breed by exposing us to some beautiful rabbits. Then my mom decided she likes Hotot (pronounced oh-toe) and my kids started begging for “mascara bunnies” and we ended up with the number one rare breed in the U.S. camped out in our back yard!

We alternate between calling these guys “mascara bunnies” and “rock stars” but there’s no doubt they have explosive personalities and a certain je ne sais quoi about them. (I start using French phrases when talking about French bunnies. He he!)

It will be a few months before we have any Hotot babies and it will be a new challenge to get show marked rabbits without any random black spots (Blancs are genetically black rabbits with a Big White Spot), but we’re looking forward to the experience!