Q&A: Episode 3

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.

Do you believe that there are any significant number of people who look to breed quality animals just to be pets? When you say a “quality” animal, are you only referring to what would make an animal useful for showing, or, in your opinion, could an animal who is not a show-quality animal still be a quality animal?

This question was posted as a comment to a previous Q&A post, and I couldn’t be happier that the topic came up. Sometimes I launch onto a soapbox about “quality” and “show” and “breeding” and “pets” and forget that not everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about.

A quality animal, in my mind, is an animal that was intentionally bred with a goal of long-term health, favorable temperament, and improvement upon current generations in mind. These are points of focus that are beneficial to every animal, regardless of their purpose or function.

Of course, each breed standard highlights two of those points: health and improvement, especially as emphasized by conformation, or body type. This is simply referred to as “type” in rabbits. While there are some purely cosmetic characteristics that make each breed a little bit different, the general structure the standards call for (full hindquarters, specified body width, proportional bone mass, etc.) is created with the animal’s health and lifestyle in mind.

Temperament is not mentioned in breed standards. However, I think it’s widely accepted that domestic animals should have favorable temperaments. Animals that are aggressive, shy, or have other negative personality traits will be more difficult to handle. Their temperaments can actually become dangerous to their caretakers or may affect things like breeding success and the rearing of offspring.

So, do I believe that there are any significant number of people who look to breed quality animals just to be pets?

Yes, there are a significant number of people breeding rabbits (and other animals) specifically for pets. However, it is not my experience that these individuals are striving to meet the goals that create what I consider to be a quality animal. More often than not, those programs focus singularly on cosmetic things. Color is a big one, but sometimes temperament is singled out too. Other times, they’re breeding without a specific goal at all other than producing pets.

While others may disagree, I don’t believe you can separate yourself from striving to meet the breed standard that promotes overall health and longevity. If these traits are not intentionally selected, you’ll find that rabbits quickly revert back to the structural faults and inconsistencies many breeders work so hard to perfect.

Striving to meet the breed standard and creating show quality goes hand in hand. However, even when your goal is to meet the standard, not every animal that comes out of the program will be show worthy. These are still quality animals. They were bred intentionally, with a purpose, and with their quality of life in mind.

See what I’m getting at? In my opinion, quality isn’t separated by certain characteristics. Quality is an overall package. Though we will all interpret the standard in a slightly different way, it contains physical characteristics that are beneficial to the rabbit. At the same time, we have to consider things like temperament which are beneficial to us, as owners of domestic rabbits. Each one of those considerations contributes to quality of life for the rabbit, which in turn, creates an animal with desirable qualities. As soon as we compromise any part of that puzzle, we’re doing the animal a disservice.

Quality is what we produce while we’re striving to improve future generations. That sometimes translates into a rabbit that will show well, but it’s often simply the description of the pursuit rather than the destination.

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