Appropriate Breeding Stock

By: S.D. Lukefahr, J.C. Paschal, and J.E. Ford
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The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes forty-five breeds of rabbit. However, most of theses breeds are bred and raised strictly for fancy or show exhibition. In general, a fancy bred doe is unsuitable for year-round meat production. In other words, fancy rabbits are selectively bred for the show table rather than for the meat table. Examples of show table traits include body, head and fur type, and coat and toenail color. Similarly, rabbits acquired from pet stores or flea markets are not a good source of breeding stock. This is because such rabbits either have an unknown background and(or) they are not from commercial meat quality stocks. Instead, breeding stock should be obtained from a reputable commercial breeder who provides pedigree and production trait information for each rabbit sold, and at reasonable price. There is no reason to pay more than $35.00 for a commercial bred rabbit, regardless of the age, breed or cross, or pedigree.

A commercial bred doe, purebred or crossbred, is capable of producing 6 to 8 litters in a year. According to scientific studies, commercial bred stock as compared to fancy bred show stock have more vigor and are more productive (for example, higher fertility, larger litter size, and longer lifespan in production ("longevity")). Of relevance, county livestock show rules that call only for purebred fryers, so as to exclude crossbred fryers, are neither consistent with documented reports nor reflect profitable commercial breeding systems as practiced in the meat rabbit industry.

Unfortunately, the word "purebred" conveys that the stock are genetically fixed for all characters. In actuality, except for a limited number of simply inherited traits, for examples, coat color, there is little that is "pure" about a breed. There is more variation within breeds than there is among the "ideal standards" of many rabbit breeds. Advertisements of purebred, registered stock (often selling at premium prices) is only of value for fancy exhibition. For the backyard or commercial meat rabbit enterprise, such stock is of little value and in many cases represents a poor economic investment.