Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rabbit Genetics

I acquired Sadie and her daughter Susie many years ago as an attempt to start breeding meat rabbits.  I got them from a lady going out of raising California Giants for show.  It was an enlightening visit to her rabbitry where I had my choice of over 50 almost identical rabbits of various ages. Only 2 really stood out Susie and her sister Freakie.  Susie because of her totally un-Californian color and Freakie because of her long flowing hair and non-descript color.  If you click on the above photo you can see that Sadie has a small tuft of hair between her ears and Susie has larger tuft of hair that extends down her neck and onto her forehead. She also has hair on her cheeks and under her chin. These longer tufts of hair are wispy and finer than the rest of the fur covering their bodies.  I wish that I had a photo of Freakie, but they were lost in a computer crash. She had this long wispy hair all over her body and her coloration was about every shade of brown and grey mixed together.  When I asked the woman about these rabbits she was totally dumbfounded about how they came about.  She had been breeding her pedigreed rabbits for many years and showed me her album of                                                                                                                                        pictorial pedigrees on all of her rabbits going back over 30 generations.  Sadie was a registered doe raised by her and had been used to breed many litters of solid Californian marked rabbits.  But her last litter had these two unusual bunnies in it.  For some reason that she couldn't even describe she kept them instead of destroying them.  I guess it was the shock factor as she had never had non-typical Cali. bunnies before.
As I had no intention of showing them, it didn't matter to me. And since I have always had a flair for the unusual, I took them both.  And their mother,father and one of their brothers. I had planned on getting some more Californians but these would be the base of my new breeding stock.  But first I needed to get rid of all of my large Mini Rex or small Rex rabbits I had been raising for manure production for my garden.
Well the best laid plans of mice and men...........
After some health issues and grandchildren being born and garden increases and chicken coop expansions etc. etc. etc.  Suffice it to say the meat rabbit plans got lost in the shuffle.  I was raising bunnies for pets for the local pet shop and online sales.  People wanted smaller rabbits so I bought some Mini-Dutch's to breed.
During all of this One of my Rex does had a litter born on Valentines Day and there were a set of twin black bunnies with identical white markings and feet, that I kept.  Twin 2 had a litter close to the birth of my grandson Owen, I frequently shortened his name to 0-1 in my writings and named an odd colored buck bunny that we intended to keep 0-2.

Somehow in the need for space, after 0-2 grew into adulthood he was placed in the same pen that Susie was in and the only thing keeping them separate was a chicken-wire divider.  I knew better, but had other concerns at the time and since he was so much smaller I doubted that even if he got to Susie that he could do anything.  Well again I was proved wrong.  Susie had a nice large litter and one little black bunny started growing fuzz.

Fuzzy Butt was born.

And what a beautiful oddity he was.

Then I got interested in an online meat rabbit group and posted these photos on my new farm page and got many comments as to breed and availability of this rabbit.  Since it was a genetic abnormality, I had no idea if I could duplicate this result.  He was the only one out of eight litter mates to show any hair abnormality.
I soon forgot about Fuzzy Butt and returned plans for crossing Susie to a larger breed.  I had previously purchased an American Chinchilla buck and a Flemish Giant doe and was having problems with her conceiving. So I bred Susie to the Am. Chin. buck Cassity to see if he was the problem.

Susie again had 8 bunnies.  This time she threw 2 abnormal kits.  One white doe with all over long fuzzy hair.

And one light brown buck with a mane.  As these were planned to be born in time for Easter bunnies, I had all of them spoken for before they were even born.  But I had planned on keeping one female for breeding purposes.  When the time came for them to go to their new homes one person backed out and it left me with the only buck of the litter too.

And I had plans for him.
The founder of Backyard Meat Rabbits, had showed interest in Fuzzy Butt and the photos I had posted of the litter.  So I contacted him and let him know that the little maned guy was available.  He came and got him and named him "Mufasa".  As I said in a previous post, he is now a "house pet" and his owner suggested I breed Fuzzy Butt to his mother Susie to see if I would get more that carried the lion look gene.

I did but was a little reluctant to do so too quickly.  Susie just turned 6 years old and I didn't want to over stress her, so I waited 2 months before I allowed her to breed.  She only had 2 bunnies.

One looked silvery white and the other a dark brown that was almost black.
Sadly three weeks later during a massive heat wave I lost Susie along with Cassity and a pure breed Flemish Giant buck and a Registered Dutch doe.  It was a devastating day, they had made it through the worst heat of the day only to succumb by early evening.
The bunnies however did excellent, we moved them indoors and pampered them for a few days.  Making sure they were eating and drinking on their own before we put them back outside.

As they grew the silvery one began showing signs of the recessive gene we were looking for,

I called her Fuzz Ball in honor of her father.

The other one became Susie II for her mother. Plans are to breed them to Mufasa

 and see if we can bred a larger Lionhead type rabbit line.