Once we moved here to Horse Shoe, built the rabbit barn (aka “bunny barn”), acquired premier show stock from several sources, and began to raise our bunnies, I became fascinated with all that goes into and along with such an endeavor. In the beginning, we raised two breeds: Champagne D’Argents and Standard Chinchilla rabbits – two of Wes’s favorite breeds from his youth. Unfortunately, it was not long before we realized that the Standard Chinchilla rabbit breed had been seriously changed from the time that Wes and others had raised hundreds – even thousands – of prize-winning stock. This “new” breed we owned produced unpredictable and often non-standard progeny, sometimes even albinos and white rabbits with brown eyes from who-knows-what previous breeding “experiment”, and with unpredictable (often mean) personalities. I began to dread feeding and watering them, much less handling them.
We were sad to realize that we would not be able to claim that we were selling purebred stock, and it would take many animals, from many sources, bred over many generations for several years to try to get back to a clean line. At this point in our lives, we just couldn’t invest the time, effort, and resources to take that on. Similarly, we were not willing to “just use the good animals for showing and selling”, since even those “good ones” unquestionably had an adulterated, tainted gene pool. We didn’t want to knowingly pass along such stock to our customers who wanted, expected and deserved reliable livestock. By contrast, our Champagnes consistently produced winning stock and, with a few exceptions, were very sweet and easy to handle – an especially important trait for animals raised for pets or show stock. Those few that did exhibit seriously undesirable traits, including personality issues, were eliminated from the breeding program. We ultimately decided to just let the Standard Chinchilla go its own way and then focused all our efforts and barn space to raising the beautiful, sweet-natured Champagnes. We have never looked back!
What caused such a drastic change in a once-reliable breed? It can happen sooner than you can imagine if one takes an “anything goes” approach to breeding – sort of a “Gee, I wonder what would happen if we bred our bunny to X , Y and Z breeds?” to get a different size, color or fur type, and then fails to monitor and edit the results so that seriously undesirable or non-standard traits are not knowingly perpetuated. It can happen if a breeder does not understand, fails to consider, or just doesn’t care to consider the downstream effects – that they might be introducing undesirable traits and moving the breed farther away from being the breed outlined in the original Standard of Perfection (1950). It is not wrong to experiment, as long as each breeder exercises caution and integrity, always keeping the SOP in the forefront as the goal of the improvements rather than as some kind of stumbling block to circumvent. We are aware that some Champagne breeders are indeed “experimenting” with breeding their rabbits to other breeds. One can only imagine the real “gene havoc” this will wreak, and seriously doubt that any significant improvement will come of this!
The purity of each rabbit breed is further protected when judges ensure that they judge each rabbit to its Standard of Perfection and not just towards their own personal preferences for color, fur, posing position, etc.
It’s always exciting when we recognize that a young Champagne is beginning to exhibit one or more exceptional qualities – a superior body type, head type, fur, color, or litter size. Our pledge to our customers is that we will strive to provide rabbits that are true to the Standard of Perfection and that meet the original objectives for the breed.