The Truth

The Truth about Breeding and
Showing Rabbits

 Reprinted with permission
Corrine Fayo of Bucky’s Bunny Barn

The internet is a great place to find information,
however there is a negative side. This side is filled
with people who have mis-information, rumors, and
half truths which are bandied about as fact. It is hard
to try and sort out who is right and who is wrong, or
often who has information based on fact but has
distorted it to the point it doesn’t resemble the truth
anymore. As a service to pet owners and the
general public who often times have no knowledge
of rabbit breeding and showing I wish to dispel
some of the more common ‘net rumors. Since there
are so many, and many equally important the article
doesn’t present them in order of importance.

I feel a need to do this to try and stop the growing
gap between breeders and pet owners. Years ago
this was not there, breeders and pet owners
worked together sharing information and stories
about our favorite animal, rabbits. The rabbit binds
all of us together and I wish to share that bond with
everyone, whether you’re a breeder or a pet owner.
The ugly nasty rumors circulating the internet are
meant to turn us against each other, but we need
each other. Pet owners have as much important
information to share with a breeder as a breeder
has to share with a pet owner.

The first rumor I wish to discuss is the “Greedy
Breeder” rumor. Those against breeding often
suggest a breeders goal in raising rabbits is to
profit. I’m sure many examples of TAB’s (those
against breeding) statements will pop into your
mind. Well the truth be told, there isn’t any money in
rabbit breeding, nada, zip, nothing! There is
however plenty of expenses. Even commercial
breeders will tell you they make a very small profit in
which to live on but there is no pot of gold at the end
of this rainbow. Certainly a breeder who pursues it
as a hobby can only dream of “breaking even” with
all the expenses that go into maintaining a quality
show herd. People raise rabbits for many reasons,
money is not even on the list.

The next rumor deals with alleged “rabbit
overpopulation” and rabbit breeders being the
cause. There is a problem with people buying
rabbits on impulse and dumping them when their
care or behavior becomes too much to handle.
Everyone including breeders wish that this never
happened, however to say there is a severe
overpopulation crisis is not correct. I have
contacted several groups, PETA, HSUS, ASPCA,
HRS, as well as shelters, and none of these
organizations have any figures for the number of
rabbits abandoned. I have continually asked for
proof that an overpopulation crisis exists but have
yet to be offered any. The best the TABs have
produced is the “I said there was one so that
makes it true” statements.

Last year a survey was done to try and determine
the extent of the problem, the result was an
estimate of 43,000 rabbits abandoned nationwide
in shelters in 1996. In addition, in an article Merrit
Clifton is quoted as saying in 1996 a total of 5.1
million animals were euthanized in shelters
nationwide, 1.5 million dogs, 3.5 million cats, and
100,000 others (raccoons, skunks, ferrets, gerbils).
So it is not possible that more than 100,000 rabbits
could have been euthanized in 1996, and these
figures would also suggest the survey results are
valid. Apparently one rabbit rescue groups is
stating that over 1 million rabbits are euthanized
yearly, another rumor. I did check with this group
and they now say they never said that.

The Pet Products Manufacturing Association
estimated that as of 1996 there were 4 million pet
rabbits. So to begin with the TABs have no
accurate figures to determine or support the
statement that there is an “overpopulation crisis”.
Overpopulation is used by animal rights activists to
push for restrictive breeding ordinances. According
to Clifton the peak of euthanasia occurred in 1987
with 17.8 million animals killed in shelters and since
that time the number has gone down quite
dramatically. If you check with the larger animal
rights groups they are giving much higher figures,
after all a decreasing rate of abandoned animals is
not a good argument to use to restrict breeding.

And coupled with the “overpopulation” claims we
have the claim that breeders are responsible for it.
All I can say is how is this possible? Are breeders
forcing pet owners at gun point to dump their
animals? Of course not! The true cause of
abandonment is the irresponsible pet owner. This
person is often the impulse buyer who does not
bother to alter their animal and in turn ends up with
babies that are then dumped. These people don’t
care about learning about the proper care or buying
from a reputable, responsible breeder, all they want
is the animal and they want it now. In order to further
decrease abandonment and euthanasia we must
confront the true cause and not harass those not
responsible for it.

Another bit of misinformation is that culling begins
with a k-i. The definition of this breeding term as
per the ARBA Guidebook reads: ” Removal of
undesirable rabbits from the herd”. Each breeder
decides what his goals are when breeding rabbits.
Those that do not fit into this goal are “undesirable”
and not used in the breeding program. Keep in
mind this is not saying a rabbit is bad, or wouldn’t
be a good companion, etc. Culling simply means
choosing which rabbits to make a part of your herd.
And again what a breeder looks for or wants will
vary.

For example I raise show rabbits and will cull
rabbits for show disqualification’s or those not
matching up to the standard. A cull could also be a
rabbit that is show quality or breeding quality but
either not as good as another rabbit in my herd or
not what I want to breed. I strive to breed for
temperament as well as to the standard and so far I
have not had problems with mean rabbits. Oh
except for those “teenage” bunny years, but even
then I only have to contend with growling, grunting,
and being unsociable. My culls are sold as pets.
Just because a breeder culls it does not
automatically mean the rabbit goes to a
“commercial” purpose. But the bottom line in my
mind is that all breeders must be responsible in
whichever manner they choose to remove culled
rabbits. And the vast majority are thankfully!

Which brings us to another rumor, that breeders
breed without regard to health, temperament, or
genetic problems. This couldn’t be farther from the
truth! It also is very upsetting to all us responsible
breeders who have spent time learning genetics,
disease, and a host of other subjects so we are
only breeding the best quality rabbits. I never read
anything in ARBA literature or articles from
breeders that suggest we should be breeding any
old rabbit.

On the contrary, the recommendations are to only
breed the healthiest rabbits and select those that
are resistant to disease, those that do not have
genetic problems in their line such as malocclusion,
those that have good temperament never a mean
rabbit, and those that are the best.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a
breeder recommend that if a genetic problem
shows up in a line to stop breeding that line and go
back to re-evaluate what and where things went
wrong. Or that one should not breed aggressive
animals because you will end up with offspring who
are nasty. Or even that rabbits who have had a
problem such has snuffles or wry neck should not
be bred. The unfortunate pet owners with unhealthy
rabbits can probably trace it back to an
irresponsible pet owners accidental litter. A
responsible and reputable breeder is doing it to
improve the breed, not destroy it.

And finally I’d like to cover the rumors about
breeders not caring properly for their rabbits. These
rumors cover a wide range of subjects, no toys or
exercise time, caged outdoors, forced to endure
being shown, not educating pet owners, treated as
livestock, etc. All this is not true. The very vast
majority of breeders often place their rabbits even
before their family members so rumors that we
neglect or mistreat our animals are hurtful and so
untrue. Breeders do provide toys for their rabbits.
And yes they even allow them out to play.

Many of you may think the term “house rabbit” was
invented in the late 80’s. but it wasn’t. Long before
then breeders were recommending people provide
toys and bring bunny inside to play with. The
breeders were the ones who invented the term
“rabbit proofing”. And there isn’t anything wrong
with keeping a rabbit outdoors, or in a shed or barn,
or even the basement! Wherever you house your
bunny there are pros and cons to deal with, one
shouldn’t be too quick to judge another.

The important thing is, are the rabbits safe, happy,
and healthy. I know breeders who keep rabbits in a
shed, complete with A/C and heat in winter, and
some have them inside basements or garages and
are careful they get plenty of light and fresh air.
Those that keep them outside often report their
rabbits are healthier because they get plenty of
fresh air. And of course there are breeders who
have house rabbits. There is no one perfect place
for housing that we can or should measure all of us
by.

I’m also happy to report that in discussions across
the country with other breeders most do provide
written instructions for pet owners. Many have
written me for a copy of their carebook to make
sure they are providing enough and accurate
information. And countless breeders do offer a take
back policy to ensure none of their rabbits are
dumped in shelters or the woods. I have talked to
shelter workers and it was communicated to me
that the shelter problem is made up of accidental
litters from irresponsible pet owners and impulse
buys from pet stores. And that us responsible
breeders account for almost zero percent!

I hope I’ve cleared up some of those pesky net
rumors about breeders. I may add more in the
future, I hope there isn’t a need though. Although
there are irresponsible and disreputable breeders
out there the majority are responsible. It of course
upsets us when TABs use the term breeder to
mean anyone who puts two rabbits together and
produces a litter and then goes on discussing all
the irresponsible and neglectful things this
“breeder” does. True rabbit breeders or fanciers
strive to provide the best care possible for our
rabbits.

We work hard at being responsible and
reputable and to give back to the rabbit industry.
There is alot of heartaches and disappointment that
goes along with being a responsible breeder that
pet owners may not even be aware of. We spend
the night nursing sick rabbits, both our own and
others, we have to make tough decisions when an
animal becomes sick or disabled. And often cry
when one of our beloved pets passes on. Oh yes,
we do think of our rabbits as our pets. There really
isn’t a difference between a breeder or a pet owner,
let’s work to keep that special bond!

Some suggestions:
If you also believe breeders
and pet owners should work together you can help
out in many ways. Don’t buy from an irresponsible
breeder, make sure they provide care information,
have healthy rabbits, and if they offer any
guarantees. If you know someone who wants
to buy a rabbit tell them to visit a responsible
breeder, rather than a petstore.

If you see someone
bashing breeders or ARBA tell them to stop
because it isn’t fair to lump all breeders into one
catch all group. And if you belong to groups or
organizations who are against even responsible
breeding and showing let them know that position
isn’t something you support. Better yet quit the
group or organization and tell them why!