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Newcomers Information Rabbit Feeding Importance of Diet

Newcomers Information

Starting out in The Fancy can be a daunting experience and one that if not observed correctly, can lead to disillusion and heartache for both the owner and the rabbit. Certain criteria apply to all forms of livestock when keeping them as a pet and which need to be observed at all times. The animals needs and wants must be observed and maintained. It's health and future supported at all times.

Some breeds need certain extra elements within their lives to make them more comfortable and happy. This may be in the form of housing, grooming etc, so deciding on what breed one wants needs careful planning.

Within this site you will find all the information and help you need to successfully keep your rabbit happy and make the hobby of rabbit keeping an enjoyable one.


Before you can show your newly aquired stock, you have to join the British Rabbit Council. Once a member you can then purchase a leg ring (sold in 6's) or submit a transfer form for your rabbit which then identifies it as yours. Once you have joined a number of useful leaflets and booklets are sent to you, all giving good advice or instruction.

To keep in touch with the Fancy and abreast with the news you need to subscribe to the Fur & Feather monthly magazine, available by subscription.

What Breed

Selecting the breed of rabbit you wish to keep is the first thing that should be done. From that one can then decide on what housing would be the most suitable for that breed and also what needs and wants it requires. Do you want a single rabbit or are you considering housing several and even to the point of then breeding and showing. All these aspects have to be considered before any decision is taken.

The Rabbit Fancy has four sections within it from which to chose the breed you prefer.

The Lop section covers ALL Lop breeds, ranging from the small Mini Lop to the oldest breed of all, the English Lop. This section covers a wide range of colours and sizes to attract anyone into this section.

The Fancy section covers a range of rabbits that diversify in size, shape and colour more than any of the other sections. The Netherland Dwarf and the Polish are the smallest in this section, both coming in various colours and patterns. Most of the breeds within this section do have a choice of colour to appeal but also some rabbits within this section do need more specialist care than others. The Angora, the Swiss Fox all need extra special care for their fur, as all have long hair, making grooming a bigger part of their make up than some other breeds.

The Fur section generally contains the larger breed of rabbit, so housing becomes an important issue for this section. The British Giant can weigh up to 20lb so space and housing is a requisite, but within this section you will find the qualities of the fur very appealing.

The Rex section is more uniform than the other sections in that all , bar The Mini Rex, are the same shape and size. All carry the exquisite coat properties that are synonymous with this breed and come in various colours and patterns . Look at the different breeds and colours and decide which you fancy most. If possible visit some studs in the area that have your breed. You may be able to pick up several tips by observation. Once that decision is made you can go home and plan your rabbitry.

Rare Varieties section contains new breeds and rare breeds.

Fancy: Dutch Tri - Coloured, Giant Papillon, Rhinelander, Thrianta.

Lop: Meissner

Fur: Beige, Blanc de Bouscat, Blance de Hotot, Blanc de Termonde, Deillenaar, Golden Clavcot, Hulstlander, Perflee, Pointed Beveren, Sallander, Squirrel, Sussex, Swiss Fox, Thuringer, Vienna Coloured, Vienna White, Wheaten, Wheaten Lynx

A District Advisor can be a big help here. You will need to decide the size of cages and begin either to build them or buy them. Remember you will need a few bigger cages as breeding pens. you will need to ascertain local availability of shavings, hay, straw, feed and disposal of waste.

Once that is done, you can start to find the stock for the breed you have decided upon.

More examples of the various breeds lay within the Breed Standards section.

Joining a Club

The first Club you should join is your local club. This is where you meet local fanciers and do most of your showing.

Then the National Breed club of the breed that you keep. These Clubs hold approximately 4 stock shows per year, each held at various locations in Gt Britain.

There may also be a Regional Specialist Breed Club to join. These also hold stock shows around Gt Britain so the boundries become vast and the opportunity to travel the country is open to you.

What You Need

What to look for when purchasing your foundation/breeding stock

You will need to decide which breed you would like and searching the internet for more information, looking at books and pictures can help as to giving you an idea of the wide range of breeds available. Once you have an idea of the breed(s) you are interested in, it's a good idea to get out and about at some shows and actually see the rabbit in the flesh. Get a feel for the breed, looking at the rabbits in a show is a good indication of type and size and can help you decide. You might also see a breed that you've never seen before such as a Rare Variety and this may be something to consider too. Visiting breeders of your chosen breed, looking around their studs, handling their rabbits and talking to the breeder will give you a good idea of the temperament, space and care the breed requires. Many breeders will happily show you around their stud without any obligation to buy from them.

When you are sure which breed you would like and are ready to purchase your first rabbits, you should go for the best available stock that you can find and invest in two good proven does and a proven buck from related lines. This will give you a good start. Or you can purchase a young doe, proven doe and buck combination. This is known as purchasing a 'trio' and is the conventional and most recommended way of doing things. From these three foundation rabbits you will be able to start your line and then bring in outcrosses as needed.

Beware of where you buy your foundation stock! Just because a breeder is a member of the British Rabbit Council, this doesn't mean they are breeding for show, producing show quality stock or selling good foundation stock! The BRC is made up of many members, both pet and exhibition that advertise in the BRC Year Book. A good place to look is in the Fur & Feather magazine or ask other breeders/exhibitors for their recommendations. Join the National or Regional Specialist Club for your chosen breed and not only will the year book have breeder's adverts but the Secretary will often be only too helpful in pointing you in the right direction. Your Local club or District Advisor can help here too. When you find a breeder, ask questions and find out what their breeding objectives are? Do they show, if not, why? Have they sold rabbits for show, if so, how well have these rabbits done? There are many good questions to ask, but recommendations are a very good and reliable guide to a breeder's reputation. Don't be afraid to ask around, most breeders would not be offended if they have nothing to hide and you will get a feel for general opinions and constructive advice as to their stock and reputation. Even if they no longer show for whatever reason, they will still have that experience and be breeding towards the Standard of the breed.

Also beware of buying stock from shows. They may look good in the sale pen, but you will need more information than looks alone before buying the rabbit. If there is something that you really want to buy, ask around for who bred the rabbit, talk to other breeders and source their opinions on the rabbit. Talk to the breeder and get more background, why it's for sale and will it be any good for what you want it for. Examine it thoroughly when possible. You will not know where this rabbit has come from, will not have seen the parents and relatives or the conditions they are kept in. You could maybe exchange numbers with the breeder and visit their stud, they may be willing to take a deposit on the rabbit for you to collect it at a later date or have other more suitable stock for sale at home. But of course they may not, so think carefully. Be sure of what you are buying and get all the information you can before you part with your money. It's much better to actually visit a stud when you are starting out and purchase stock from your chosen stud after you have viewed the rabbits and talked to the breeder.

If you are lucky, you may find someone local to you who will be willing to not only supply you with good foundation (solid & proven line bred stock with which you can continue with) stock, but may be able to help you with choosing your matings, going through litters with you and helping you to look for the qualities you want in your litters and what to keep to continue breeding with, all with the sound knowledge and experience of knowing their line. They may also be willing to take you along to shows with them, introduce you to people and help with questions and support. A good breeder is invaluable in the first few months, even years of your breeding and can be the start of a very good friendship.

If a local breeder can't help you with stock, they can still be invaluable and offer a friendly face at shows, they may also be willing to come along with you to help you choose your foundation stock and show you what to look for and how to examine the rabbits before purchase. Also helping you with litters and matings in future.

Also remember there is good stock and better stock. A breeder will never be able to sell you their best, because of course, this is what all their hard work has gone into producing and would defeat the purpose of it all! You can't expect to be producing winner's overnight; it takes some hard work and dedication. They will however be able to supply you with good quality stock to work with and normally stock that is related to their best lines at reasonable prices. You may even be offered to mate a doe to a suitable buck of your choice, either included in the price (as previously agreed) or for a small additional stud fee. You may also be able to return to the breeder later on for an additional stud mating rather than buying in another outcross from an unrelated line or having to purchase another buck. These are all options that are open to you and can be discussed with the breeder. Some breeders may be reluctant to allow their bucks to be used by a doe of unknown origin that may unwittingly bring something into their stud and to their rabbits, so you should be aware of this.

Most of all, don't rush things! No matter how eager you are to get your rabbits and get started, rushing out and buying the first rabbits you see can be waste of time and money, along with heartache down the line. Everyone makes mistakes and it is what helps us to learn, but if you take your time, source a good breeder and don't rush into buying then these mistakes will hopefully be minimal and you can get on with enjoying your rabbits and hobby to the fullest.

You also don't have to start off with a shed full of rabbits. A trio for each line or colour would be sufficient and then you can keep some hutches spare for what you breed from them.

Going to Shows

Having obtained some stock which you consider is fit for competitions you will no doubt wish to set off to a show as soon as possible.

First you should ensure that you have become a member of the BRC and that the rabbit you intend to exhibit is rung with a ring registered in your name ( i.e. ring you purchased in your name or a ring which you have had transferred to your name.

A transfer is not complete until you have received the confirmation slip back from the BRC).

Having selected the show you wish to exhibit at by either reference to the advertisement in Fur & Feather or advice from your local club secretary or District Advisor, you must now arrange to enter your exhibit.

There is nothing difficult about entering your rabbit. Check the closing date for entries. This is always stated in the advertisement and can be a couple of weeks before the event but with most local shows is usually within 5 days of the show date. Next check if there is a telephone number stated in the advertisement. Many shows accept entries by telephone.

If a number is stated contact the secretary a few days before closing date, you will often find that their telephone is very busy on the last day or two so ring early and they will have the time to help you with any assistance you require.

You should always be ready to provide the following information:

  1. Your name (The rabbit will be entered in the name you give so ensure that you make it clear if you show in a stud name, this name should also be the name in which the rabbit ring is registered of course)
  2. Your address
  3. The breed of your exhibit
  4. The colour of your exhibit
  5. The age of your exhibit (is it over or under 5 months)
  6. Is it a Buck or Doe
  7. Did you breed the exhibit. (If you have transferred the ring you did not breed it, the exhibit must have been born on your property and be rung with a ring originally purchased from the BRC by you)
  8. Are you a juvenile exhibitor (under 16 years of age)

You will find the Secretary helpful and you should ask for directions if you do not know the location of the hall.
If no telephone number is stated you should provide the above information, enclose your telephone number and the correct entry fees and post to the address provided to ensure it arrives before the closing date stated.

Whether you telephone or post your entry you are responsible for paying the entry fees in full. If you do not end up going to the show for some reason after you have entered you should arrange to forward the fees to the Secretary as soon as possible.

The day of the show arrives, you have checked that you know the full address of the venue and the time for judging. Place your exhibit in a suitable container, a proper travelling box is best but do ensure that it is sound and provides ventilation. If you have some distance to travel do not place the rabbit in the boot of the car in very hot weather.

Set off to arrive 30 minutes before judging, see the Secretary who will ask for the ring number of your exhibit ( have it ready to save time and effort) and give you a pen number. Pay your entry fee. You should then place your exhibit in it's pen. Some bedding will already be provided but you may add to this from your travelling box or provide your own should you wish.

As this is your first show you should now leave your rabbit alone and stand back, have a cup of tea and watch the proceedings. At your second or third show you may wish to ask the Secretary if you could steward if you feel confident you can handle all the different breeds. Remember that the rabbits that you steward are owned by others and handle them as you would wish them to handle yours.

In due course the judging will commence. At some shows there are two or more judges who each judge a section and then come together to judge "joint" duplicate classes and eventually Best in Show. Each judge will commence with his first "Breed" class. Each "Breed" or "Straight" class is confined to the one breed of a given age. If the breed is popular in the area these may be split into several separate classes. i.e.

  1. Dutch Black or Blue Adult
  2. Dutch Black or Blue under 5 months
  3. Dutch any other colour adult
  4. Dutch any other colour under 5 months

When the judge has completed his various individual "Breed" classes he will then judge the individual class winners of that Breed against each other to find the "Best of Breed". i.e A Black Dutch, yellow Dutch, Blue Dutch and Chocolate find the Best Dutch rabbit.

When this has been completed ALL the Best of Breeds meet in the "Mixed Duplicates" to ascertain the Best rabbit in that section (Lop, Fancy, Fur & Rex). When the various section winners have been decided, these then meet in the Grand Challenge to ascertain the Best rabbit in the Show.

Until all judging is completed your exhibit must remain in it's pen. When judging is complete, remove any prize cards that you may have been lucky enough to win and collect from the Secretary and prize money due. You may "box" your exhibit and go home at this time.

The judging may take anything from 2 hours to all day depending on the size of the show. Ask the Secretary to introduce you to someone who can explain what's going on as things proceed, have a good look round and take the opportunity to ask questions you have. You will find that rabbit fanciers are usually more than pleased to have a chat and you can learn more about any subject connected with rabbit keeping by speaking to others than reading about it.

Most important of all enjoy the Show!

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