Chocolate Polish Lop

Consider Supporting a Rare or Heritage Breed
9/15/2015 4:00:00 AM

~~ Consider supporting a Rare or Heritage Breed ~~ Ed White

In today’s fast paced world, how many people care about or even take the time to consider where or how today’s popular rabbit breeds were developed? Sadly and unfortunately very few and this is true of most classes of livestock. What went into their makeup or how long they have been around? Why are some less popular than others?

In cattle for instance, the Candienne, a truly Canadian creation established in the early 1600’s is now on the verge of extinction. How many have even heard of the Ancient White Park or Florida Cracker cows? White Parks have been around for about 2000 years and Florida Crackers since the 1500’s, both are just about gone along with many other ancient cattle breeds. Choctaw, Large Black and several other breeds of pigs are fast disappearing. In sheep, Leicester Long Wool from the 1700’s and Cotswolds which were perhaps introduced by the Romans over 2000 years ago are teetering on the edge, joined by many other sheep breeds. Chantecler poultry, another Canadian creation, have very few supporters, the Dorking an ancient British breed, another Roman introduction are about gone too. In Turkeys the Beltsville Small, which probably the foundation of today’s more popular broad breasted breeds have a very small following. In fact each class of livestock has breeds or varieties that have for various reasons lost favour and may be gone forever save for the tireless efforts some people many who belong to and support rare or heritage breed societies.

While the above animals have little to do with rabbits, my point in mentioning them is to illustrate the point that rare and heritage breeds of all classes are disappearing at an alarming rate. A gentleman in California a Mr. Franco Rios has for the past several years compiled a list of the sixteen rarest rabbit breeds in North America. I’m not just sure why he chose sixteen but then, why not? Currently here is his 2010 list which was just recently published:

#1 is the most rare, #16 is less rare;

  1. Blanc de Hotot
  2. Giant Angora
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Beveren
  5. American
  6. Satin Angora
  7. Giant Chinchilla
  8. Lilac
  9. Silver
  10. American Sable
  11. Belgian Hare
  12. American Chinchilla
  13. Rhinelander
  14. Creme D'Argente
  15. Silver Fox
  16. Palomino


The breeds on the list have varied slightly over the past four years, since it was last updated for instance breed number 16 was previously the standard Chinchilla being now replaced by the Palomino. The standard Chin is now number 17 and no longer qualifies. Mr. Rios admits that the compilation of this list is not perfect but is composed using the best data that is available to him. It is US information gained from the ARBA breed registration numbers overlaid and also taking in to account annual ARBA convention entry numbers. The ideal system of determining actual numbers would be by taking a survey of all North American rabbit fanciers but this would require 100% participation which we all know would never happen because of fear and complacency. In the meantime, therefore, we have to make do with what is available to us. One important point to keep in mind of course is that breed popularity varies tremendously by region. What we may consider rare in Southern Ontario could be abundant in other areas. The Himalayan and Havana breeds are good examples of this. While I am a little biased, currently I would think that the rarest recognized breed is the Argente Brun with fewer than 100 currently in North America. Hopefully the breed’s popularity will grow as after being recognized in Canada in 2008 they will face their first presentation on the road to ARBA acceptance at the convention in Indianapolis in 2011.

The Dominion club currently has several members who support rare breeds, Glenn Johnston with his Silvers and American Sables, Einar Helf with American Sables and I believe some Bruns, Devon Ward with her Argente Bruns, Valerie Leonard with American Chins, Sue Needle with Satin Angoras, Bonnie Havlicek with Giant Chins, yours truly with the Bruns and there are probably others who have escaped my list, sorry.

Several of the breeds on Mr. Rios’ list are the foundation of many of today’s popular breeds we all would do well by helping preserve at least some of them before they disappear forever. Something to think about anyway!

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