Friday, August 23, 2013
So, how do breeders like myself, that utilize hybridization to achieve and improve certain traits, defend our choices? Another question to pose, why should we feel we HAVE to defend our choices? Why does enmity exist between those that raise rabbits exclusively for showing and those of us that raise angora rabbits exclusively for fiber production and companionship? Where do the fiber and show paths collide and interfere with each other?
I wish I could find solid answers to these questions. However, I think the main point of departure between fiber and show enthusiasts, is how we view rabbits in general. The question of the hour in the US is how should rabbits be classified? Are they mere pets, and subject to overpopulation and burdening of rescue organizations? Are they livestock-- animals bred to a specific purpose and contracted with human beings for mutual benefit? Or, are they fancy creatures bred to win ribbons and trophies?
I think angora rabbits can play a number of roles at the same time. They can make excellent pets, they can produce gorgeous fiber in very sustainable ways, and they can even feed predatory animals and people.
As a fiber enthusiast, I am most concerned about maintaining dual purpose as it relates to fiber production and companionship. However, I am ethically persuaded to select breeding stock that is healthy, vigorous, and will go far in protecting the genetic diversity of future lines.
Now, I look at my perspective and pat myself on the back for being so progressive, ethical and sustainable in my husbandry practices. But not everyone sees it that way... I constantly meet with resistance from those who breed angora rabbits and value the purebred integrity of ARBA recognized angora breeds above all else. (not every ARBA breeder is of this opinion, because 3 generations after an outcross, ARBA considers the F4 offspring to be "purebred" for registration purposes. Quite different than what you encounter in other purebred animal registries)
In my honest opinion, and personal experience, many hybrid fiber rabbits do it better, and with a lot less effort (on the part of caretakers). Produce fiber that is. Are they well suited to competing against purebred angora breeds in ARBA sanctioned shows? Probably not. Do I plan to compete with my hybrids in ARBA sanctioned shows? No way! That's what purebreds, and F4 hybrids are for;)
When we create a Standard Of Perfection for an animal, most people within that organization breed exclusively to that purpose in order to win shows. There is nothing wrong with that. However, what tends to happen in all purebred animal registries is that strict adherence to the SOP can result in breeding away from the breed's intended utility and purpose. For example, Doberman Pinchers in the United States. What was developed as the ultimate guardian breed in Germany, has turned into a very fragile-looking and docile animal. Most dog enthusiasts know that to get a Doberman closest to what it was bred for, you import from Europe!
I am not saying that purebred ARBA recognized angora breeds have had their intended purpose bred out of them. We owe the continued existence of the angora rabbit in the US to the ARBA breeders that came before us (and, the incredible selective breeding of commercial angora breeders in Germany). I am saying that those of us breeding with utility and practicality in mind have every right to continue to do so. It is a noble endeavor! And one frequently misunderstood in different angora rabbit circles.
So, WHY, exactly, do I work with German hybrid angoras? Because the resultant offspring most often improve upon both of the original breeds used in terms of overall health, vitality, fertility, fiber production, coat manageability, and temperament. I've owned every angora breed (except Giants), and my personal preference is for hybrids.
So put that in your can and kick it;)