Monday, February 15, 2010

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIONHEAD RABBIT

here are some differences of opinions on exactly where and just how the beautiful LIONHEAD RABBIT originated. Below are two most commonly held theories/opinions.
The first thought is they originated in Belgium in a litter of bunnies that was the result of the crossbreeding of the Swiss Fox and a Belgian Dwarf. Then crosses to a smaller wool type breed was also included in the crossbreeding. Some sources list the Jersey Wooly but its probably the Dwarf Angora (in the USA we have no Dwarf Angora so the name Jersey Wooly was added here) Later the breed was imported into England where continued crossbreeding of small breed rabbits and additional wool breeds were made. This crossbreeding made in Europe and in England created the current EUROPEAN LIONHEAD RABBIT.
The another opinion is that it did not originate in Belgium and that the Jersey Wooly had nothing to do with the
making of the Lionhead breed. In this opinion it is thought that when European breeders were working on the
Dwarf Angora the Lionhead mutation occurred in a litter of bunnies and was accidentally spread throughout the
Dwarf Angora Breed. This gene did create a problem for the Dwarf Angora breed as it restricted the wool on the
back and sides of the rabbit. In Europe a number of attempts were made to set the trait and establish a new
breed often called the Tete De Lion. All these attempts failed except for a small "pet market".

What we do know is that the Lionhead mutation is the first major mutation in rabbits since the early 1900's when
Satin fur first appeared in a litter of Havana's. The gene that causes the mane seems to be a dominant mutation
which means that only one parent is required to have the "mane gene" to produce more LIONHEADS. In that way
it is unlike any of the other fur mutations in rabbits which have all been recessive genes. This also makes the
Lionhead Rabbit unlike any of the other "new breeds" of recent years in that it cannot be recreated using other breeds.

Sometime during the early years, the LOP EARED gene was added to the mix, creating
the Lop Eared Lionhead. In Europe, both versions of Lionheads - lop eared and erect
eared - are currently being bred. In February of 2002 , the British Rabbit Council official
recognized the erect eared version of the Lionhead Rabbit.
When the
breed was recognized in England by the British Rabbit Council approved the Lionhead
Rabbit in all recognized colors (sixty approved colors) and it is approved in all marked
patterns and their varieties. ,

IN THE UNITED STATES

LIONHEAD RABBITS have been imported into the United States (mostly from Europe) since 1999. In gathering information it appears the Lionhead Rabbit was first brought into Northern Minnesota by JoAnne Statler, soon she was joined by several other Minnesota breeders. About the same time or shortly after Tom Coats of Maryland brought back a small number of Lionheads with him after spending time in England. Additional breeders then began larger importations of Lionheads mostly from England but some also came form Sweden. Since there were so few Lionheads in the United States and many lack any uniform type or size some breeders began to cross the Lionhead Rabbit to various other small breeds. A number of breeds where used, including Netherland Dwarf, Britannia Petite, Polish, Holland Lop, and Florida Whites. Since then other breeders, throughout the country have added Jersey Wooly, Dutch, Mini Rex, American Fuzzy Lop, and even New Zealands to the breeds used for hybridization. This was done not only a way to broaden the gene pool, but to correct some of the differences between the European Standard and the United States Proposed Standard. When crossbreeding, hopefully breeders are only using quality rabbits to improve the breed where they feel it needs improvement. These type of breeding programs require experience and should be very selective type programs which cull heavily. Whether you crossbreed your Lionhead Rabbits or keep them pure it is very obvious this little breed will go far in the United States.

Here in the UNITED STATES there are number of certificates of development.
Presently all are for the erect eared version of the LIONHEAD RABBIT.
The current active COD is held by Gail Gibbons of Kansas
The Gibbons COD has 5 colors on in
Chestnut Agouti, Tortoise (in Black only) , Siamese Sable, Sable Point
and Ruby Eyed White.

The first attempt to get the breed recognized n the United States was made by Arden Wetzel of Minnesota who held the first COD
for the breed. He made his first presentation attempt in 2004 during the ARBA Convention held in Rhode Island. The attempt in 2004 failed in all five colors. He then made a second attempt in 2005 at the ARBA Convention in Indiana. Arden was successful in Tortoise in 2005 which meant the breed moved forward in Tortoise only. After unsuccessful attempts in 2006 and 2007 presentation rights fell to Gail Gibbons. Who will begin the process all over again in 2008

The current PURPOSED WORKING STANDARD includes LIONHEADS in five colors (the maximum allowed by
the ARBA for a new breed). It is for an erect eared rabbit with a top weight on seniors will be 3 ¾ pounds.

Since, overseas, Lionhead Rabbits are currently being bred in so many colors not recognized by the ARBA,
time and care is being taken to prepare this breed for acceptance under the more stringent requirements of
our parent breed organization.

The North American Lionhead Rabbit Club
was founded on September 29th 2001 at the Minnesota State Rabbit Breeders Association State Show held in Elk River, Minnesota. I strongly encourage anyone interested in the LIONHEAD RABBIT breed to join, so that you may learn more about this exciting new breed.

When you join, you will be given:
*- an Official Guide Book that contains information on the Lionhead Rabbit,
* - a membership card,
* - a subscription to a quarterly newsletter called the Mane Musings keeping you
informed on all the updates in regards to the development of the Lionhead Rabbit.

SHOWING LIONHEADS AT ARBA SHOWS

LIONHEAD RABBITS can be shown at ARBA rabbit shows as an exhibition breed. They can be shown under the PURPOSED WORKING STANDARD (Read the Standard for the Lionhead Rabbit). only if the entry is accepted by the Show Secretary for each show.

Once the breed has passed one showing with the ARBA at a Convention, then they must
be allowed to be exhibited at ARBA shows. To exhibit your LIONHEAD, just print a copy
of the PROPOSED WORKING STANDARD (without any embellishment with advertising or
identification of your rabbitry) and give it to the Show Secretary along with your entry.

BREED INFORMATION
The LIONHEAD RABBIT tends to be very friendly, enjoying human contact.
They are easy to handle and if brought into the home at a young age the
become very used to human contact and will make excellent pets.

They are healthy overall as a breed and most are easy keepers. They do tend
toward the dirty bottoms found on baby lops and other breeds with slightly long
coats, due to their fur being a longer rollback coat much like the lop breeds.

The bunnies with manes (not all purebreds will necessarily have manes *
see the explanation about the mane gene ) will begin to show the mane by
three weeks old. If they do not carry two genes for the mane they are born
looking like any other bunny until that age when the mane begins to bloom.

Bunnies that have 2 genes for the mane will look very different from a normal
fured bunny. They have extensive areas that have NO fur or hair coloring at all
at birth. These areas are very slow to develop hair and the fur in those areas
will lag behind in length often until the baby is over a month old.

Many carry wool all over their bodies at first, with most starting to shed it out at about 6-7 weeks, until only a skirt remains. In most young Lionheads, somewhere near 10 weeks this wool will also begin to disappear and should be gone by 16 weeks of age. Some bunnies are born with so much wool on their bodies that they resemble a baby Angora. Some Lionheads never shed out the underwool in the coat to degree that will allow them to shown under the American Standard. Some Lionhead Rabbits carry the wool/mane down their face between their eyes (which is very undesirable under the Purposed Working Standard), and they all seem to have wool on their cheeks (which is allowed under the Purposed Working Standard.)

The mane seems to be a simple dominate gene with 100% of the offspring from maned rabbits (carrying two mane gene -2XM) bred with non-maned rabbits having a mane. These offspring are referred to as F1 generation crosses. It is impossible to tell the difference between purebred and hybrid bunnies as both type- those carrying heavy angora type wool all over their bodies or those with manes only – occur in both purebred and hybrid litters, and often as siblings.

The quality of mane between Lionhead Rabbits varies a great deal.

At the present time it makes no difference if they are purebred or crossbred. Some will have very dense manes, while others will carry a very long mane but it very thin in density. Some adults are loosing all but a wispy mane. Some adults loose their mane when they molt but then grow them back.

Most adult doe's carry less mane than bucks, simply because so much is plucked out by the rabbit herself when she
kindles. The rest of the coat on a Lionhead Rabbit is a normal rollback fur as soon as the bunny fuzz drops out. The
body coat is not like that of a Jersey Wooly or an American Fuzzy Lop, which have longer wool/hair all over their adult
bodies.

GROOMING LIONHEAD RABBITS

LIONHEAD RABBITS do require some grooming, but not nearly as much as other wool breeds due to the lack of wool
on the body.
Here are some grooming suggestions based on their age:

Babies: Baby Lionheads tend to have longer fur in the vent area, similar to some
lop-eared breeds. Therefore they tend to paste up more than other breeds. It is important
to check babies that are 2-5 weeks old on a regular basis to prevent infection due to pasting
up. If they do paste up, wash the vent area by putting under a light stream of lukewarm water
until all material can be loosened and removed. You may also want to put some antibiotic
ointment in the area.

Young rabbits (2-4 months old) : Young Lionhead Rabbits have a little extra
fur/wool on their bodies, particularly on the lower hindquarters area. This body wool will
molt out by about 4 months old, and it is important to make sure they have adequate fiber
in their dies as they molt this out to prevent wool block. Regular grooming at this stage is
important so the Lionhead doesn't ingest to much of their own shedding wool causing a
wood block in the intestines

Older rabbits (4 months and up) : If your Lionhead Rabbit carries excess
wool/fur on their body, particularly on the lower hindquarters area, most likely it is a
double mane gene Lionhead. These require you to maintain extra fiber in their diet to
prevent wool block. Some people feel the double mane gene Lionhead Rabbit will not
be showable as adults due to the excess fur/wool, regardless they play an important
roll in breeding.

Grooming the mane (all ages); The Lionhead Rabbit mane can become felted similar to other wooled breeds,
so it needs to be carefully brushed out periodically. Since the wool of the mane is similar to the English Angora wool,
it can be pulled out if combed or brushed too vigorously, so it is important to be both patient and gentle.

BREEDING LIONHEAD RABBITS
LIONHEAD RABBITS seem to be very easy to breed and most do not appear to have any difficulty kindling. Doe's have about 3-9 kits per litter (Litter size seems to be tied to overall size of the doe with small does under 3 pounds having smaller litters). Most are very good mothers with abundant milk supplies.

If you plan on breeding your Lionhead Rabbit, there is helpful information within the Genetics Section of this website. Here you will learn how to breed for the colors you want, and a more in depth look at how the mane gene works.

2 comments:

Kelinci said...

Nice & useful post.

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