Learning About Conformation (Type), Evaluating and Posing
(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
:Understanding what makes a well-put-together rabbit is important to learn before you purchase rabbits. Don’t depend on a breeder- even one with an excellent reputation- to sell you something good. Know that the rabbit is good through your own assessment. Choosing a well put together rabbit is important whether you breed for meat, pelts, show, pets or you are just picking out some rabbits and never intend to breed. Remember that you aren’t looking for perfection. It’s important to learn how to recognize and attempt to correct faults but please don’t expect to find your rabbits free of all faults.
Breeding to the ARBA SOP is always a good idea. If you are breeding just for meat and/or pelts then you have a little more freedom in color, of course, but for conformation you should strive for meeting the SOP. Breeding rabbits with really long shoulders reduces the amount of the loin you will yield, and breeding rabbits with poor hindquarters will result in less leg meat. Finally, always breed to better every generation. You want physically healthy rabbits, and making sure that you’re breeding for good joints and foot pads is the only way to make that happen other than buying your stock from a good breeder who values the same. Learning about good conformation can be tough. The easiest way to learn is to put your hands on rabbits. Find a rabbit mentor if possible- someone with more experience than you that is willing to teach you about type. I host free Rabbit Assessment Workshops here at Edelweiss Ranch & Rabbitry sometimes too.
For Commercial and Compact breeds, follow these directions:
Turn the rabbit to face your right and place your right hand gently over the head.
With your left hand, position the front feet so they are directly below the eyes and flat on the ground. If the rabbit’s elbows are flat on the table then their front feet should be beneath their eye.
Position the hind feet so they are directly below the hips.
Without distorting the feet placement, tuck the rabbit’s hindquarters up just enough that the body is compact and rounded. The rabbit should not be stretched out or too tucked up.
Place ears and tail in proper position for the breed. Don’t grip the ears otherwise you are placing the rabbits head in a poor position.
This will probably be very tough at first. Keep practicing.
Since I breed a commercial breed, I will use a commercial breed standard as a walk-through. Start by properly posing your rabbit. Run your hand over the animal’s back to feel for the top line, starting at the nape of the neck and moving your hand over the back to feel for a spine that is smooth and not rough. The spine should flow to a gradual rise to the high point over the hindquarters and then gently slope to the base of the tail. You should feel fullness in the hind end with little to no hollow between the pin bones. Next use the “finger test” by placing your fingers behind the head in the area between the ear base and the front of the shoulders. Ideally you won’t be able to fit any fingers. One finger is okay. Two fingers or more and the rabbit will appear to have long or low shoulders. Check the space between the front legs; ideally you will be able to fit 3 or more fingers between the legs indicating a wide chest. The same goes for between the hocks on the hind legs under the rump. While you’re at it, this is an ideal time to do a checkup on your rabbit. Check teeth, nose, eyes, ears, nails and sex organs. There is a fantastic free form for assessing rabbits on the Printables page.