Saturday, May 26, 2012

The times they are a-changin'...

Rest in peace, Sheba 1996 - 2012

Since my last post, we've gone from 4 dogs and 5 cats to 3 dogs and 4 cats. Sweet Draco was killed by a car a week ago Friday. The vet came to the house on Tuesday evening to help us ease Sheba's passing. I cried so hard for her. Sixteen years is a really long time, and she was so faithful and loving. There's an entirely different feel around the place in her absence. I'm thankful we have Lydia, the puppy... her effervescent presence does help. Sheba's remains are being cremated, and once Decker has gone and also been cremated, I will place their remains plus Mickey's (1988-2000) in my garden. I think I'll want some sort of commemorative markers.

Californian rabbits
I'm making some changes in which breeds of rabbits we raise, too.  The Californians are decent producers, most of them, but I don't love them. They're one of the two most commonly raised meat breeds - if you read up about meat rabbits in almost any sustainability book, you'll see recommended Californians and New Zealand Whites. They're boring. Mine are extremely fidgety and not very friendly. I've had trouble with sore hocks, and I won't breed an animal with sore hocks. And, on my pastured-growout trials last summer, the Californians did the WORST of any breed I have. By a longshot. Totally unacceptable. So - I'm getting out of Cals.
Thrianta rabbit

The Thriantas were really an impulse acquisition. They're a beautiful color - deep, rich, Irish-Setter red, but... they're small. They're fairly rare, but that's because they're relatively new to the US. They're not a heritage breed. I don't love them enough to devote the cage space to them any longer.

Cinnamon rabbit - and terrific boy
I started out with Cinnamons, and I like them a lot. They're great producers, sweet and cuddly animals, and meet my criteria of being both rare and heritage breed. They definitely have a future here.

 New to the farm this year are Palomino rabbits. I have only a pair of these (one buck, one doe) and their first litter. Still, the doe has the meatiest back end I've ever seen on a rabbit. They're another rare and heritage breed, they're gorgeous, and they're meaty. I look forward to getting to know this breed better!

Creme d'Argent rabbit

Creme d'Argents are... different. They look quite a bit like the Palominos as babies, but as they  mature, silver guard hairs grow in, giving them a different sheen. They're another rare and heritage breed, they're beautiful, they generally have a nice disposition, but I have had more trouble getting them to breed, and produce good-sized litters, than other breeds.  I'll keep them for the sake of genetic diversity, but I just don't love them as much as....

American Blue rabbit - see how differently it's shaped?

...the American Blues.They are far and away my favorites here. They have an entirely different body shape than any other breed I raise - semi-arch rather than commercial. See the swooping rise behind the ears? The other breeds don't have that. When I got my first Americans, three does and a buck, there were something like 500 breeding adults in all of North America. The American Livestock Breed Conservancy had them listed as "Critical." That was in November 2009. Recently, the breed club received the fantastic news that they have been upgraded to "Threatened." You can read here about the history of this gorgeous breed. They are definitely keepers here - and will in future have more and more cage space allotted to them. I can also report that they did the best of any breed in last summer's pastured-growout trials.

New Zealand Red rabbit
Remember I mentioned above how the most commonly mentioned meat breeds are Californians and New Zealand Whites? Turns out that New Zealands come in other colors, too - notably, for my interest, Red. I have a trio of these beauties heading my way early in June. Why these instead of Thriantas? Size, mostly - these are a commercial/meat breed, with adults in the 9-11 pound range, while Thriantas' maximum showable weight is 6 pounds. EDIT: photo of New Zealand Red courtesy of Martine Forget at Thanks, Martine!

So - that's what's going on around here. I'm a big fan of heritage breed livestock, just as I'm a fan of heirloom vegetables. Genetic diversity is soooooooooo important, and so much has been lost in the past 100 years, due to breeding for criteria other than depth of gene pool. I'm happy and honored to have a part in perpetuating some of these fantastic animals!


  1. Hi Michelle, again loved your blog and so informative. Like you, I think the blues are "bluetiful" and I can see why they are your favorites. My next fave of yours are the Palominos - boy they are hefty aren't they. Wonderful that you have a program going that involves you in genetic diversity. Wish I was there to eat fried rabbit and some various kinds of squashes. Hugs, Mary (Old Elf)

  2. For those losses you have endured lately, you know how I felt for you and the children. I'm glad you will be able to have Sheba, Mickey, and in the future Decker all together at home. I didn't know about your sweet Draco. My cat Pumpkin was hit by a car a few years ago...she never wandered far from the apartment complex and we never could figure out why she would gone to such a busy street. I still miss her greetings and walking me from my vehicle back to the apartment. I can't imagine what it was like for you and the children having to put Sheba down. But I'm so glad that you have a Vet that makes house calls.
    Hugs, Mary (old elf)

  3. Thanks for your post. As a result I'm looking for a breeding pair of American Blues for fun and a bit of meat. Thanks for the recommendation!