How I decided to breed Blue-Eyed White (BEW) French Angoras (FA)

 

Background info

 

            I got my first black French Angora buck, Chandler, from Bonnie Ahrens of ABC Ranch in Mo. when I was at the Heart of America Fiber Festival back when it was still in Butler, MO 2001.  I was a brand new spinner and had just gotten my first spinning wheel.  I could barely spin but took a ‘How to Spin Angora” class from Linda Little of Little Farm in Mo.  We had just purchased an acreage and I knew I couldn’t afford the big fiber critters.  Angora rabbit size and cost fit my budget and I thought I should learn all I could about spinning their wool. 

 

            Anyway, I started breeding cross bred angoras at first (Chandler, to my girlfriend’s EA).  Then, my daughter was old enough to join 4-H.  We attended our first 4-H rabbit show the year before she officially joined to see how to do it and what it was all about.  When the judge told one 4-Her there was no way her rabbit could be a Mini Rex because the fur was all wrong (the girl went by color), I knew there was no way our cross bred angoras would fly.  We started line breeding our cross bred buns to get back to FA on the pedigree.  One sure learns what bad stuff (and good stuff) is in your line that way. 

 

            We invested in a pedigreed FA Jr. doe CL’s Miss Ebony.  While waiting for her to get old enough to breed, we took what angoras we had to an open 4-H show.  It was a blast and we learned so much!!!  We joined the ARBA rabbit breeders association in Lincoln called Nebraska Tower on the Plains (NTOP http://webspawner.com/users/netop) and started attending meetings and learning all we could.

 

            Our first ARBA rabbit show was spring 2005.  We found out that our FA didn’t have enough of a commercial body and the wool was too soft.  However, Chandler and Miss Ebony were ok.  We also found out that our Jersey Wooly rabbits were way too big – but that is a different story.

 

When Miss Ebony was old enough, we bred her to Chandler.  We could barely wait the 30 days for the babies to arrive.  Ebony had three in the nest and then the next day scattered four more all over the wire.  The three she kept were nice, fat, healthy little babies but they had funny white spots on their heads and noses!?! 

 

            I posted a note on e-mail to the French Angora list to see if anyone could explain what the white spots could be.  That was when someone suggested the Vienna gene.  See Candy Haenszel’s website at www.psci.net/haencaoo to learn more about the Vienna gene.  This was the first time I’d ever heard of it and when I learned that there was such a thing as a blue-eyed white rabbits!

 

            Of course, I would have LOVED it if that had been the case with my bunnies but truth be told, it was the random spotting gene modifier at work.  However, the idea of a BEW FA seed was planted.

 

By the time these babies that were to be the STARS of my rabbitry were born, ALL of my rabbits were related to each other – so the random spot modifier could be held recessively by some or all.  Another litter by the same buck to a different doe also produced white toenails and spots in some of the offspring.  So, I decided to cull most of my herd keeping only my very best FA doe CDA’s Fleur Bleu, Miss Ebony, her daughter CDA’s Divination (from the breeding with Chandler) and another FA my daughter wouldn’t cull, CDA’s Creamy.

 

The birth of the BEW FA idea

 

I knew Miss Ebony carried the random spotting modifier (RSM) recessively, the RSM was physically expressed on CDS’s Divination, and it was potentially in my blue FA CDA’s Fleur Bleu, why not explore the possibility of making my own BEW FA line?!

 

I e-mailed Candy Haenszel of Indiana to find out more about how she developed her BEW English Angora line.  She had some great information and suggested I start with a BEW Beveran rabbit since they are a meat breed.

 

I had never heard of a Beveran rabbit so I joined a yahoo online Beveran list and made contact with a few breeders.  It worked out that Kim Calloway was taking a bunch of Beveran to the 2005 ARBA Convention.  She would have some for sale.

 

Next I contacted Gene Johnston, an ARBA Rabbit judge who lives in Omaha.  I had spoke with him about my FA rabbits after he judged them at the Fremont 4-H fair earlier that summer.  He gave me suggestions on how to improve my line.  One of the things he said was that he would be willing to bring rabbits back from ARBA convention if I lined up the sale.  When I contacted him about making connections with Kim, he said he was still willing.  I asked him to pick the BEW Beveran buck with the most COMMERCIAL body.  I didn’t really want the best Beveran body.  I told him, was starting a line of BEW French Angoras.  Since my buns needed more commercial bodies, I figured adding a powerful meat breed body along with the Vienna gene wouldn’t hurt.

 

Then, my girlfriend, Elisa, was planning a trip to California and offered to bring rabbits home for me.  So, I contacted Tracy Rios about getting some of her FA and also SA.  I had purchased a darling little SA doe that fall and fell in love with the sheen of the bunny and the wool!  Plus, she is the sweetest little girl!  But, I digress.

 

December 2005 found me with a brand new line of Jersey Wooly rabbits, a bare bones original line of FA, two SA does, one SA buck and a BEW Beveran buck.  Oh yeah, and my daughters free-to-a-good-home mini rex doe.  But that is DEFINITELY another story.

 

How I started my own BEW French Angora line

 

I bred the BEW Beveran, his name is Ziminar, to…

* CL’s Miss Ebony, my daughters black steel 4-H doe (a known random spot modifier carrier),

*Ebony’s black daughter CDA’s Divination (expresses the random spotting modifier in her white star and snip),

*CDA’s Fleur Bleu, my blue FA doe (Fleur and Ebony have the same Mother.  Fleur’s sire is Chandler, my original buck who also carries the random spotting modifier).

*Rio’s Madam, the beautiful blue FA doe Elisa brought back from Tracy Rios for me.

 

The winter wasn’t friendly to the new babies and all of the does were first time Momma’s except Ebony and she only kept three from her first litter.  Unfortunately, my first litters weren’t very successful.  Ebony had 9 kits and kept one buck.  CDA’s Jamba who has one white spot on his head but is otherwise black.  As he ages, he looks more steel all the time.  Interestingly enough, he is wooly like a FA!  More on where that came from later.  Divination’s first litter froze.  So I re-bred both Ebony and Divination plus Fleur Bleu utilizing the zodiac breeding chart Amy Spang posted to the French Angora list on yahoo groups.  I also bred a little Jersey Wooly doe to our newest JW buck. 

 

Thirty days later.  Miss Ebony had 9 kits again keeping only one.  A short-haired Vienna marked lynx buck, CDA’s Porchini (Italian for ‘little pig’).  CDA’s Divination had 12 kits and as the day progressed chipped more and more out of the nesting box to freeze.  I finally rescued the last two, warmed them up and gave them to the little JW doe, Knoelk’s Italia, that just had her litter two days ago.  She had three and one had gotten out of the nesting box.  I’m sure she wondered what happened in the nesting box but she kept them both and raised all four.  Both were black Vienna marked short haired bucks  CDA’s Skunk and CDA’s Zig Zagoon. 

 

CDA’s Fleur Bleu had all six in the nesting box.  However, by day three all but one died.  There was one little doe left.  She is blue with a moon on her head.  We call her CDA’s La Munica (Spanish for the dolly).  She also has long wool.

 

Rios’ Madam had been bred when I bought her, but must have lost her litter on the way to Nebraska.  She never gave birth.  So I bred her to Ziminar.  A month later, she gave birth to five blue babies.  Three Vienna marked two solid blue.  Two had long wool, two short haired and the cat got one.  All four are does, CDA’s Dizzy, CDA’s Izzy (both long wool), CDA’s Esmerelda and CDA’s Eliza Jane (both short-wooled). 

 

I showed CDA’s Izzy at three shows this spring (2006).  She won first place in every show except one.  I was talking with Brian Hartzell after he judged her.  He really liked her and so I told him that she was ½ Beveran and first generation to my BEW FA line.  The expression on his face was priceless!    

 

At the NTOP RBA Memorial day show, CDA’s Izzy won her class and was selected 2nd BIS overall!  It was at the NTOP Judges conference that I learned that some Beveran rabbits are wooly!  That explains the wooly first generation buns I have.

 

One of the NTOP members suggested I breed the buck back to the does for more genetic diversity, to help boost the FA in the line and just to see what would happen!  I bred Miss Ebony back to her first son, CDA’s Jamba.  We have five from that litter.  Three solid black, one poorly colored tort and one poorly colored pearl (possibly dark ermine).  One buck, four does.  We kept the three largest babies.  CDA’s Richu and CDA’s Pichu are black vc with outrageously dense wool and fabulous texture.  CDA’s Arabella is a chocolate pearl also with fabulous wool.

 

I bred CDA’s Esmerelda  back to Ziminar to see if I could get long wooled BEW and if not, to get a meat pen for my son to show at the 4-H fair.  I was teaching two beginning spinning classes at my Babe’s Spinning Wheel Booth at the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival when she gave birth.  I don’t know what happened but I lost Esmerelda and all eight of her babies.  I should have checked dates when I bred her.  Most of my does are going really long this year.  Esme was due three days past due before she gave birth.  There were six white babies lost with that litter.  L

 

Next, I bred La Munica to Porchini (for second generation BEW on top and bottom).  This is the litter with the two BEW babies in it!  Both are boys.  CDA’s Element and CDA’s Electron.  Also in the litter is a buck the same color as CDA’s Porchini, VM Lynx, I named him CDS’s Flux.  The other two are does.  CDA’s Batchi is a VM blue and a solid black named CDA’s Vixen.

 

La Munica scratches food out of her feeder so I keep her feeder up high on the side of the cage.  She has to sit on her haunches and sit up to eat.  I know it sounds extreme but she will ruin lots of expensive feed otherwise.  Well, when her babies started hopping out of the nesting box, I had to put in a regular J-feeder so the babies could eat pellets.  As soon as I saw feed in the poop tray under the feeder, I took Muni out of the cage and put her in her own cage.  The problem with that was, I took the nesting box out the same day.  That was too many changes. 

 

When I put her back into the to nurse them cage, she just hopped all over and wouldn’t let the babies nurse.  I put my hand on her shoulders and held her still which worked that day but not the next.  Everyday, she got more upset with being held to nurse her babies. 

 

I read that sometimes if you rebreed the doe she will settle down and nurse the babies.  So when the kits were only 2 ½ weeks old, I re-bred Muni to Porchini.  She seemed more willing to nurse them the next day but not after that.  She would get snarly and lash out at the kits after I let her up.  So, I wound up having to foster her kits off onto my Satin Angora doe, Isis to finish nursing. 

 

Isis does the same food scratching as Muni.  Watching Isis is probably where Muni learned to do it.  Isis babies were six weeks old.  Growing and eating very well.  So I put all of Muni’s babies in with Isis babies.  But, she loves being a Mommy and just hops to the back of the cage and braces herself while the kits mug her for breakfast!  Her eyes roll up into her head and you can just tell she is in heaven!  Its very cool!  When she is finished nursing them, her eyes come back to normal and she hops over to the feeder.  Then I take her out to her own cage. 

 

Anyway, I left Muni’s babies in with Isis babies for the day so their smells would combine.  The next morning when it was time to nurse, I took all of Isis babies out of their cage moving them to the cage below where they were.  Then put Isis in with Muni’s babies.  She hopped to the back of the cage and they mugged her just like her own did and VIOLA, fostering operation complete.  I continued to have Isis feed Muni’s babies until they were six weeks old eating well and growing.

 

Round Two

 

Since I re-bred La Munica to Porchini, I decided to breed Madam’s two other girls Eliza Jane and Izzy as well.  They are full siblings to Esmerelda.  I bred Izzy to Porchini and Eliza Jane back to her sire Ziminar (the BEW Beveran buck).

 

Eliza Jane birthed first.  She was great!  Just like a pro first time out.  Made a beautiful nest and birthed three white and two blue vm babies.  La Munica gave birth the next day to one white and one vm lynx kit.  Then Izzy gave birth to two black vm kits.  Eliza Jane and La Munica made nests, pulled wool and had their babies in the nesting boxes.  Izzy had hers on the wire.  But, we were out doing chores and saw them right away.  It was also July 15th and plenty warm out so as not to be a problem.  So, I just put the little ones into the nesting box for Iz and all was fine.  All Momma’s were great until LaMunica started her scratching thing. 

 

This time, I left her in with the kits longer.  I left her feeder in but added the J-feeder for the kits underneath her feeder.  It took linger before she started scratching out the food.  The kits were almost three weeks old.  This time, I took her out but not the nesting box.  It didn’t make any difference.  She still wouldn’t settled down and nurse the kits.  She’d jump in and out of the cage.  I was afraid she’d hurt them bouncing around.  So, I took the nesting box out and held her down for the last week plus until her kits were really close to four weeks old.  Then, I put them in with Izzy’s babies.

 

Gender and wool on the new kits are as follows:

 

Izzy – Two black long wooled vm doe’s CDA’s Tia and CDA’s Tamara

LaMunica – One long wooled BEW doe – CDA’s Intrigue

                        One long wooled VM Lynx doe – CDA’s Mystery

Eliza Jane – One long wooled BEW buck – CDA’s Impact

                        One long wooled BEW doe – CDA’s Chanel #5

                        One short wooled BEW buck and two vm short wooled blue kits.

 

This fall I showed Ebony’s ¾ Fa x ¼ Beveran daughters plus the two BEW bucks by LaMunica at the Hastings Tri-City RBA double show and the CBRBA show in Missouri Valley.  At the Hastings show, the Judge for Show A just LOVED CDA’s Pichu, placed CDA’s Richu second and CDA’s Arabella third in the colored class.  In the white group CDA’s Electron placed first over CDA’s Element.  CDA’s Pichu won BOB with CDA’s Electron coming in BOS.

 

The judge for Show B placed CDA’s Arabella first, CDA’s Richu second and CDA’s Pichu third!  A complete switch over show A Judge.  He placed the white boys the same way Judge A did.  He gave BOB to CDA’s Arabella and BOS to CDA’s Electron. 

 

One the BIS A table, the same judge for show A judged.  He picked up Pichu and deliberated before giving 2nd BIS to the Holland Lop.  So, if there had been a 3rd BIS, it would have been Pichu’s.  When you are the only person showing FA at a show, its hard to know if your rabbits are truly quality or if the judge is just doing the best he can with what you put on the table.  However, when the FA is almost chosen BIS out of all the different outstanding rabbits at a show, THAT is the proof I’m on the right track with the body and wool quality I’m hoping for.

 

At the CBRBA show in Mo. Valley, the judge placed CDA’s Arabella first and BOB over CDA’s Pichu.  He picked CDA’s Electron over CDA’s Element and gave Electron BOS.  We didn’t hear them call the BIS table and my buns didn’t get judged.  I did have Dr. Chris Hayhow evaluate my buns.  He said they have outstanding body and wool quality is coming but still a tad soft since they are still Juniors.

 

I sold CDA’s Richu and CDA’s Flux to a wonderful couple who is specializing in BEW in four rabbit breeds!  They were excited to start working on their BEW FA program.  I’m anxious to hear how they do!