How do you breed for color and for type? Color is too hard! I want to try some color, but I don't know where to start. These are all common sentiments that I hear from new and experienced Holland Lop breeders when discussing the breeding of the color (non-tort) Holland Lop. Colored Holland Lops are not any more difficult to breed than tort Holland Lops, but there are some "tricks" that can help to make this adventure easier and less frustrating.
Selecting a Breeder: Firstly, you want to find an established color breeder with a good reputation and depth of quality in their herd. Beware of the breeder who sells color in huge quantities or has 5 or 6 different colors groups in their rabbitry; often the quality can be missing as the emphasis is on 'more' and not 'better.' After you think you have found that breeder, don't be afraid to ask for several references of satisfied customers and connect with them. If buying a Holland sight unseen/over the internet, remember that pictures can be extremely deceiving. If you cannot see the rabbit in person, I suggest asking for a minimum of 3-4 pictures-front view, full side view (not taken on an angle to shorten up the midsection), and from the top in order to closely examine and judge the qualities you might be looking for. If the seller has their hand under the rabbit's chin, ask for a picture without-this can be used to hide a poor head mount. Remember, buying a 6 week old baby can be very risky. We all know that most Hollands look cute at this age, so be bold and ask for pictures of the parents or older siblings. Also buying a color trio to start will help you linebreed and achieve your goal more quickly. Ask about their color lines. Have they had any genetic problems in the past (hopefully they are honest). Ask what their policy is if an eye spot or malocclusion appears later.
Reputable and established color breeders will stand behind their lines and quality. 'Quick buck' color breeders usually do not.
Pricing: Color Holland Lop prices can range from $25 all the way up to hundreds of dollars, just like torts can. Remember that price is not always equivalent to quality, though many color breeders have invested heavily in time/stock. So be prepared to spend as much as you would for a show worthy tort from established lines. When starting a color project you can often save yourself several years of breeding with the purchase of higher quality stock.
Choosing your Colors: Next you want to think about what colors you are interested in working with. There are very strict rules, governing genetics and breeding your colors without thought can produce a genetic
headache and considerable problems down the road. I suggest looking around at what colors appeal to you and consulting a genetics whiz for some advice on the compatibility of those colors.
How Many Do I Need?: Now you will need to plan to devote some additional cage space to your color group project. You want to have room to "grow up" your color Hollands and not have to limit your gene pool too much. In my rabbitry I have approximately 30 holes per color project, for a total of roughly 100 Holland Lop holes. With this amount of space I am able to easily manage my three color projects and make progress. Fortunately, two of my color projects are also genetically compatible with each other, for example: my otters can easily be crossed into my chocolates to produce showable colors. In the long run this ability to cross breed colors will maximize your cage space.
Getting Started: After you have decided on a breeder/specific line and color group, the fun begins.
Donna Heartz has said, "A black Holland Lop is like a little black dress-very versatile on many different occasions." Black Holland Lops are fairly common and using them to improve the type of your colors will work with the majority of colors; e.g. chocolates, oranges, agoutis, shadeds, and otters-to name a few. I recommend that you find the best typed black pair or trio, preferably from the same breeder/lines, and use them to improve the type on your colors. First breed your colored Holland to the black Holland, then breed the best color/carrier back to your other colors and repeat, repeat, repeat. Yes, this will take some time (and patience) but within one to two years you should see the type on your colors improving. Don't be afraid to show your colors to experienced breeders. Their feedback can help you see the weaknesses in your herd. Remember to always strive for good representation of the color standard as well as the type. They should go hand in hand. There is nothing more visually striking to see a beautifully typed colored Holland holding it's own on the table amongst a sea of torts!