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Culling 101

Randy Blackburn

Written By:


HLRSC Guidebook -7th Edition

When considering your herd you must make some choices on what animals you will keep and what you will pass along. You must have a good idea of what you think the standard of perfection is a definition of. This becomes easier the more Hollands you have evaluated. Some of the things I do to help me cull my herd follow.

When they are a few days old I can tell a cobby short baby when I hold it in my hand. This is not to say I ever cull babies at this time unless they have a abnormality or birth defect.

As soon as the kits are holding their heads up and looking out of the nest I can start to see color and patterns.

I usually check the teeth and watch the bite during the entire growth process. I do not allow animals with overshot jaws to stay in the herd. Nursing babies may show teeth that meet, and I do not cull for that. If the bottom teeth ever grow in front of the top teeth I cull them. A sure sign of a bad bite is if the bottom teeth are in front of the top and become whiter than the upper teeth.

Any animal that has incorrect legs and frame can start to be seen at around eight weeks. I make sure the babies are tame by setting them up over and over. If they are not afraid of you, they will allow you to pose them.

Eight to ten weeks is a critical time, and also a short window where structure will be the same as it is when your Holland is an adult.

When I pick up a baby to be posed I can tell many things by just holding it in the air. I like a baby that fills my hand and is wide and has a short body. They fill my hand and are as wide in the front as the hips. I call them
"Little chunks.

Checking the back feet is a good indication of bone, but not the only one. If the back foot seems as wide as it is long, it has good bone. If the foot is long and narrow it will only become worse. Another thing I check concerning bone is the front legs. I do this by not looking at, but holding the bone just above the ankle. I always do a comparison with other animals the same age. It will be easy to find fine bone by doing this.

Sorting juniors and culling the weakest link in the herd requires a good understanding of the ARBA Standard. I get out my best baby and pose it just as a judge would. I try and remember all the good points it has and decide why it is my pick.

Next I pull out 3 or 4 other babies and let them relax on the table. I do not look at the marks in the ear that I use to identify the parents. I just start posing the babies. This is all done with my eyes closed. I feel them over and over again. It is easy to find the favorite. It is a little more difficult to place your next choices. I have a carrier on the table and I place them in order of choice all with my eyes closed. This is very important if you are working on colors or patterns, since the placements are totally based upon type.

What makes the best?
First of all I want a deep rabbit, not one that lays like a potato. Remember as the depth gets better it requires perfect alignment and structure. If the rabbit hangs it head in front of the shoulder or the head pops out in front of the scapula, the head set is not correct. The head is to sit on top of the shoulder blades.

I have my own opinion on the dip in shoulder. If you have a deep rabbit with correct head set, you will be able to feel its neck tucked tight where it connects with the head. If a good rabbit is incorrectly posed with the head held forward, it can cause a dip between the front of the shoulder and behind the head. This is not the dip I am referring to. Length in the shoulder can also be length between the shoulder and the spine. If it is long in the shoulder, it also dips behind the shoulder bone giving length or space before the rib cage begins. This dip is never tolerated in my herd, no matter how good the other parts may be.

Evaluation of the front end:
In evaluating the front end, if you have any question look at the profile of a relaxed animal. The head sits on top of the shoulder and not hanging out in front. Secondly the shoulder is tight against the start of the ribs. No space allowed where you can place your finger, or worse two fingers. Now you are going to continue back and examine the midsection. I like a Holland that rounds off from the neck to the hindquarter.

Evaluation of the back hindquarter:
I am not a fan of a flat topline with a hindquarter that angles too steep or drops off. I do not keep animals that are weak in the loin or that slope from the shoulder to the hindquarter. Also abnormal spines can be found at this point of you evaluation. If you have a question hold the rabbit on its back in a relaxed position and feel each vertebrae making sure none are out of line or dip in or weave out of line. As your hand smoothly slides over the top line and down to the table your hand should be full. The loin should almost fill out and into your hand. A poor loin lacks fullness along the sides of the spine. It will lack fullness on both sides, moving over the top of the ribs. It may also feel mushy or seem empty in your hand. Close your eyes and make this movement many times.

By this time you have a pretty good idea of how the rabbit is built. But your job is far from finished. This is when I stand back and take another look. The front legs should be directly below the head and shoulder. They should be straight and look like a tube from the shoulder down to the table. The feet must be short and at the same angle as the upper leg.

I see many people lift an animal from the front, holding the head up and rolling them back onto the rump and evaluating them with the front legs hanging in the air. The person is above the rabbit and has no idea what is going on. They mold the top line not evaluate it.

Also many people hold a poor structured animal up in the front and work hard to keep the head in position. When doing this, the hips pull forward and then the hindquarter seems undercut. The rabbit is not undercut but is being held like a hedgehog curling up and so leaving space at the base of the table. Even if it feels
undercut or pinched in the rear it may just be out of line and trying to keep from falling.

Another trick to identify development is a photo session. The bunnies must be rested and self posing or sitting in a natural position. I take a number of pictures and the faults jump out over and over. A one dimension image or photo is easier to spot faults because no manipulation is being imposed.

At this time I could go over the points assigned for each section of the standard. I have over the years decided to spend time trying to improve the most difficult faults and then changing the simple fixes that are just one breeding away. I feel that poor body type is very difficult to correct. It takes many generations to move toward the standard. Heads, crowns and ears are less difficult to correct. I can usually improve
these things in one breeding.

I also cull my herd from any sign of illness. I would rather lose one favorite show rabbit, than have to kill an entire barn of sick stock.

So start with the animals with the best type you can find. I cannot stress this enough. Do not buy six cheap, poor quality animals for the same price that you could buy one very special herd buck. With a couple good brood does you are well on your way to a successful breeding and show career.

Discover as many rabbits as you can. Go over meat breeds and other compact breeds. Then find a running breed and compare them. Remember as many qualities as you can, then stamp the image in your mind.

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