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I want some coloured angora rabbits which are practically non-existent in France. Jean Clouet tried to breed some (by crossing white Angoras with coloured short-haired breeds) but he is not satisfied with the result and has more or less given them up for the moment. The industry only wants white wool, anyway, because white wool can be dyed without problem.
Instead of buying some coloured rabbits in England or Germany, I'll try to breed them myself. I plan to cross a white, large Angora doe with a colored dwarf angora buck. That should give me long-haired coloured rabbits in various sizes in the first generation. I'll see whether it works out - the buck is not even born yet! Dwarf angoras from serious breeders (i.e. not some mix of unknown origins from the pet shop) are rare over here because grooming takes so much time. In the meantime I'm "collecting" does - rabbits multiply even if you don't have a couple!
Here, on the right, is Cleopatra: I like her for her unusual colour, even if it's one that doesn't officially exist. I admired her her so much at her breeder's (Josette Villiers, that's where I'll buy the buck when one becomes available) that Josette gave her to me. Unfortunately Cleopatra doesn't like human company and positively hates grooming. She fights with all available means - claws and teeth - which unfortunately (for her) are not very impressive on a dwarf rabbit.
Here on the left you see Blanche. The fur is very short because it has just been plucked (by the previous owner). French angora rabbits do change their fur naturally, but they are fed a plant extract which aids the process so that a rabbit can be dehaired in one sitting. That probably sounds worse than it is because Blanche is far from traumatised. She's a lot friendlier than Cleopatra and always checks on visitors - they might be bringing some food, after all!
I bought Blanche from Jean Clouet, who also gave me a fawn-coloured doe from one of his cross-breeding experiments. So far I haven't seen her hair - I need to wait till it grows back. Such a naked rabbit is not nice to look at, but Bambi isn't afraid of humans either.
As I always feel sorry for the rabbits at professional breeder's places (in France they often enough live in concrete hutches measuring 3 by 2 feet) I put them on the floor in my stables. I built some panels with wire mesh grid, 5 feet long and 2.5 feet wide, and put them together to form cages.
And when the weather is good (Angora rabbits are not "waterproof") they go outside. Either into a mobile paddock (I just need to move it faster than the rabbits try to dig themselves out). Or into the aviary (the pigeons generally stay inside). There the risk that the rabbits will dig themselves out is smaller because I built the aviary so that predators would have a hard time getting in. The aviary's advantage is that I can join my rabbits - I like to watch them, they are better than tv.
I've read several times not to use chicken wire because it won't stop predators. I haven't seen any predators on my farm (except my cats - but they don't break wire mesh) and considering the price difference I've used it anyway. Unfortunately I've never read anywhere that chicken wire does not keep a determined rabbit IN! Bambi tore several times a hole into the mesh for taking a walk in the park (with friends, obviously). I found that a bit too stressing and have finally installed welded mesh panels. I hope they'll last longer!
I've described what I want to do at the beginning of this page, but only end of october 2007 did I find the coloured dwarf buck I wanted. But then he was only 3 months old, so I let him grow up a bit. In February 2008, when the weather was mild and dry, I put him with my big does (on different days - not at the same time). This is Blacky in March 2008:
It worked! Bambi gave me three babies, two are fawn and one is black. I risked letting both does stay together and obviously Blanche did not murder the little ones. On these pictures they are three weeks old.
By the way, the babies did not lie in the wooden nest box you can see in the picture, but in a heap of hay right in the middle of the cage.
This photo is from January 2009 - the "babies" have grown up and are separated from their mothers and by sex. Here's the four young females (both Bambi and Blanche had one son and two daughters) and Cleo (the red eyes are caused by the flash).
Page updated: 02 February 2009