Raising Dwarf Hotots: A Beginner's Guide, Part 3
This is what I personally recommend you build your foundation herd of Dwarf Hotots upon. Two phenomenal herd bucks, with minimal relation to each other, and at least six does. You don't have to find all eight rabbits at one show, and they don't have to be all from the same breeder, though they should all share some common blood if possible. Am I saying you need vampiric rabbits?? No, by sharing blood I mean that in their pedigrees, it is optimal if your Hotots all have some common ground. Say you buy your first buck and two does at a National Convention. It would be best if these three rabbits had similar rabbitry names in the background. It's even better if the same rabbit appears in the background (NOT the foreground--you don't want too much incest!) of their pedigrees. Rabbits replicate themselves best (for the good or bad, depending on the quality of rabbit) if the genepool is small. I highly recommend breeding daughter to sire and son to dam. I don't condone breeding littermates--abnormalities happen by doing this.
Now then, back to the boys. The bucks are your core of the herd. The two for your foundation have to be the closest you can find to the standard—you want thick, stencil perfect eyebands, a bold head, short, furred ears, a smooth compact body, and a well-filled hindquarter. Most breeders divide a Dwarf Hotot up into three parts when examining quality: Bands, Head, and Body, with the importance of each being in that order. I like to think of it a bit rearranged: Body, Head, Bands. A correct body on a Dwarf Hotot is much harder to fix than breeding to enlarge heads or thicken bands. So, if the best bucks you can find are iffy on their eyebands, but have great heads and supermodel bodies—buy them. Special note: the smaller bodies the better, and you’ll see why next.
After getting those bucks, it’s time to find those special ladies. As I said earlier in Part 1, does are temperamental, and Dwarf Hotot does are a step away from Kujo status because of the pain caused by hard births. So how do you combat nature? You control nature, you’re the breeder! You need a collection of BUD’s. A BUD Dwarf Hotot is a Big Ugly Doe. That's pretty mean to call them that, isn't it? Yes, but not nearly as mean-spirited as a small, pretty doe, nor as cruel as trying to breed one of those. Look through sale does at shows. Say you find three, all from the same breeder at a State Convention. Ok. You check around and find that the breeder selling the does has a good track record, and by some quick iPhoning you find out that the breeder is in the sweepstakes points, scoring particularly high in the quality section. You’re in the right place. So, here’s your test.
I'll describe these does and you try to guess which you should buy. Doe #1 is gorgeous and already has several grand champion legs. She is tiny, round, a whole two pounds of junior show perfection, and she’s for sale because the breeder wants to find a doe with thicker eyebands for their breeding program--this doe has thin bands. Doe #2 is a proven momma machine. She is long bodied, but has a really nice looking head and pair of eyebands. After looking at her pedigree, you see she’s about three years old. Doe #3 is also a proven brood doe; age one year. She’s had two litters so far, one baby of which is in this breeders A-list show string. This doe has decent eye bands, her head isn’t masculine and blocky, but it isn’t snipey. Her body is round and firm, but she weighs a good three and a half pounds. All three does have GC Cory's "Iceman" in their background, a rabbit that pops up on your two herd bucks' papers as well. So, who do you buy?
Instinct is to get the rabbit who is going to do the best on the show tables, right? Not with brood does. Doe #1 will be lucky to survive breeding—she’s too petite to pass more than one or two babies at a time, and after giving birth she’ll hate the sight of you. Hopefully, once her show career ends, she’ll be retired as a pet. Doe #2 needs to be pet quality as well. She’s three years old, which is about 40 in human years. Sure, she may have a litter or two left in her, but she’s also at risk of tearing her uterine wall, of developing eclampsia, or failing to conceive at all. She may have been a great BUD at one point, but not now. Doe #3 is your best bet. She’s had two litters successfully and she passes along good traits to her babies, as proven by the fact that at least one is in this breeder’s show string. Her head and eyebands can be “cleaned up” by breeding her to your bucks, and that big body is going to come in handy in the nestbox. Scoop her up, along with 5 more like her and you’re off to a good start.