Monthly Archives: July 2012

What’s the difference?

I shall try to answer the following questions in this post:-

1) Why pedigree rabbits raised in Malaysia look different from those raised in UK or USA?

2) What is selective breeding?

3) What is natural selection?

Recently, a fellow rabbit enthusiast asked why there is a vast difference in the appearance of Netherland Dwarfs in Malaysia compared to those in the USA and UK. Even those imported tend to look different after a while living in Malaysia.

The question brought back memories when I first started raising imported Holland Lops. When shown a photo of a Holland Lop, the first question a colleague of mine (who have no interest at all in the rabbit hobby) asked was whether the climate/weather here in Malaysia is suitable. An optimistic me at that point of time confidently said yes because I am a strong believer that genetics alone governs every living being. It is a very good question simply because weather is one of the factor that governs adaptability. The topic of weather was also raised during a visit by a breeder friend a few years back. I was still very optimistic and adamant about my stand that genetic is still the main determining factor. But of course, the thought has always been lingering at the back of my mind and I have always been open to the possibilities.

Another thing that needs to be considered is the natural food chain. Rabbits fall under the lower level of the food chain as they are prey animals. That is the reason why they have higher reproduction rate to increase the chances of survival. Reproduction rate is not the only way prey animals increase their chances of survival of the species. They must also be highly adaptive to their surroundings, climate and weather included!

I would like to start off this “proof of concept” post by looking at another species in the animal kingdom. We know that dogs are one of the domesticated animals that has been around for a very long time. To date, there are more than 150 different dog breeds registered under the American Kennel Club. Why do we have so many different breed of dogs? The answer is simple. They not only come from different parts of the world but they all have different functions or usages. Some as guard dogs, gun dogs or just companion dogs. Every dog breed is said to be traced back to the wolf.

So how did we derive so many dog breeds from this…

A grey wolf. Picture taken from National Geographic (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/wolf/).

To this…

The Dachshund. Image taken from Dog Family (http://www.dogfamily.org/dachshund-5.html)

And to this?

The Chihuahua, smallest dog in the world. Picture by Katie Mancine.

From the wolf to the Chihuahua lies many years of Selective Breeding. In my own words, Selective Breeding means choosing to propagate a certain “desired” trait. For example, if smaller animals are desired, specimens exhibiting such traits are bred in order to reproduce more of the same kind. Those exhibiting unwanted traits will not be used in the breeding program.

Now let’s take a look at the rabbit species. The hare or wild rabbit can be seen as the root of which the domesticated rabbits originated from.

A Belgian Hare.  A rare breed and closest to the hare in the wild.

In between the Hare, and along the way we specially selected this…

Gimli the Dwarf Lord. Picture taken from the internet.

We did not breed Gimli into rabbits but we chose to breed more of the DWARF gene in the breeding program and produced the like of this…

A Netherland Dwarf rabbit. Picture courtesy of Chestnut Pictures.

And of course the Holland Lop…

A Holland Lop rabbit. Another well known dwarf breed.

Comparing between the Belgian Hare and the Holland Lop, one may ask how in the world can an animal with huge, long ears and long back feet be turned into one that has a rounded body with short and lopped ears?

As much as we like to tweak nature by using selective breeding, we are of no threat to Mother Nature. The #1 opponent of selective breeding is NATURAL SELECTION. Natural selection in my own words is when a living being changes its own characteristic(s) to thrive in different (extremes) environment. Rabbits as we all know regulate their body temperature through their ears since they have no means of sweating. The ears are where the major veins are and that helps bring temperature down.

Even with the dwarf gene, most Holland Lops bred locally in Malaysia tend to have longer ears.

A Holland Lop needs longer ears to keep itself cool?

Or is it?

Part of me tells me that genetics govern how large a rabbit should grow, how long their ears and large their heads should be. And part of me also tells me that being animal of prey, they need to be highly adaptable. The difference can be seen rather clearly in the next generation itself. In fact, the changes to external appearances can already be seen in the imports as well.

Look at the above picture carefully. The first picture was taken on the day this Netherland Dwarf arrived in Malaysia. The bottom left picture was taken after a few months living in Malaysia. The picture on the right with red dotted line shows what the rabbit lost after a few months living in Malaysia. The question is, what has the rabbit lost?

The answer is obvious, nothing but its fur! Without 20% of fur on its head, the ears suddenly look much longer and the muzzle looks narrower.

Can you see how fast an animal of prey needs to adapt in order to survive?

Do you see ladies dressing up in mink coats walking down Kuala Lumpur town? NO…

Do you see Siberian Huskies in Malaysia looking like those living in the Arctic? NO…

Will you find Polar Bears in the dessert? NO…

So I can safely conclude that we can never produce Holland Lop rabbits that are better than those in the USA unless like the penguins in their special temperature controlled enclosure (at Zoo Negara), we provide a simulated environment. The question is, should we produce air-conditioned rabbits here in Malaysia? Or should we allow natural selection to take its course and love our rabbits as they are?

As for me, I submit to the fact that weather and natural selection do play its role in changing the physical appearances of our rabbits. There is no way we can avoid that happening. But instead of providing a simulated environment, the best solution we have found lies in Genesis Ultra Premium Rabbit Food.

The weather plays a great role in the rabbit’s appetite. Besides from losing fur condition, our rabbits loose their appetite and thus, loses flesh condition at the same time. We can never force our rabbits to eat more when they do not want to. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. But before I divulge the details, allow me to tell you more about squirrels. We all know that squirrels are often found collecting seeds and food during spring time. The food stuff is consumed during the cooler days.

Even for humans, we tend to have better appetite while being in a cooler location. The steamboat dinner up in the highlands taste extra good and I even found myself eating larger portions at Indianapolis (Autumn/Fall).

Without air-conditioning, what can we do when our rabbits do not have appetite? They are of course thinner/leaner than we like them to be. Can we boost the energy content in their daily ration? How do we do that when they do not have the appetite in the first place? Feeding a diet that is too rich may upset their sensitive stomach.

This is where the Genesis Ultra Premium Rabbit food play its role to help keep our rabbits in better condition here in Malaysia. The Omega 3 & 6 is to help boost the coat condition. The only rabbit food in the market containing Omega 3 & 6. Genesis promotes healthy digestion through digestive enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics.

And remember that I mentioned that rabbits eat less due to decreased appetite in warmer condition?

That can be solved with Genesis Ultra Premium Rabbit food because it is formulated to promote optimal nutrient absorption! Which means, your rabbit gets all it needs nutritionally to thrive and bloom with a small portion of the food and without supplements. Eating less is exactly what is desired here. Ever heard of the saying “Less is more”?

Well, at least this is one of my proven findings working with imported rabbits for the past 5 years.

Don’t believe what I say, try it out today!

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Filed under Rabbit Genetics, Thoughts

Our Time Shall Come To Pass

I count my blessings because I do not remember at any point of time in my life growing up as a child, there was no pets in the household. My parents are animal lovers and have encouraged me to have pets since I was young. I have learned to be responsible for another living being since then and I did not go through the “look after an egg” phase. Instead I went straight into keeping animals alive as long as I am able to.

Growing up, I remember saving up my daily allowances in order to buy food for my pets. When relatives visit, they never bring me chocolates or toys but instead brought me to the pet shops to get supplies. As a teenager in school, besides from the regular extra school activities and “dating”, I was never interested in cars and the regular things other boys do. I will always have time for my pets. So much so, I trained chickens to “fly” onto my hands when I stretch them out. My world came crashing down when the authorities banned rearing chicken in residential areas and they ended up as part of the curry dish. Gone are the days when we are able to obtain colourful chicks at the night market and that was how I got my pet chickens from. 🙂

Waking up this morning, I feel very happy looking at how my little family have come to love animals as well. My eldest daughter is almost an expert in holding young rabbits. The sight of her holding Drogo our new Mini Rex rabbit reminded me of our role as parents to nurture compassion and love in our next generation.

I know some of us did not have the opportunity to own our first pet until we were adults. Perhaps we were not allowed to have them or we just couldn’t afford them previously. There are many aspects and advantages keeping animals as pets. We know how therapeutic they are and our responsibility is to ensure that they are well taken care of.

Today I read an eulogy written (by Ellen Whyte) for the late Ms. Sabrina Yeap of Furry Friend’s Farm. I have never met Sabrina in person but the closest I got was a phone call from her seeking more details on a complain I lodged with SPCA many years back regarding a puppy mill. I believe she did investigate and was on the case because I later received a threatening phone call from the puppy mill operator. After so many years and for the fact that Sabrina has worked so tirelessly (until her death) for the welfare of strays speak strongly the importance of compassion and love for the voiceless. I am sure Sabrina herself found solace in helping all the strays in a world drowned by the need for material things and riches. May her soul rest in peace and her good works continue by those with similar capacity to love.

What we sow today we shall reap in days to come. We have to start educating the younger generation the importance of being responsible for other living creatures. We must take into consideration each time we choose to breed our pets and realize the possibilities that we are contributing to the universal sufferings of abandoned animals in our community, nation and world at large. What are we leaving behind for our children and their children?

Our time here on earth shall come to pass and I hope to see my children live in a world filled with love and mutual respect towards the entire living world. One which is balanced and thriving when we no longer exist.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

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Welcome R.O.B.’s Khal Drogo

Whenever I was faced with the challenges of raising Holland Lops, I was tempted to start raising another breed to take my mind off the difficulties. Many Holland Lop breeders are known to raise at least another breed to minimize the frustration. I have always held back my intention until recently when I saw the cutest little broken blue mini rex. It was in fact love at first sight.

I have been working on a rabbit breed that looks so much like a dog (short muzzle) and that made me wanted to raise another breed that actually looks like a rabbit. I not only found that in the mini rex but I also like the soft plush rex fur in the breed.

I do not claim to be an expert but there will be more to learn about this breed and today, I start my journey with the Mini Rex breed by welcoming R.O.B.’s Khal Drogo. For those who have watched Game of Thrones on HBO will find this name familiar. I like this TV series and wanted a macho name to go with my little new buck. I found it fitting to name him after the vicious warrior character.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friend Khairul of Republic Of Bunnies (R.O.B.) for allowing me to have this beautiful little buck.

Not sure if that’s the right way to pose. He’s too tiny!

Isn’t he cute!?

🙂

New breed standard to learn…

If you like to own a beautiful Mini Rex, please get in touch with me at truluvrabbitry@gmail.com.

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Genesis is suitable for Chinchilla!

Whiskey loves Genesis Alfalfa Ultra Premium Rabbit Food!

If you do a quick search about Chinchilla diet, you will notice that some rabbit pellets are suitable for Chinchillas. In fact, in Malaysia, a particular local brand is actually a repack of the commercial rabbit pellets imported from USA.

Inspired by that fact, we have been testing out Genesis Ultra Premium Rabbit Food on Chinchillas for the past few months. Whiskey (picture above) is one of the Chinchillas we have been feeding Genesis. The truth is, he LOVES it! His fur condition has improved as well giving yet another strong testimony how great Genesis is as THE rabbit food and now can be given to Chinchillas as well!

Why feed rabbit food when there are chinchilla foods formulated specifically for chinchillas? Well, we’re going for ULTRA PREMIUM that’s why!

*Whiskey appears courtesy of Furfurries

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Regarding Animal Welfare

One of the toughest questions to answer in life is the “Chicken or Egg first?” question. I for one do not think that I will ever be able to answer this question. The thought of  whether the first ever chicken on earth was in fact hatched from an egg can bring further confusion when one wonders about which chicken laid that first egg itself.

When I think about animal welfare, the question that comes to mind is whether animal shelters come first or breeders come first and who is responsible for the overpopulation of unwanted animals.

Do breeders encourage shelters to thrive and vice versa?

My other question is, will shelters and welfare societies be happy to relinquish themselves if there are no more animals to rescue? Ideally, we hope to have a world that is without strays and unwanted animals. Today, welfare organizations and shelters are heavily supported by donations and sponsorship and it makes me wonder if their existence indirectly encourages breeders to breed knowing well that they will cease to exist without unwanted animals.

When animal shelters put hundreds of animals to sleep through euthanasia, it is deemed justifiable because there is not enough space to accommodate the unwanted animals. But when the thought is shifted to the source of the unwanted animals – the breeders, it is a different labeling altogether if they are found to cull unwanted animals. It turns out to be animal cruelty. I just cannot make sense out of this double standard.

We are always told to solve problems by targeting the root cause. In this case, if we target the root cause, the responsibility will fall onto the breeders’ hands and if the problem is solved at the root level, shelters and welfare organizations will cease to exist. Wouldn’t that be an ideal situation?

One suggestion to rehabilitate people found being cruel to animals is to send them to work at shelters. I suggest that we go a little further when dealing with unscrupulous breeders.

Breeders found to be operating animal mills with animals living in bad conditions should be sent to shelters to administer the euthanasia procedure for unwanted animals. The number of animals that they euthanize commensurate with the degree of their “cruelty”. For example, for every animal found living under deplorable condition, they are required to euthanize 2 unwanted animal in the shelter.

In imposing such regulations, it is hoped that these irresponsible individuals will come to their senses and eventually, we shall live in a shelter and welfare free world.

But after all said and done, enforcement is still key.

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