by Phil Batey
This is an article I wrote for the NMLRC Year book 2011 edition, and hope that it is of some use to my website readers. It is, as the title suggests about the Type of the Miniature Lop and is meant to be used by any breeder who uses the UK standard to breed towards. Any other countries Standard of Perfection, or SOP may vary from that which I have base the arictle around.
After listening to comments from around the judging tables at shows all over the country, I hear different ideas from people about what type actually is and indeed how people view it. The most common think I have noticed is that a lot of people seem to be discussing the head of a Miniature Lop when referring to the Type and not in fact to everything behind the head, which is what they should be speaking of. This includes the feet and legs and the tail and not just the body. I am not really sure where this idea has sprung from about the head being 'type' but it is definitely a mistake to think that. The head has a type all of its own.
The standard as laid out in the British Rabbit Council breed standards book is to my point of view, a little vague but it can not be mistaken in it basic outline of the different spectrums of which is describes.
Type- Bold thickset and firm. The body should be short, broad and well-muscled with little visible neck. The well-muscled rump is short and well rounded, The chest is broad and deep with curved sides where it meets the shoulders, which are broad and strong. The front legs are thick, short and straight. The hind legs are short, strong, and powerful and carried parallel to the body. The tail is straight, strong and well furred. A small dewlap is permissible but not desirable.
The way we interpret this wording however differs from judge to judge. It’s wording is not clear enough to allow everyone to ‘see’ the same thing in it as someone else does. I am going to try and give you my translation of the above, which I am not saying is the right one, but it is what I have taken the wording to mean.
Everything in the above description I have highlighted, when analysed, points to balance throughout the type. If one proportion is out, then, by the above wording it should be deemed as incorrect.
But what should these words look like in reality when viewing a Miniature Lop?
The breed standard in the Netherlands offers and illustrative guide to interpreting the standard, allowing for better understanding of what their judges should be looking for. We however in the UK do not offer this, which is something I think we should look to change. As we don’t have this tool available to us right now we have to use our own personal interpretation as our guide which is subject to misinterpretation as well.
The basic rule of thumb is that the rabbit should be three head lengths long, from tip of nose to tail, or otherwise thought of as the body being twice as long as the head. This ‘rule’ gives you proportions to now start working with.
The first diagram I am showing you gives you a side and aerial view of a correctly built Miniature Lop from Holland and is taken from their SOP. The second is the same diagram with boxes overlaid to show you how the three head lengths long theory works. They fit together perfectly. However, in my opinion you end up with a rabbit looking more like a sausage, as it is much longer than it is tall. To look at these diagrams you would think that the animal is too long in body. But the equations of 1:2 would indicate that not to be the case. Personally I would not keep an animal which appeared to have this much length in its back as it is not balanced, for the reasons that our standard clearly states - the body should be ‘short, broad and well-muscled’ and this visually does not match this wording.
If we dissect the diagrams further and compare them with our wording for type we can see that other parts of our description do not either. ‘The chest is broad, deep with curved sides’. From this
angle the chest is not visible in the diagram, but as the chest starts from under the neck to between the front legs, one would have to assume that there is little to no depth of chest in the diagram
The rest of the wording fits quite well. ‘Thick short and straight front legs’ – Tick: ‘Little visible neck’ – Tick: ‘Back legs which are short, strong, powerful and carried parallel to the body’ – Tick: ‘A tail which is straight, strong and well furred’ – Tick.
So how do we get then what we have in our description for type in our standard into a rabbit? With the below images I hope to show you how. I am not very good at drawing diagrams so I have used a photograph of a rabbit which I bred and have superimposed the rest of the images on top of to show you what I mean.
The first image is of the rabbit standing alone looking totally different to that of the one used by our friends on the continent – with the second you how the ‘three head lengths long’ theory
still works with a rabbit in this stance and with this shape. Immediately this rabbit appears much more balanced as the overall length is much closer to the overall height of the rabbit and
completely different looking to that of the Dutch counterpart. But which is right for our standard? Well if you now read our breed standard description again, the photo diagrams of the UK Miniature
Lop, I think it is safe to say fits our wording more accurately.
The body now looks a lot shorter (yet still fits the rule about head lengths) and the chest is now clearly visible and showing some depth from under the neck to between the front legs. The front legs are still short, straight and thick. There is little visible neck and the back feet are short, strong and most importantly, carried parallel to the body and the rump is fuller and more rounded, rather than cutting away, like in the Dutch diagram, under the back thighs.
The parallel back feet part of our standard is something that I feel a lot of UK breeders, and more importantly, Judges don’t seem to pay a lot of attention to. I am not sure why this is as it is clearly outlined in the standard. Personally, I absolutely hate seeing rabbits with back feet sticking out. Imagine looking at a Clock Face and think about where the numbers are positioned. Imagine the body of the rabbit runs perpendicularly through the middle of the face (back feet at the bottom and front feet at the top) now, imagine back feet pointing towards 10 to 2 and in some cases ever further angled away from the body at almost quarter past nine. These are not acceptable angles for the back feet to bet resting at. Even 5 to 1, although better, is not correct and should be discouraged. In the country of origin they don’t accept this and neither should we here. I have noticed that quite a number of imports from Europe have been coming in with this problem of late (most likely because they are culling hard for this particular fault). We should not be buying these animals or bringing them back to the UK. These rabbits, if used in breeding programs, which I know a lot are, will do nothing to help remove the problem and in fact will only breed and cement it in further for us. This is a deformity of the hips, causing the acute angle of the back feet. The fault is hereditary and breeds in very quickly and using these animals’ spreads the fault a lot quicker (please excuse the pun)
If we start to balance things out further with the photo diagrams we can understand a bit better why this shape of Miniature Lop, I feel, is more correct and how it fits our wording in the
standard more closely.
This may become a little more complicated to read, but I hope the next couple of diagrams will help any confusion. Drawing a line from the top of the skull in front of the crown to where the back starts to taper away into the third head length at the back of the rabbits, we can see that this matches the length of the ‘bottom line’ drawn from the ti[ of the front feet to the underside of the tail. The visual balance is restored at the top and the bottom. The same cannot be said if we do this with the diagram from Holland.
Now – try this – Balance out the space around the rabbit that is in the boxes overlapped onto the picture. And you will see that this too works out very evenly. Draw a line horizontally through the rabbit exactly half way front the top and bottom. The spaces created in the top half of the diagram are almost equal to those created in the bottom half. (A+B = C+D or as near to it as possible).
To me this just cements the fact that our standard requires the type in our Miniature Lops to look like this and the feet this look, they must be posed in this way, without exaggeration. They should not sit too low to the table, exaggerating the length of the back, nor should they sit too high like the American’s pose theirs, exaggerating the length of the front leg. Just for fun, I made up a diagram of how they pose theirs (and of how their standard actually states they should be posed) and this is the result. They have a rabbit 11% shorter but which sits very high, has longer front legs – even though their standard asks for short front legs; and a rabbit that is not balanced as it creates a whole new space around it in the form of space ‘E’.
The Americans have got one thing spot on though and that is that is their wording in their standard. They also allocate 42 points to type, thus indicating just how much emphasis and importance is placed on Type in the USA.
TYPE (42 Points)
BODY – Points 32 – The General aspect of the body is short massive and thick set. The shoulders and chest should be broad and well filled. The shoulders should be deep, with the depth exhibited at the shoulders of an ideally posed animal being carried back to the hindquarter of equal or slightly greater depth. The width of the shoulders should be nearly equal to, but should not exceed the width of the hindquarters. The hindquarters should be broad, deep and well-rounded and well filled at the lower portions. The animal is to be heavily muscled, short coupled, compact and well balanced in length width and depth. A small simple dewlap is permissible in does.
BONE, FEET & LEGS – Points 10: The legs are to be short, thick, straight and heavily boned for the size of the animal.
FAULTS – Lacking Depth throughout the body, long low or narrow shoulders: chopped, pinched or undercut hindquarters: flatness over the hips: large dewlap in does. Fault severely for long or narrow body. Fault severely for long legs, narrow legs and fine bone.
Personal preference will always come into the melting pot when looking at a table full of rabbits but we should be looking first and foremost to the one which fit the standard better and by this I mean all parts of the standard and not just the ones that are easiest to remember. Trying to understand what the standard actually wants is the hard part in most cases. However if we find a table with two or three which fir the standard equally, personal preference will probably be our only way of making a distinction and ultimately a decision.