Thursday, June 16, 2011
Breed of the Day: Blanc de Hotot
The Blanc de Hotot is a large, white rabbit with thin, black eye-rings around each eye. The breed was developed in Hotot en Auge in Normandy near the port of LeHavre in northern France. The Blanc de Hotot (White of Hotot) was developed by Eugenie Bernhard, chatelaine du Calvados. She kept a large rabbitry of Flemish Giants and Great Papillion Francais (Checkered Giants) and is the second woman ever to be credited with developing a new breed of rabbit.
Bernhard's breeding goal was a rabbit for meat and fur, with a white coat and black eyes. Sometime around 1902, she crossed the Papillion with White Vienna and Flemish Giants, but progress toward her goal was slow. She saved only the lightly marked animals that were the product of 500 crosses, and by 1912, was eventually able to produce the Hotot that we see today. Bernhard continued to be troubled by the thin, black eye-rings. The breed was shown for the first time in 1920 at Exposition Internationale d'Aviculture in Paris as the Geant (Giant) Blanc de Hotot. The French rabbit governing body recognized them as a breed on October 13, 1922. The first french standard does not mention the eye-rings, but instead specifies black eyelashes and lower eyelids that were more or less colored grey. The Blanc de Hotot was brought to America in 1921, but they soon died out. Switzerland imported them in 1927, and it was the Swiss that appreciated the eye markings. During World War II the Blanc de Hotot nearly vanished in France, Holland and Germany.
In 1978, Bob Whitman of Texas imported 8 Blanc de Hotots. The breed was recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association's standards on March 5, 1979. Because of the very small gene pool and a body type that greatly needed improvement, breeders began crossing Blanc de Hotots with Blue-eyed White Beverens, White New Zealands and White Satins. It was not until 2004 that additional Blanc de Hotots were imported into this country from Germany, Holland and England.
The breed is known for its lustrous fur, an abundance of guard hairs that gives the fur a frosty white sheen, and the striking eye-rings, which should not be over an eighth of an inch wide. Rigid selection is necessary to assure proper markings. The Blanc de Hotot is a large rabbit with bucks weighing 8 to 10 pounds and mature does 9 to 11 pounds. They are an active and hardy breed and are easily raised in all wire hutches. They make fairly good mothers, have good-sized litters and the young grow quickly. Despite a recent increase in importation into the United States, the breed is globally endangered.