from sheep to art

About Angora Rabbits

There are four breeds of Angora rabbits recognized by the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Club in the United States:  English, French, Giant, and Satin. They do not recognize the German, I believe because they did not want to adopt the original German judging standards (more about that below).

What is known as the "Giant" was bred from the imported German, crossed with many other breeds for a new purpose with new goals, and became known as the Giant. Nothing wrong with the Giant Angora, but, fortunately, a dedicated group who wanted to remain true to the original German standards kept the breed alive in its purest form in the United States. They formed the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB), and remained as true as possible to the original German system, which breeds for perfecting the breed rather than focusing on pedigree and titles.

Chestnut German Angora ("Chessie")

REW German Angora ("Emery")

German Angora Rabbits

Nearly seventy years ago in Germany, angora breeders of the Zentralverband Deutches Kanichenzuchters (Z.D.K.), in partnership with the Federal Agriculture Research Center, embarked on a program to improve the wool production of their angoras. The philosophy was straight-forward. Goals for wool production and body type were set.

Several importations of angoras from Germany occurred during the 1980s. With their impressive wool production, “German Angoras” caused quite a sensation in North America. A version of the German angora, which came to be known as the Giant, was submitted for acceptance with the A.R.B.A.

In an article titled “Giant Angora – Not German Angora” published in the National Angora rabbit Club Newsletter in 1991, Louise Walsh, the presenter, offered her description:

“…The Giant angora is a larger rabbit than the German angora. During the developing years of the Giant angora, I mixed in colored short hair commercial bodied rabbits, French Lop and Flemish Giant.”

At that time, there were many other breeders who were not comfortable with these changes. Instead, they were committed to the preservation of the high production angora as it was developed in Germany. They felt that wool yields could best be improved by breeding to stock of similar origin and by following a proven system. Founded in 1987, the International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB) accepted the Angora Standard of the Z.D.K.

Read more about the history of this fascinating breed at the IAGARB website.

"Hybrid" vs. "Crossbred" vs. "Purebred"

Some time ago, the International German Angora Rabbit Society (IAGARB) dropped the terms "hybrid" (which traditionally means, at least in the sheep world, 98% or more pure blood, a/k/a "full-blood") and "crossbred" (less than 98%) in favor of letting the testing process define the German. You can test anything, and, if the rabbit passes, it qualifies as a German and can be registered. It's not just about wool production, but it must meet all the standards to pass (you can read about the IAGARB standards here).  

That said, people still want to know the genetics behind their rabbits. Most IAGARB breeders, if they have bred other breeds into their herd, will state on the pedigree the percentages of other breeds in the mix. While percentages are good to know, it doesn't always define the animal in terms of quality, nor predict future generations. Hybrids can sometimes outperform purebreds. F1 offspring are often outstanding. After that, F2 and beyond, the quality can significantly decline.  

German Judging and Breed Standard

There is no such thing as a "Champion" or "Grand Champion" German Angora rabbit! The International Association of German Angora Rabbit Breeders (IAGARB) judges each individual rabbit for registration, and each rabbit is awarded points of merit. The following is from the IAGARB website: 

"Registration is awarded on the basis of individual merit. [In order to be registered], each rabbit must be performance tested and evaluated by an IAGARB judge. Registration of parents does not automatically confer the same status to offspring. IAGARB has no champion or grand champion status for their rabbits. We have never had it in the past, or in the present, and there are no plans to have it in the future. German Angora rabbits that have been promoted as champion or grand champion German Angoras constitutes false advertising. This practice is to be discouraged as it is contrary to the mandate of the Association."

...also from the IAGARB website:

"The purpose of IAGARB testing is to objectively identify angora rabbits with quantitatively superior traits. By including these rabbits in our breeding programs, it is hoped that improvement of the breed will continue. Any angora rabbit may be tested in the IAGARB system. 

There are two levels of IAGARB Testing: Registration Testing and Wool Testing.

Registration Testing is a benefit of membership. Only rabbits that can demonstrate wool production minimum of 1300 grams per annum and earn more than 80 points during evaluation may be registered with IAGARB. Rabbits presented for registration testing must be tattooed in accordance with IAGARB protocol.

Registration is awarded on the basis of individual merit. Each rabbit to be registered must be performance tested and evaluated by an IAGARB judge. Registration of parents does not automatically confer the same status to offspring.

The second level of testing is a non-registration wool test. This is available to any angora, tattooed in any manner. This option is available to non-members.

While this sounds very formal, the actual experience is supportive, educational and fun."

Read more about Judging and Breed Standards at the IAGARB website.

Rabbits for Sale

None at this time.