Silver Fox Rabbits
T he Silver Fox rabbit was created by Walter B. Garland of North Canton, Ohio in the 1920s. The Silver Fox is a multi-purpose breed, raised for both meat and fur. The breed was recognized and a standard approved with the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1925 under the name American Heavyweight Silver. In 1929 the name was changed to the American Silver Fox and later to Silver Fox. The breed was recognized in two varieties - blue and black. During the 1970s, however, the blue variety was dropped from the ARBA standards due to lack of numbers being shown. However, in recent years there has been a renewed interest in the blue variety and several breeders are working diligently to get them reinstated into the ARBA standard.
The genetic make-up of the breed is unclear. What is known is that Garland was one of America's earliest breeders of the Checkered Giant breed and kept Champagne D' Argents as well. Crosses in more recent years using Champagne D' Argents with self-colored rabbits have produced reasonably nice examples of a Silver Fox type rabbit. It is likely that Garland used self-colored Checkered Giants for the very large size; Champagne D' Argents for the silvering, fur length, and meat qualities; and perhaps an infusion of American Blue to improve on the meat producing qualities and the blue color.
The Silver Fox is a large rabbit with Senior does at 10-12 pounds and Senior bucks at 9-11 pounds. The body is medium in length with well filled shoulders and hindquarters. A high dress out percentage with a predominantly small boned carcass makes them a very desirable meat breed. Silver Fox rabbit is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste due to its unique culinary attributes. Does have large litters, produce plenty of milk, are excellent mothers, and make wonderful foster mothers. Silver Fox are known for their docile and gentle nature. They are easy to handle and they like attention.
Whitmore Farm raises both black and blue Silver Fox rabbits. The black color gene is dominant over the blue color gene. So, you can breed black to blue and if the black is a carrier of the blue color gene,
50% of the offspring will be black and 50% will be blue. If the black is not carrying the recessive blue color gene, then 100% of the offspring will be black, but carries of the recessive blue gene.
The young are born either solid black or blue and begin to show silvering of their fur at about 6 weeks. The silvering process takes 4 months to complete. The fur is one of the most attractive and unusual features of the breed. It is extremely dense and 1-1/2 to 2 inches in length. When the fur is stroked from tail to head, it will stand straight up until stroked in the opposite direction. This trait is found in no other breed and greatly resembles the pelt of the silver fox of the Arctic.
The Silver Fox had been on the verge of extinction and are being successfully brought back. They are currently listed as "threatened" on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy with fewer than 100 annual registrations and an estimated population of less than 1000. They are being worked on again to improve type and color and to increase their numbers. Anyone interested in raising Silver Fox should join the National Silver Fox Rabbit Club. There are also two Yahoo groups that are a good way to learn about Silver Fox rabbits. The West Coast Silver Foxes group has members from all over the country despite its name, and Silver Fox Rabbits.
Whitmore Farm raises Silver Fox rabbits out on pasture in mobile hutches for most of the year. The mobile hutches are moved daily. This gives the rabbits access to fresh green pasture, keeps their surroundings clean, and distributes their beneficial droppings for fertilizer. The rabbits also get formulated rabbit feed free choice to ensure they are getting everything they need nutritionally. During the winter months, the does are brought indoors and placed in large wire kennels. The bucks are left on pasture with electric water bottles.
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