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THE GERMAN AND THE GIANT ANGORA :

 This last August at Fiber fest, a woman ran up to me to tell me her exciting news. She had just purchased a purebred black German angora bunny. She was so happy! I was not.

“What exactly do you mean - a purebred Black German?” I asked. Her smile started to fade a bit. I inquired further and we came to the conclusion that she had indeed made an excellent purchase for her purposes but that she misunderstood what the breeder had told her. The reputable breeder had made it clear during the purchase that the bunny was a German cross or German hybrid. The animal, by the way, was lovely with deep jet color and promising density. I believe that it was a good choice for a wooler. If it was simply a wooler, who cares if it is called a black German or a German hybrid? I care for a number of reasons.

First of all, the term was inaccurate. Secondly, the buyer skipped over the mistake and believed that she had it right. She announced the breeding as she understood it. The mistake was solidifying into fact. Lastly the entire issue of “breeds” of angora presents an annoying conundrum.

Are English, French, and German separate and distinct breeds? Or are they varieties of the breed angora? And what of the Giant and the Satin? Since none of these types of angoras fell from the heavens to North America separate and distinct, let’s take a look at the source. All domestic rabbit foundational stock originated in Europe. Our domestic rabbits are mutations of the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus.

How are angoras regarded in Europe? In Europe the only recognized wool producing rabbit is the breed angora. Variations are referred to by country or club such as “Angoras from Denmark” or “Angoras from the population in France”. An Angora rabbit may have originated in Germany and have been bred according to the standard recognized in Germany, but the “German Angora” is not a separate breed from other European angoras.

In Great Britain, imported angoras are commonly referred to as “Continental angoras” in order to distinguish them from the local population. It is interesting to compare the tyle of the angora rabbits kept in England against the North American English angoras. The British born rabbit is longer in the body, not usually as heavily furnished and is allowed a higher percentage of guard hair than its North American cousin. The richness of wool color and the excellent texture of the British angora wool is similar to what, in North America, is associated with French angora wool. Likewise the North American French angora bears limited resemblance to the angora commonly raised in France. The angora of France, being part of the Continental European population, looks more like the rabbit known in North America as the German angora. European rabbit breeding associations take a different approach to classifying rabbits than what is practiced in North America. Rather than evaluating rabbit against rabbit, they set forth a standard against which each animal is judged. It is the French standard or the German standard or the Danish standard, etc. which influences the regional selection of individuals within the breed angora. During judging, each angora is compared to the standard and awarded points according to its merit in meeting that standard. At the conclusion of judging, the points are added and the rabbits with the highest points are considered to be most like the ideal rabbit described in the standard. If none of the rabbits earn a minimum number of points, then there are no winners.

COMPARATIVE HISTORY Nearly sixty years ago, angora breeders on the Zentralverband Deutches Kanichenzuchters (Z.D.K.), in partnership with the Federal Agriculture Research Center, embarked on a program to improved the wool production of their angoras. The philosophy was straightforward. Goals for wool production and body type were set. As the goals were achieved, more demanding goals were set.

They started with foundation stock similar to what we know as English angoras. Wool production increased steadily from a starting point of 240 grams (half pound) to a world record set in 1990 of 2,232 grams (over five pounds). Tracking the progress of the program required the elimination of as many management variables as possible. The first testing stations were established in 1934 to provide controlled conditions for the evaluation of the angora breeding stock, data collection and research to improve husbandry techniques. In plotting their strategy for the improvement of the angora, breeders in Germany needed to clearly define body type, wool production and wool qualities in language as objective as possible.

The standard for the angora in Germany is specific.

The ideal body is described as being as wide at the shoulders as it is deep. The length of the body should equal three times the width. The shape of the body is tubular, resembling a loaf of bread. This body type is preferred for rapid shearing of first grade wool. Body weights run from seven to eleven and a half pounds (2.5 to 5 kilos) with an average of nine to ten pounds of very solid dual purpose rabbit. The wool must densely cover the entire rabbit and be silky, not cottony. German wool is heavily crimped. The ideal texture and length of the wool should be as even as possible over the entire body of the rabbit. Development of the angora in Germany was started sixty years ago. It remains an intensive and deliberate program based on objective data and the challenge to surpass current achievements. One would expect that angora produced out of the German system and bred according to the German standard would satisfy predictable expectations for wool productions and body type.

What could one expect from a Giant angora?

Let’s look at the developmental history. At the 1985 American Rabbit Breeders Association’s National Convention, Louise Walsh presented her Angora rabbits as “Commercial” angora, (German Type) with a corresponding standard for acceptance. The rabbits failed to be accepted for a second showing in 1986. When the rabbits were presented again in 1987, the Standards Committee insisted on the name “Giant Angora”. In 1988 the Giant Angora Breed was accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.

In an article titled “Giant Angora - Not German Angora” published in the National Angora Rabbit Club Newsletter in 1991, Louise Walsh offered a succinct clarification: “...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.” By verifying original importation documents and checking background pedigrees to determine the origins of the German bloodlines Louise Walsh included in her design of the Giant angora, I estimate that a maximum of three years were involved in the development prior to the initial 1985 presentation. Allowing for improvements before acceptance, the total span of time could not have exceeded six years.

Is a German angora the same as a Giant angora? I agree heartily with Louise. They are not. Considering the histories and the genetic backgrounds, I am comfortable with the statement that they are separate breeds.

I.A.G.A.R.B.

While the Giant angora was being submitted for acceptance with the A.R.B.A., other breeders 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 accepted the Angora Standard of Z.D.K. At the 1990 I.A.G.A.R.B. Convention, members unanimously agreed that a German angora was descended exclusively from mported angora breeding stock. The genetic inclusion by any foreign breeds, no matter how distant, would always be considered a dilution. Crosses with North American English or French angoras, while they are related varieties, are also considered a dilution. A fourth generation German cross, regardless of color, may be registered as “German-Hybrid”. I.A.G.A.R.B. recognized German Hybrids, white and colored, for show and invites them to compete with albino German angoras.

YOUR CHOICE Make an informed decision when faced with the choice between the German angora variety or the breed Giant angora. The integrity of the breeder is the first consideration. What is the genetic history and foundation of the stock in question? What   level of wool production can you expect from them in exchange for your initial and daily investments? Can you expect them to breed true? How do the prices and values compare between Germans, German-Hybrids and Giants?

These questions can be answered favorably by both German and Giant angora breeders provided full disclosure is made and the rabbits are suitable for your intended purpose. As with any breed, a rabbit intended for show must fit the standard. When Germans fit the Giant standard, they are often shown as Giants. German angoras usually fare well in competition against true Giant Angoras. A Giant, qualifying as a German-Hybrid, is welcomed to compete against the German standard. -article by L Samson   

 

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