How many photos have you seen, just like this, which ask for comments or offer the rabbit for sale? (If you’re on Facebook or peruse rabbit breeder websites, the answer is, “a lot.”) Our non-rabbit friends and significant others see these and ask, “Why do you hold your hands over their heads?”
That’s actually a very good question, and the answer is, “because someone, somewhere, started an extremely bad habit.”
Many of us use the Internet to post photos of our rabbits, sometimes just to display what we’re proud of, other times to learn, or to market our stock. These aren’t bad things, but we always have to remember that a photo of a rabbit is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object. A brag is a brag, it’s never bad. Critiques and sales are different, though, in that the information presented by a photo is incomplete. Some people don’t have access to shows or knowledgeable mentors and, while those things are a better choice, have to rely on the internet. Others prefer to pre-sell rabbits via photo, such is their choice and right as is yours not to participate if you prefer to buy hands-on. For the purposes of this, let’s presume that a photo can give you some information for a critique, and can allow you to determine whether or not a sale rabbit warrants further attention. But I maintain that in either scenario, the photographer should try to present as much information as possible, and this type of photo just doesn’t cut it.
It’s most common in commercial breeds and in compact breeds who don’t pose with a higher head mount and a stance requiring the rabbit to rest lightly on the front feet. It seems to be an attempt to show that the rabbit has a good topline, and while this is important, it’s hardly the only measure of type or good type.
I’m betting you that, if I posted this, I’d get some, “good type,” comments on this junior doe. (My rabbit, my hand)
Well, she does seem to have a good topline in this photo. Her rear feet seem to be somewhere in the vicinity of her stifle (this coordinates to the knee joint in humans, and a rabbit’s rear toes should align with it) and her front feet are in the general eye region. But friends, there’s a lot missing.
Let’s start with depth. She does appear to have good depth in this photo, but length, depth and width in rabbits are relative. With my hand pushing her shoulder, it’s hard to tell if she has a correct, short coupled body. She might, or I might be covering up a long shoulder, a low shoulder with a late start, a narrow shoulder ruining the tapered side lines, or even a hooked spine. And width? She could be narrow as a snake, there’s nothing to indicate this one way or another.
Dutch do have more points in front of the shoulder than many other breeds, I’ll elaborate on that later, but there are also a lot of typing clues missing by obliterating the head and ears. The Dutch standard calls for a well rounded head, stocky ears, and medium bone. There’s not much here to indicate bone, but if you’ve handled a lot of rabbits you’ve probably noticed that better bone tends to go along with a rounder head and a stockier ear. She could have all of this, or she could have a narrow, weaselly head, thin ears, and fine bone. It doesn’t end there, as rabbits with longer heads and ears and finer bone have a tendency to be longer and narrower in body. There’s also no way to tell if she’s full in the lower hindquarter or if she has correct muscling over the spine and hips. She could very well be pinched and pinny for all we really know.
So what do we really know about the type of this rabbit from the photo? That she can be made to look like she has a good topline. That’s it.
Each breed has its own point distribution, and Dutch place half of these on markings (with nearly half of that being above the shoulder) making this even more heinous. While we encourage breeders to focus on type first, markings are helpful in determining show potential in culling and to make sure we’re correcting or at least not cementing common faults when buying brood stock. What can you tell of this rabbit? Absolutely nothing of her blaze, cheeks, neck and undercut. She has stops, although their length can’t be assessed as the whole foot isn’t seen. 1/3 the length of what? The only marking visible is a little less than half a saddle. With the saddle worth 10 points, let’s say we can give her 4 for this part being well placed and a little crooked (or is her fur just ruffled?). With the markings carrying a total of 50 points, we can assess 5 and give 4…that’s 8% of the total marking value that can even be evaluated. Is that enough for you?
Other breeds place a lot of emphasis on color or fur. Color is highly subject to distortion in the light. This is a black doe, but on this table under these lights, I can make a dark blue appear almost black. Natural diffuse (cloudy) light is the most accurate, but again not all computer screens register color identically. (Try shopping for clothes on a laptop vs. a desktop.) And fur? You might be able to see some sheen and luster, but length and texture aren’t likely.
Most of us wouldn’t want to go on a blind date with a person who had a paper bag on their head, so don’t do your rabbits the same injustice. We’ve all developed bad habits and somewhere along the line, we’ve all succumbed to bad information. Using hand over the head photos to solicit culling advice or to buy or sell rabbits just isn’t wise. If you don’t feel your rabbits look good enough in hands-off photos, I would suggest you enjoy posting your brag photos and solicit feedback and make sales in person.
Edit 12:55 PM 2/3/15: This seems to be going a bit viral, at least in the rabbit community. Wow! There also seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding. This post has nothing to do with posing rabbits during judging or for your own evaluation. As I stated, when you have your hands on a rabbit you not only get a three-dimensional view but you’re able to feel it as well. This is a significant amount of information that is lost in a two-dimensional photo, and to remove even more by putting a hand over the head leaves you with something of very little use in evaluating and especially purchasing.