04/02/09 : Silver greys today : Alan Belgian

I wish to pen a few lines on the problems we are facing in the silver fancy today, and what we can do about it. We, like many of the clubs, who cater for the older established breeds are in danger of becoming rare breed clubs. Each year we have an influx of new fanciers who obtain stock but never seem to continue with them. Most of the fanciers who are successful with stock do supply stock to newcomers, but after two or three years they seem to disappear. Why is this so? To be successful in any breed requires patience, time is needed to learn the ins and outs, but the new fancier will learn more quickly by discussing the breed with other successful exhibitors. All of these people have met the many pitfalls and have found ways of over coming them, so discuss your problems with them. Silvers are not the easiest of breeds to come to terms with so I will endeavour to give my views on the expansion of our standard.

Our standard has not changed much in over one hundred years, nor has the interpretation of it.
If we look at colour, it would appear to be simple, black! But this needs to be blue black all over the body without any rusty tinge or shading to grey most commonly found between the back legs or at the base of the chest, and that is only the top colour. The under colour to be blue-black carried down to the skin, common faults are a leaden grey under colour or shading to a pale grey at the skin the blue-black must carry down as far as possible.

Next is evenness of silvering, the silver hairs to be the same density throughout including head, feet, ears and chest. The most common ear faults are, light at base of ears, dark towards the tips. Head faults, dark cheek bottoms, light between the nose and the eyes, dark area above the eyes. The most prevalent problems with feet are dark toe ends, light back feet, all four feet should match and should match the body and be the same shade all of the way down. The chest is one of the most contentious areas and is the most difficult to maintain. A rabbit with a nice level chest is a joy to behold, but they do not last long, especially on does. The chest is the first area to come through the moult but is the first to go, so a perfect chest is a fleeting sight in most rabbits but there are exceptions.

We now come to silvering, this should be sharp and bright according to the standard, note no mention of how much silvering, it is the quality of silvering that counts. It should be as white as possible which is helped by intense black guard hairs, the length of the guard hairs being such that there is some length showing above the “undercoat”, this contributes to what is termed “broad silvering”. Short coats, fine silvering and darker under colour seem to go together, but the standard asks for bright silvering. This then leads us on to shades, there is no “correct” shade, any shade is correct as long as the standard is met, so “too light for me” is an excuse rather than a fault. Another fault sometimes met with is a “flaky top” this is caused by grey guard hairs showing through into the top coat giving a dull mealy appearance, not to be tolerated.

The coat is the next item and a good coat goes a long way to making a good silver, as it affects many of the other qualities. Short, full, fly back coat. First short, bearing in mind what I mentioned earlier about fine silvering, but we do not want long soft coats. Full, free from moult with density, a thin long coat will not fly back. The coat must lie close to the body and when stroked from tail to head some resistance can be felt and the coat resumes its position lying close to the body. The shaft of the hair is to be straight with no waviness. There is no mention of harshness in the standard but this property does help to make the coat fly back. Eyes and ears do not pose much of a problem, eyes should be bold and ears well set on, carried erect, and close together.

The last items are type and condition, probably the most important, as all the other properties rely on the rabbit being fit to show them at their best. We need the animal to be firm in flesh, in good health and clean with its claws manicured. Type is not normally a problem in greys but a buck should look masculine with a broad head and shoulders.

I think the above covers most of the points that make up the required silver, all we have to do is breed one, there will not be a one in every litter but all we only need one then we have a winner. Best of luck in your breeding programme and please support the club shows with your efforts.