Kinds of Rabbits: Silver Fox Rabbit

Heritage breed – Silver Fox Rabbit – strikes a chord with Missouri couple.


| July/August 2010



Silver Fox Rabbit

Rubbing its face and whiskers must mean this blue Silver Fox Rabbit feels right at home at the National Zoo.

courtesy Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian's National Zoo

When we decided to get into raising rabbits, it seemed logical to consider helping preserve a rare heritage breed at the same time. Our reasoning went something like this: Most likely, heritage rabbits will eat the same amount of food and take up the same amount of space as any other rabbit, so why not keep some classic genes alive? It turns out we were right, and with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s help, we were put on the path to preserving the Silver Fox, a rare rabbit breed, indeed.

The closest Silver Fox breeder we could find was in Wisconsin, and like many others, we were put on a “waiting list” for several months. We had decided upon a trio consisting of a buck and two does to start our breeding program.

After several months and a drive of a few hundred miles, we returned with our first Silver Fox Rabbits. Months later, the first litter of six kits arrived, and at that point we realized we had answered our calling to help preserve a magnificent, rare breed for future generations. It has been nonstop showing, sharing and expanding ever since. 

Saving the silver

Named for its coarse coat, the Silver Fox’s 1½- to 2-inch-long fur stands up when stroked from tail to head. This so-called no-fly-back characteristic combined with white guard hairs causes the coat to resemble that of the Arctic Silver Fox. Once quite popular, the Silver Fox’s current status is listed as critical by the ALBC, due to fewer than 200 registrations in the United States and a global population of fewer than 2,000.

The Silver Fox Rabbit was the second rabbit to be truly American-bred, with the first being the American Blue. What is known about Silver Fox origins is that the breed was developed in the 1920s by W.B. Garland of North Canton, Ohio. Garland had an unusual black Checkered Giant doe with a large number of white hairs scattered over her body, and it is believed that he initially bred this female with an English Silver buck. Garland’s purpose was to develop a practical-sized breed that had the blocky shape and fur texture of the English Silver, but with flecks on the fur.

After many failed attempts, a successful mating occurred between an English Silver buck and the black Checkered Giant doe. From the first litter, the largest buck was bred back to his mother, and the largest does were bred back to their father. With about 40 hutches, and after 14 years of consistent culling, Garland had a rabbit that bred true to type and color and was the first rabbit of its day to dress out at a pound under its live weight.





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