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  • Writer's pictureGray Bunny Grower

Does My Rabbit Need A Pedigree?

While looking into getting a new rabbit, the question of a pedigree will inevitably present itself. You may have been told that you need a pedigree, that rabbits with pedigrees are more valuable, or that a rabbit can't be pure without one. So lets dig into this.

What is a pedigree?

In simple terms, a pedigree is a record of a rabbit's lineage. This record is kept by the breeder and, possibly, the breeder before that, and/or more (depending on circumstances and how many generations are contained within it). It will, at minimum, contain ear numbers, weights, color, and birthdates of all rabbits contained within it. Additional information can be included such as call names, show wins/titles, breeder info, etc. but is not required for a pedigree to be "full". Also required for a "full" pedigree is 3 generations. So this would be parents, grandparents, and great grandparents of your rabbit. It may be handwritten, like the blank ARBA pedigree (found on Pinterest) below would be, or it may be printed through a rabbity program. All are equal, and one that says "Official ARBA Rabbit Pedigree" is not verified or guaranteed by ARBA - ever.

ARBA Pedigree Form blank
Blank ARBA pedigree

What is a pedigree used for?

A pedigree is used for tracking a rabbit's breeding and lineage. Generally speaking they are used for breeders to track things like line-breeding, what coat colors may be carried by the rabbit, and to verify that a rabbit is pure. A full pedigree is NOT required to show a rabbit, but is required for a rabbit to receive a Grand Champion title from ARBA.

How do I know the pedigree is accurate?

The short answer is - you don't. Rabbit pedigrees are not at all like dog pedigrees. There is no over-seeing entity (like the AKC for dogs) that requires registration of parents and grandparents for a rabbit to have a verified pedigree. This is a common misconception. A pedigree is only as accurate as the person keeping the records - and unfortunately there are a lot of people who will lie with no remorse to make a little extra cash. Even some show breeders - which most new people consider to be an automatic authority - will sell culls (rabbits disqualified, mixed, or inappropriate as breeding animals for whatever reason) to unsuspecting buyers as pedigreed show animals. Now, I am not bashing show breeders here - most are decent, honest people who have a genuine love of whatever breed they are raising, but just like all areas and sectors of the world at large there are plenty of bad apples to be found.

Should my rabbit have a pedigree?

This very much depends. As outlined above, a pedigree is not a reliable indicator of quality, nor a reliable indicator of worth. For instance, you could purchase a "fully pedigreed" Fawn Flemish Giant rabbit only to find when you get home that the pedigree is full of Light Gray and White colored rabbits. This rabbit would not be "color correct" and is unsuitable for being a breeder. You may purchase a "fully pedigreed" rabbit and get home and realize there are no weights for any rabbits on the pedigree.

This would be particularly suspicious if the rabbit you just purchased is a Giant Chinchilla (among others), as unscrupulous breeders have been known to use American Chinchilla (a smaller rabbit with different conformation requirements) in their Giant Chinchilla breeding program to get around the fact that Giant Chinchilla rabbits (real ones) are actually exceedingly hard to come by. In reality there is no issue with using American Chinchilla, Flemish Giant, or even American Blue rabbits in the lineage with Giant Chinchillas in an intelligent and honest manner. They are the base breeds that the Giant Chinchilla was created from and it will at some point become necessary for most Giant Chin breeders as they are so difficult to find. You can't line breed forever without issues eventually popping up and new blood must be introduced. The problem is lying about it or trying to cover it up rather than just explaining the breed history and circumstances to the prospective buyer (or even worse, labeling some rabbits in the pedigree "American Giant Chinchilla". That's not a real breed, that's two breeds mixed together in the hope that no one notices).

If you are purchasing a rabbit as a pet - you do not need a pedigree. There is no purpose for it. You are not breeding the rabbit, you are not showing the rabbit, a pedigree is not required. Most reputable breeders will not supply you with a pedigree for a pet rabbit as most rabbits sold as pets are unacceptable for breeding for one reason or another. It may just be that their color is wrong, or their shoulders too long, or even their ears are too short to meet the standard. This may not seem like a big deal and maybe you feel like you're entitled to the pedigree if you paid for a purebred. You aren't. For the reasons outlined above. Rabbits are not dogs and the rules are different. Are there breeders who will give you a pedigree for a pet? Of course. Does that mean that one who won't is not a reputable breeder? Absolutely not. Nor does it mean the one who will is not reputable. We all have different policies and goals for our rabbits.

Even showing or breeding a rabbit doesn't require a pedigree unless you are expecting the rabbit to become a Grand Champion. It can be helpful, especially for breeding, but it is necessary to remember that the accuracy of the pedigree depends upon the integrity of the breeder and you just never know. While it may give you a head start on selling and showing your own pedigreed rabbits, the pedigree you were given may not be accurate. You can easily start tracking with this rabbit and have fully pedigreed rabbits of your own in a few generations.

The breeder says they don't have pedigrees! This means they aren't pure, right?

It means nothing of the sort. There are many reasons for a rabbit to not have a pedigree, not the least of which is that said rabbit may have come from utility lines (meat or fur). This is quite common for breeds like Rex, New Zealand, Californian, Giant Chinchilla, etc. All of these breeds can be excellent meat and/or fur breeds and utility breeders do not generally care about pedigrees or shows. Because they were created to be utility breeds, the fact is you'll likely get as close to correct conformation as possible by purchasing from a breeder with utility lines. Correct conformation will achieve the best meat and fur yields, so it's in the best interest of the raiser to have the best conformation in their lines that they can. It's a trade off, really. Get the best you can from a utility breeder (or someone whose rabbits came from a utility line) and you may not get a pedigree. Get a fully pedigreed rabbit from a unscrupulous breeder and you may end up with a rabbit that meets none of the requirements for the breed. Of course, there's plenty of room in the middle of these scenarios, but the simple answer is a pedigree isn't necessarily a guarantee of purebred, and the lack of one doesn't mean it isn't.

I have to pay extra for the pedigree?

This.... depends on the breeder. There are breeders who charge a fee for a pedigree. In my opinion, this is a red flag, and often one of the immediate clues that someone is a scammer and not a real breeder. This is not always the case, of course, but it would make me very suspicious. A rabbit either has a pedigree or doesn't. It's either brood quality or it isn't. It's show quality or it's not. The price should be dependent upon the qualities of the rabbit, and the pedigree is either included or it isn't. It's not that hard to write out (or print) a pedigree and if it is, well, I'd wonder about the efficiency of the breeders record keeping.

To sum up:

A pedigree is -

  • A written record of lineage

  • A document recorded by the breeder

  • Required for a rabbit to be awarded a Grand Champion ARBA title

  • Required for a rabbit to be registered by ARBA (this is not common)

A pedigree is not -

  • A guarantee of quality

  • Required for showing (other than a Grand Champion title)

  • Verified or tracked by ARBA or any other over-seeing entity

  • A guarantee of a pure rabbit (and a lack of pedigree is not an indication that it isn't)


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