Rare Breed Specialty Shows Promote Rabbit Conservation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ryan Walker, Marketing & Communications Manager, The Livestock Conservancy
rwalker@LivestockConservancy.org
(919) 542-5704

Editor’s Note: 
Interviews available upon request.


Rare Breed Specialty Shows Promote Rabbit Conservation

Pittsboro, NC, USA  [February 18, 2020] – The Livestock Conservancy proudly counts rabbits as one of the 11 livestock species we serve, and is excited to announce a growing partnership with the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) that will help conserve 16 rare breeds of rabbits. Rabbit ownership continues to grow in popularity and they are an important presence on many small farms and homesteads throughout America today. 

The Livestock Conservancy is the leading umbrella organization for rare and endangered livestock and poultry in the United States. ARBA has been dedicated to the promotion, development, and improvement of domestic rabbits since 1921, with membership totaling more than 20,000.

“ARBA may be among the most diverse registries that support the endangered farm animals we work with,” says Alison Martin, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Conservancy. “In addition to meat and pelt production, rabbit breeders also enjoy sporting and companionship aspects of rabbit ownership.” 

Beginning in 2020, ARBA will sanction Rare Breed Specialty shows for the first time in the organization’s 99 year history. 

“Rare Breed Specialty shows will be a wonderful opportunity for our members to showcase their rare breeds and market these animals to individuals sharing a similar passion for breed conservation,” shared Eric Stewart, Executive Director of ARBA. “Just as popular meat, fur, fiber, or fancy breeds appeal to particular demographics, rare breeds also appeal to a specific population who are seeking the chance to be a part of breed conservation.”

Unlike other livestock species, rabbits are not registered by litter or parentage. Instead, rabbits must be inspected individually to ensure each animal meets or exceeds the breed standard prior to registration. Therefore, although annual registrations are an accurate assessment of population size for endangered species such as cattle and sheep, the two non-profit organizations developed new parameters to evaluate America’s rare rabbit breeds more accurately -- a critically important step for conservation. 

“Our new formula incorporates rabbit show numbers from the ARBA National Convention and the National Breed Clubs,” explains Martin. “Combined with registration data, the results are more representative of the breed populations nationwide.”

Based on these new parameters, the following breeds will appear on the Conservancy’s 2020 Conservation Priority List (CPL), and thereby will be sanctioned for the new ARBA Rare Breed Specialty shows:  

  • Critically Endangered Breeds include Blanc de Hotot, Silver Marten, and Silver rabbits.  These breeds have fewer than 50 annual registrations in the United States each year.  Fewer than 150 animals have been shown in the past five years in the U.S., and the estimated global population is below 500. 
  • Threatened Breeds are the Checkered Giant, Argente Brun, Standard Chinchilla, and Crème d’Argente.  With fewer than 100 annual registrations and 300 animals shown in the U.S. annually, these breeds are at risk to become critically endangered. No more than 1,000 animals are believed to be alive throughout the world. 
  • The Watch Category includes rabbit breeds with fewer than 200 annual registrations and 500 animals shown in the U.S. each year, and a global population that doesn’t exceed 2,000.  Breeds that present genetic or numerical concerns or have a limited geographic distribution are also included in this category.  In 2020, the American rabbit, American Chinchilla, Giant Chinchilla, Lilac, Rhinelander, and Palomino breeds will be closely monitored in this category.
  • Thanks to dedicated heritage breeders, three rabbit breeds have made great progress to avoid extinction and will be recognized in the Recovering Category.  Belgian Hare, Beveren, and Silver Fox rabbits were once far more threatened.  Now, their populations have outgrown the Watch category parameters; the Conservancy will monitor their numbers with hopes of graduating them off the CPL in the future.

For additional information about participating in ARBA’s Rare Breeds Specialty shows, please visit https://arba.net/arba-show-central/. If you would like to learn more about the Conservation Priority List, click here.

“Breed and bloodline conservation is important to both ARBA and the Conservancy.  This partnership supports our mutually beneficial goals,” concludes Stewart. “Working together, The Livestock Conservancy is better able to monitor rabbit breed numbers for accurate statistics and Rare Breed Specialty shows promote the conservation of endangered breeds to avoid extinction.”

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About the Livestock Conservancy:
The Livestock Conservancy is America's leading organization working to protect over 150 heritage breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included in its mission are: donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Founded in 1977, the Conservancy is the pioneer organization in the U.S. working to conserve historic breeds and genetic diversity in livestock. The Livestock Conservancy’s mission is "to protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction."

Why are domestic breed of livestock and poultry in danger of extinction?
Modern agriculture and food production favors the use of a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output in intensively controlled environments. Many traditional breeds do not excel under these conditions, causing their popularity to decrease and leaving them faced with extinction. Although these breeds do not fit today's mainstream model of agriculture, they are exquisitely suited for backyards and small to medium-sized farms.

Why is genetic diversity important?
Like all ecological systems, agriculture depends on genetic diversity to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Genetic diversity in domestic animals is revealed in distinct breeds, each with different characteristics and uses.

Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to disease and parasites. As agriculture changes, this genetic diversity may be needed for a broad range of uses and opportunities. Once lost, genetic diversity is gone forever.

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Editor’s Note: 
Interviews available upon request.

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Contact: Ryan Walker, Marketing & Communications Manager, The Livestock Conservancy
rwalker@LivestockConservancy.org
(919) 542-5704
PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312 USA

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