NEW ZEALAND - Nikki White (Reguli Cavy & Rabbit Stud)
The New Zealand is a Fur rabbit, of which the New Zealand White is the most common out here as it is used as a meat rabbit. The other major variant is the New Zealand Red and there is also a Black and a Blue.
This is a big bunny as the White, Black and Blue take an H ring (the same size as ring as a French Lop or a Flemish Giant). The Red is slightly smaller. As the White (Blue and Black) and Red are almost two different breeds, I'll deal with them separately as does the BRC standard.
The standard for the White, Blue and Black calls for a very dense, thick coat with enough resistance to almost return to its normal position when brushed. The undercoat should be fine, soft and dense interspersed thickly with heavier guard-hairs. The rabbit should have a medium length body, broad and deep throughout. The front legs should be short, thick and straight; head bold broad and rounded; well set in with a short neck; ears in proportion to the body and well furred with rounded tips. Adult does should be 4.53-5.4 kg and adult bucks 4.08-4.99 kg but overweight is not desirable. The flesh should be firm and solid all over and the coat should have an even glossy appearance. A serious fault is being underweight. Other faults include weak or pointed ears (Mr Spock would fail on the bench, then), narrow shoulders, excessive dewlap, fur too soft or woolly. Disqualifications are crooked bone and double dewlaps.
The New Zealand Red is a smaller, lighter animal. The colour should be a bright golden red or reddish gold with a sheen, free from mealiness, the colour carried well down to the skin. Shading slightly, lighter on flanks and belly, eye circles to be white and as small as possible. Coat should be dense and harsh in texture, 1.90 cm in length and lying close to the body with plenty of guard-hairs. The rabbit should have a medium-length body and be fairly broad; head medium and full and shapely, the back slightly arched, legs straight with medium bone, firm flesh, weight 3.62 in adults but type is more important than weight. Small faults include slightly dark ear tips, a few white hairs, slightly lighter ears, face or feet, white belly colour. Serious faults include black laced ears, profuse black hairs in the coat, snipy head, narrow shoulders, weak bone, long narrow body, poor condition, long or soft coat, lack of guard hairs. Disqualifications include even silvering over body, unduly soft coat, soft and woolly coat, excessive white hairs, narrow body, excessive dewlap.
Despite its name, this is no Kiwi. The creator of the New Zealand White was probably W.S. Preshaw of Rippon, California who bred them in 1916 with a view to developing a rabbit for the meat and fur trade. He wanted a rabbit which could grow rapidly so as to attain its slaughter weight quickly. Its ancestry was probably Flemish Giant, Angora and American White. It was accepted into the American standard in 1925 but was not imported into Britain until 1949 where it has been a success both on the show bench and in commercial rabbit farms. The New Zealand Black was also developed in the USA, again in California from the crossing of a New Zealand White buck and a Red doe. It was bred first in 1949 and first shown in the USA and accepted into the standard in 1958. The New Zealand Blue is a Pommie thing, shown first in the UK in 1980.
The New Zealand Red was also created in California, again for the meat and fur market. There is some controversy as to whether it was developed in 1909 from using imports from New Zealand derived from wild rabbits, or whether they were developed from Golden Fawn 'sports' in the Flemish Giant crossed with Belgian Hares lacking the black ticking. Most sources consider the latter explanation correct. The breed was imported into the UK in 1916 but didn't really attract attention until 1926 (there was already in Britain an very similar breed, now extinct, called the Old English Red and the same breed is known in France as the Fauve de Bourgogne, different countries creating their own variants). In the UK the breed has been selected away from the original utility type so has a harsh coat of no commercial value while the Fauve de Bourgogne and the American New Zealand Red still have dense lustrous coats.
SO, A NEW ZEALAND, THEN?
Although used as meat rabbits, the New Zealands can be shown successfully. However, they have to bred and raised to the standard, not fed up to promote fast growth as in a commercial rabbitry. The New Zealand White has a rapid growth characteristic and will produce a 1.3 to 2.5 kg rabbit at 8-10 weeks but the feeding of mother and kits must be good. As a large rabbit with fleshy back and hindquarters, the New Zealand White has become the most popular breed for meat production. They also produce a large soft white pelt but this has become less important with the decline in the fur market. They are also used in laboratories (a search on the internet will produce strings of articles discussing and offering diagrams of their cells but as most fanciers don't look that closely into their bunnies, these need not detain us).
They are known to be a docile, friendly rabbit, placid and reliable, almost phlegmatic. The Reds are livelier than the White, Blacks and Blues. The does make good mothers who often have large litters and the babies, as indicated above, grow quickly.
If you plan to start breeding for the meat market, the White is the rabbit (the other is the Californian). However, their placid natures and soft, dense fur of the White, Black and Blue make them suitable as big cuddly pets. And, of course, they can be shown.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
They should not be flabby, overweight, weak-boned, small, have poor coats, long ears out of proportion to their bodies, a long narrow body, or have excess dewlaps. Their flesh should be firm, their ears in proportion and well furred, their coat dense and soft in the case of the Whites, Blacks and Blues, harsh in the case of the Reds.
For breeders see Breeders Directory. Also, the classifieds in The Land usually carry ads from commercial rabbit breeders (often on the South Coast) with stock for sale and these are mostly New Zealand Whites. In addition, there is a starter's kit for the commercial rabbit farmer on offer in the classifieds.
HOUSING AND CARE
Woodward recommends that the breeding doe have as much space as possible, 1.22 m x 61 cm and a height of 45 cm. The bucks can have 1 m x 65 x 45 cm. The maintenance diet is 113 g of food for all New Zealands and it is a good idea to use a container that holds just that to stop the doe from getting too fat. They should be weighed regularly as the Reds and even the Whites have a tendency not to put on the weight. That way you can rectify the problem. Overshowing can also lead to weight loss.
Otherwise they can be fed as you would any other rabbit, a mix of pellets, hay, and greens, unless you are planning on fattening them up for them meat market in which case they need a high protein diet of pellets and water only. As a Fur rabbit, for showing, their coats can be brought to a fine sheen by brushing with your hands and/or a piece of silk or satin cloth or mitt. Like all rabbits, they should be brushed with a slicker brush or comb in moult and given plenty of roughage.
National New Zealand Rabbit Club (UK). check BRC website as they don't seek to have a website (Jan. 2015)
American Federation of New Zealand Rabbit Breeders
British Rabbit Council, Standards of Rabbit Breeds 3rd ed. 2011-2016.
Brown, Meg & Richardson, Virginia, Rabbit Lopaedia. Lydney, Gloucestershire, Ringpress Books, 2000
Russell, Geoff, Mini Encyclopeda of Rabbit Breeds & Care. Dorking, Interpet Publishing, 2008
Sandford, J. C., The Domestic Rabbit. 5th ed. Oxford, Blackwell Science, 1996
Verhoef-Verhallen, Esther, Encyclopaedia of Rabbits and Rodents. Lisse, Rebo Productions, 1998
Vriends-Parent, Lucia, The New Rabbit Handbook. Neptune City, NJ, Barrons, 1989
Whitman, Bob D., Domestic Rabbits & Their Histories: Breeds of the World. Leawood, KS : Leathers Publishing, 2004.
Williams, A.E. Ted, Rabbit Breeding for Perfection. Melbourne, AE Williams, 1992
Woodward, Clive, Read About Rabbits 2: New Zealand. Preston, Lancs., Winckley, 1982