Rabbit Tats and Pedigrees

Something I have been meaning to do for a while and haven’t is make myself all more official and stuff. It’s hard enough to make money on an urban farm without having a lack of paperwork in your way so while I work on improving my stock, my genetic diversity and my rabbitry overall it is important to remember to improve on my paperwork.

Rabbit paperwork is strange and silly. You see, with dogs there is only one organization that anyone really cares about across the whole country. The AKC, the giant conglomerate hound that pops out garbage dogs at a mile a minute and charges you double for them. You see, dogs registered with the AKC have gone through one of a few things. The first is the most common, all the parents are registered. If that’s not the case, they have to be registered with lesser breed-related groups and then shown like crazy to get in the books. That is REALLY rare but happens ever. They also have an efficient complaint system that actually sends people out to inspect the kennels and if they’re horrible they get a big “DO NOT BUY” stamp on them. Yeah. Baller. These tiny, basic, standards made them the pinnacle of dog breeding. (And an example of how to create a horrible inbreeding debacle on a global scale.) If your dog isn’t registered with THIS organization, it’s not really a papered dog at all.
Other organizations such as the breed clubs exist but have little impact on global market. Groups like the CKC or the UKC are poo, have no regulatory power on their breeders, accept just about any dog that “comes close” to being the right breed, accept crossbreeds like “schnoodles” and generally are where people go if you’re a puppy mil. That’s right. They’re THOSE registries.

This is the way most animals are pedigreed. They’re registered with an organization that will accept the worst of mutts or they’re registered with the Big One. Horses, cats, dogs, mules, donkeys, goats, cows… This is how they all get their pedigrees.

Not so with rabbits. You see, rabbits are extremely genetically diverse and the breeders wanna keep it that way (not to mention their short breeding lifespans). So rabbit pedigrees are controlled by the OWNERS. Yep, any old person who is not affiliated with any organization can have their rabbits pedigreed… And not by a company, but by themselves. A simple sheet of paper with some numbers, names and breeds slapped on it and you have a papered rabbit. This is what a rabbit pedigree is. A sheet of paper produced and policed by the breeder.

There are some general rules… A proper pedigree shows the rabbit in question and three generations of parentage (parents, grand parents and great grand parents). All the rabbits on the pedigree must have tattooed numbers in their left ear listed on the pedigree… As well as breed, color type and adult weight. However, because this is controlled by the breeder themselves it honestly could just be snake oil. Anyone could write anything on a pedigree and make any claim they like. In short, it is a fanciful record keeping system only employed by people who care about what they’re breeding very specifically. It costs nothing to produce and should be taken with a grain of salt. A notebook of breeding records and a visual examination by someone who “knows” rabbits is often worth far more to the small scale breeder.

A rabbit that shows this sort of pedigree and it’s corresponding tattoo In it’s left ear can be shown at any rabbit show as long as all rabbits listed on the pedigree are the same breed and meet the adult weight constraints for the breed.

However, there is a rabbit registry system. The Big One and the ONLY real rabbit registry system is the ARBA. To register your rabbit it must have it’s full pedigree and then must be examined by a judge (or a “registar”) to see if it meets minimum breed standards. You can then join the ARBA, pay a fee, and the Registar will tattoo your rabbit in it’s right ear (as opposed to it’s left for pedigrees) with it’s registration numbers and give you a new pedigree with a certificate of registration. The stamp they use changes based on how many rabbits on the pedigree are registered or have won shows… But this puts your rabbit “in the books” forever.

So a rabbit can be pedigreed and not registered with anything… And a registered rabbit can have no registered family members. Which to me seems a little strange. If someone offered to sell you a $1000 “pedigreed” dog, where it wasn’t registered with anything and they just kept the pedigree “on their own” people would laugh. Yet this is exactly how it is with rabbits.

So I have recently bought a rabbit tattooing kit. They come in two styles, a clamp and a pen. I like the idea of the pen style myself, but either does the job, so I got the Rabbitatt from Bass. The goal is to have pedigreed rabbits of my own lines by next year. Only Kibbles came with any sort of pedigree and she is a Rex, not a NZW. By being able to offer this slip of paper, people can show my rabbits and so can I. A big step forward for our small little business.

Which brings me to learning how to tattoo your rabbit. This is NOT easy and there’s some easy mistakes to be made. I had Greg help me take some photos of the process as I learned to tatt my buns.

Step one is get your tattoer and then practice. I took a suggestion and briefly practiced on the outside of a banana peel. It came out clean and pretty and there were no issues at all.
Then came the practice rabbits. These were my culls from Iams’s litter. I ended up tattooing both ears on both rabbits to practice. I’ll let you know how they look in a week, but in the meantime I can talk about what went wrong (and right).

First start with a nice clean table and a big, comfy spot you can cross your legs on. I chose our couch so my legs would not fall asleep. Put all your supplies on the table. Upon finding all the appropriate supplies, discover that your disinfectant (iodine) has frozen solid because it was left outside and resort to peroxide instead. Wish desperately that you owned rubbing alcohol. Then assemble your tattooer, ink, ink cup, paper towels, ice cube, disinfectant and something to put over the finished tattoo like Neosporin or something. I just used ordinary Vaseline. If you’re doing more than ones buns, have a little cup to pour your disinfectant into for sterilizing the needle between rabbits.

Frozen iodine below my big, brown peroxide bottle. Yep. Solid.

Next get a cloth to wrap your bunny into a burrito with. You need to be able to hold your bunny firmly and this is the best way to do it. It also keeps them from doing something annoying like peeing on you or biting you. Bleh Make sure the ears are sticking out and the left ear is the one closest to you. This is easily done by simply pointing the rabbit’s nose to your left. Apply your numbing agent should you have one. Should you not, hold an icecube over the outside of the ear until the ear feels quite cold.

Bunny burrito.

Once you think your bunny’s ear is nice and numb, rub your sterilizing agent on the ear (peroxide, alcohol, iodine, whatever) and it’s time to tattoo. I was using a pen tattooer so I simply kept the icecube under the ear the whole time, like a backing for a sheet of paper. Pen tattooers are nice because you do not need to go very deep into the ear to get a good mark, whereas the clamp tattooers often pierce right through the ears of a young rabbit. Or so I have heard. I did find that it did not take much pressure to mark the ear.

When making your marks it is important to try to avoid major veins. Nicking a major vein shouldn’t result in much bleeding but it can result in more than is ideal and will keep the tattoo from sticking. None is ideal. I found I needed to be prepared for a thrashing bunny. At 3-4lbs, these guys weren’t much of a challenge to further restrain but a 10lbs adult will be. They liked to jump and the result was the pen would go far deeper in their ear than I wanted, resulting in some bleeding or a mis-mark.
I decided to draw a few random marks in the ear… A hearts and two plus signs. After I tried to follow the instructions for wiping away the excess ink. The resulting marks were very faint.

The mark on the right is where the rabbit jumped while tattooing. It was bleeding a bit.

So I tried again on the rabbit’s other ear. These are culls so it’s not like they need their right ear unmarked.

Same result. This was supposed to read QAH and some numbers.

At this point I knew I was doing something wrong. I dried the bunny off, gave it some love and squishes and traded for the next cull to try again. You see, during tattooing the ears looked great, and after they looked shoddy.

Greg getting in my light as I try to tattoo rabbit #2.

So I tried again. This is what the marks look like when they are freshly tattooed. They are clear and clean, but the ink is pooled all over the surface of the ear. So of course you’re supposed to remove the excess ink. Well. That hadn’t been working out, so I decided on the last ear I was just going to BLOT the ear ink.

Freshly tattooed.

Blotted. (That reads QAH123, so you know.)

I think blotting is the way to go here. After each tattoo I put some petroleum jelly over the tattoos to prevent infection. I think this final method will actually be effective for marking my rabbit’s ears. I will be trying it on an adult rabbit soon. Probably Soup or Evo, one of my soon to be culls. Hopefully the thicker ears will allow the tattooing to be a little easier!

After all is said and done, be sure to give your bunny extra squishes and love before putting them back away! Good luck tattooing!



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