Otter Rex - bred by Christina ShererBlack Otter Rex

by Ron Price


The Otter Rex is one of the newer varieties in the U.S., Mr. Hill sponsored the ARBA standards presentation, and after obtaining a few otters in litters derived from imported Sables he bred much of the foundation stock observed on the show tables today However, the Otter is not a new variety, and in fact has been common in England for many years where as part of the Tan Pattern Rex they are available in several colors..

Black Otters are currently the only color that is recognized by the ARBA, but often dilutes such as chocolates or blues are found in litters and were introduced in Tampa at the ARBA Convention by the Rudnicks. In England the Otter runs quite a bit smaller than those found here in the states by about two pounds. Many imported Otter lines have run small and fine boned in the past due in no small part to their English Ancestry. In the U.K. the standard calls for Rex to be between 6-8 pounds with many running towards the small end of the scale In the U.S. many breeders are turning up with Otters that exhibit quality type and size and many are found winning BOB and BOSV at shows on a consistent basis.

From a breed perspective the Otter exhibits the same type and faults as any other Rex, thus this leaves the most striking feature of the Otter Rex the distinctive and vibrant color and Otter pattern. if we accept the English Origin of the Otter Rex then we must look to an understanding of the BRC standard to evaluate the animals and their evolution. The standard calls for 40 fur points. with the fur to be a half inch in length, tine and silky, and to be free from harshness and wooliness, dense and smooth, 20 points for the body having a well proportioned an graceful carriage (type). Color and/or markings, are worth a whopping 40 points. No wonder then the emphasis on color and markings in the English stock of Rex, and what better Rex to show these off.

The BRC standard calls for body color to be lustrous black uniform throughout, with a slate blue undercolor to reach the skin. The markings include the belly and undersides of the chin and tail to be creamy white with a blue or white undercolor, to be divided from the body by a distinct border of tan. Nostrils and nape of neck to be tan, Eye circles and inside of ears to be fawn, chest to be a mixture of black and tan, merging with the main body color The fore feet on the front being predominantly black, the tan border between the belly and flanks shall continue down the back feet. Other recognized colors include blue, chocolate. lilac and tan.

In contrast the ARBA standard calls for a jet black uniform body color, with slate blue to reach the skin The pattern to include the underside of chin and tail to be pale cream, belly to be pale cream or pale cream over slate (pale cream preferred-Note! more on that later), to be divided from the body color by a distinct border of tan. nostrils and the triangle at the nape of the neck to be tan. Eye-circles and inside of ears to be fawn Chest is an even mix of black and tan, merging into the main body color, the forefeet to be black, and the tan border between the belly and flanks shall continue down back feet.

So really there is not much difference between the standard, except we put only 5 points on color and 5 on pattern, which often serves to promote nice type animals with poor coloration. So how do you get really good otters and how do you select for color and pattern to enhance the true nature of the variety?

There is no substitute for proper management and selection of your breeding stock, until unthrifty and unhealthy animals of poor quality do not belong in the rabbitry of anyone who is serious about being a breeder of any variety of Rex Obtaining top quality linebred or inbred stock from a serious breeder is essential to gaining a proper start with Otters Yes, you will find Otters in litters from rabbitries with mixed stock, but to find Otters that are homozygous or that appear to have a preponderance of Otter genes is essential. Once you have the foundation stock .you need to make an honest evaluation of the strengths and weakness of the foundation animals. You will proceed to select for animals in your litters that exhibit the minimum number of negative traits and which preserve the better qualities of the parent stock. Write down your comments on each animal, don't compare to your other stock but against the standard. Looking back at your comments at a later date will help you make a reasoned decision on how your progress is coming.

During the past 10 years of breeding Otter Rex, we have noticed that the Otter pattern will continue to improve after several generations of direct Otter to Otter crosses. If you inject another color, say a black into the Otter, you can expect the color and pattern will regress to a great degree. In addition many breeders have told me that they use Reds, Castors, Blacks, sables, or Opals to "improve" the Otter. The only way to fix the maximum number of desirable genes in your line is to breed Otters, select for proper color and pattern and then use those animals in your breeding program.

Common problems that we have observed in Otters are stray white hairs in the blanket, a recessive trait that can be selected against, a lack of intensity of the tan color, poor belly color, or the lack of a well demarcated tan line between the blanket and the belly color. Further protruding tan guard hairs, a barring of white or tan on the fore legs, excessive tan bridling on the head or poor demarcation on the hind legs are common. Another problem can be a brownish cast instead of a really gloss deep black in the blanket. Breeding to a black or other variety will once again put the slate undercolor into the herd,, often at the same time it kills the tan and fawn

If the type and fur are fixed in the Rex standard then we can argue that the sole feature that sets the Otter variety apart is the striking pattern of makings and the beauty of the coloration. When evaluating the litter you need to be very critical of not only the pattern but the intensity of the coloration. Helper genes regulate the intensity of the coloration, and the maximization of desirable genes move your herd towards better coloration

When your Otter/Otter mating produce only Otter patterned animals, and when outcrossed to a self, you get only Otters then you have achieved a Homozygous Otter ( remember that in coat genetics that the tan pattern is dominant over the recessive solid color) A good foundation animal is one in which the phenotype (appearance) really matches the genetic makeup (genotype) At this point you have a line of Otters to begin with Working to select the best coloration then becomes a matter of personal effort, and unwavering aim towards the goal Depending on the quality of the foundation stock you may reach this goal in a generation or after years and years of effort. However, once achieved you can then turn your attention to type and fur. There is nothing finer than to watch a well marked animal go for BOB then best 4 class then BIS. Otters have achieved this distinction In the future more will follow, but the Otter as a variety will only succeed to survive if each breeder concentrates on the qualities that make the Otter Rex a distinctive animal, and that is the fantastic color and distinctive pattern. If judges continue to consider only type. type, type, then the true destination of each variety be that color or pattern or both will be lost Otter Rex we preserve a heritage of those breeders whose time, effort, and money have brought us this magnificent animal.

A few simple rules for Otter breeders

I) After years and generations of line breeding the Otter you will find that the nostrils also have a fawn color outlined in tan, and the tan will move to more of a rufus red color which really makes this animal look super The tan "line" will really appear, you don't have to imagine it, and the markings will become distinct.

2) If you are ruthless you can move an imported background herd with bucks running 6.0 to 6.5 pounds and does of 6.5 to 7.0 pounds to bucks running 8.0 – 9.75 and does running from 8.0 to 10+ pounds, in as little as 6 generations. This is even easier with herds of small domestic stock.

3) Short furred such as the English fur will aid in showing off the markings, longer or coarse fur is to be avoided

4) If you must cross your Otters (please don't), use black or castor (a real mahogany red one), then cross back the Fl, but remember this when you read rule 6.

5)  Cull heavily, there are very few Otters in this country, and very few herds which are line or inbred to fix the genes, if you cull heavily, line or inbreed you will do all future Otter breeders a favor.

6) Purebreds only come from Purebreds (prepotency and all that), "real" genetic homozygous Otters only come from Otters, self-discipline in the form of tine or inbreeding locks in desirable genes, your animals have hidden genetic potential, please use it, the real winners are not selected on the show table, they are hidden your nest boxes.

7) Don't keep junk, it doesn't get better.

8) Don't start with junk (read rule 7), unless you are self-abusive and like to fail.

9) Don't keep nasty rabbits, poor does, those with recessive genetic flaws. Use a scale and use it often. poor mothers pass the trait along, poor sires pass their traits along, poor or sick animals pass the problems along. Ask yourself when you keep a rabbit, is this better than what I have. If it is not, then get rid of it (bonk it please, don't sell it). You don't ever get better by keeping old rabbits that don't do well. And YOU DON’T IMPROVE BY BUYING WINNERS; YOU MAKE THEM!

10) The law of probability is such that anyone who breeds enough rabbits, goes to enough shows and shows under enough judges can produce a winner The real winners are the rabbits whose owners take the time to make them genetic winners. Consistent winners, consistent quality and consistent enjoyment comes from the knowledge that you are putting in the effort to improve the variety. Otters are worth the effort !

11) If you want opinions on your animals, don't look to an all breed judge who is not a breeder, and a breeder of winners, look for judges or fellow breeders who have herds that are known for long term consistent quality. seek Out their opinions. and then follow a sound management program to breed for quality

12) Enjoy your Rex!

Reprinted by permission 2/98


2001 National Rex Rabbit Club

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