Although Californian and New Zealand rabbits are the most common breeds used in meat production, it doesn’t mean that they are the only breeds you should consider if you are starting a rabbitry. The following breeds are fantastic for meat and fur production because of their ease of care, great mothering skills, meat-to-fur ratios and diverse coats.
Adult Size: Large (9-12 pounds/ 4.1-5.4 kilograms)
The Silver Fox is considered the teddy bear of the commercial breed and is very well suited for meat breeding. It has a high dress out percentage (65%) with a small boned carcass, does are excellent mothers with large litters, they have plenty of milk and they make excellent foster mothers. They are also gentle, easy to handle, like attention and have beautiful long fur. Their fur resembles the pelt of an Arctic silver fox: coarse, extremely dense and 1 ½ to 2 inches long. Kits are born either solid black or blue and silvering will start at 4 weeks, taking about 4 months to complete. Unlike any other rabbit breed, when the fur is stroked backwards from tail to head, it will stand straight up until stroked in the opposite direction. The breed is considered critically endangered and is not recognized in outside the U.S., although in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom there is a breed called Silver Fox, which is actually the same rabbit breed as the Silver Marten in America.
Adult Size: Large (8.5-12 pounds/ 3.9-5.4 kilograms)
The Satin breed has translucent hair shafts that reflect light, giving the coat a very high sheen. Coat color ranges from black to copper to white…and many things in between. A high protein diet supplemented with sunflower seeds helps maintain good body tone and a healthy coat but no special care other than routine brushing is required. Satins have one of the best meat-to-bone ratios of the commercial breeds. Other characteristics which make them great for meat production are their good growth rates, their great motherly instincts and their ease of breeding.
Adult Size: Large (10-15 pounds/ 4.75-6.8 kilograms)
The Champagne d’Argent is one of the oldest known rabbit breeds, existing in the Champagne province of France for over 400 years. Then called the French Silver for its silvery coat, it was once prized for its pelt despite being a common breed. Bunnies are born pure black, begin turning silver grey at about 3 weeks and are completely silver grey by 6 months. Champagnes are not so common in America today, but their popularity is increasing. The rabbit has a medium length with well-developed hind-quarters.
Adult Size: Medium (7-9 pounds/ 2.7-3.6 kilograms)
Harlequins are usually pretty docile, make good mothers and foster kits well. The ideal age for a Harlequin doe to start breeding is 5 to 6 months old. There are two varieties of Harlequins: Japanese are golden orange with colored markings and the Magpie is white with colored markings. A well bred Harlequin will have white or orange on one side of the face with a straight, clean line dividing it from the other side of the face, which would be colored. The ear attached to the white or orange side would be colored, and the ear attached to the colored side would be white or orange. The body is alternately striped with white or orange and color.