COD Holder - Theresa Mueller & Cheryl Rafoth (WA)
PrideLands Rabbitry began as two friends sharing a passion for the rabbit hobby. We live in the beautiful state of Washington, near Seattle. Theresa lives with her husband and two daughters in Ravensdale, and Cheryl and her husband live on the peninsula in Port Townsend. Both of us had been raising rabbits for many years before we formed our co-op with our Hollands Lops in 2001. Shortly after forming out co-op with the Holland Lops (Forget-Me-Not Rabbitry), the Lionheads (PrideLands Rabbitry) followed.
Theresa had seen the Lionhead rabbit on an English website in 1999. During the summer of 2001, she saw a post on a chat group about JoAnn Statler, who had brought Lionheads into the U.S. We contacted JoAnn about the possibility of purchasing a few from her and shipping them to Washington. At this point we weren’t given any option to pick from photos or even specify colors, like most breeders do today. JoAnn had a few available and so we took whatever she was willing to ship, sight unseen. Included in our shipment were two bucks and two does. We lost one of the does to a seizure about a month after arriving and sold one of the bucks to Treasure Bechtol in Eastern Washington, leaving us a pair to start our adventure. Hence, PrideLands Rabbitry had its beginning.
Without question the rabbit that impacted our herd the most in the early years was a Black Buck named Tuborg. We imported him from Sweden in 2002. He was an older buck when he came to us and didn’t have an impressive mane, but what he lacked in prominence of mane, he made up for in personality, bone, head and body type. This buck was impressive and stamped his offspring strongly with his type traits, as well as beautiful, big, full manes. PrideLands Tabasco, the winner of the 2005 JoAnn Statler Memorial Award, is a line-bred Tuborg great-grandson. Tabasco had a huge impact in setting a winning tradition at PrideLands rabbitry, starting with granddaughters, PrideLands Aruba, winner of Best in Show at the 2006 NALRC National show, and PrideLands Paprika, winner of Best Opposite Sex at the 2006 Ohio State Convention Show. PrideLands Tybandi, also a Tabasco grandson, continued the tradition by winning Best Opposite Sex at the 2006 ARBA Convention. In 2007, PrideLands Kokomo (full sister to Pridelands Aruba) followed in her sire’s footsteps by winning the Statler Award at the 2007 National Show. The herd continued to move forward in 2007 when PrideLands Aslan won Best of Breed at the Ohio State Convention Show. Aslan goes back to Tabasco and Tuborg on his dam’s side. Alsan sired PrideLands Ruffian, winner of the 2008 ARBA Convention Show. Needless to say Tuborg and Tabasco had a huge impact on the progress here at PrideLands Rabbitry.
Once we had Lionheads in the barn, we quickly became addicted to this unique little rabbit. So after careful deliberation, we decided to cut our Holland Lop herd in half to make room to expand our Lionhead rabbitry. In January 2002, we applied for a Certificate of Development. A certificate needs to be in one name and we decided we would use Theresa’s name. Theresa’s 2002 certificate was the 4th one to be awarded for the Lionhead breed and included the varieties of Black, Chestnut, Black Tort, Siamese Sable, and Orange. In 2006, she revised the varieties on her certificate to include Black, Blue, Black Tort, Chestnut, and REW, dropping Siamese Sable and Orange. In 2008, she also dropped Chestnut. This allowed her to devote her time to working on a small compatible color family of Black, Blue, Black Tort, and REW. This breed presents many challenges and we have found that limiting ourselves to working on fewer varieties has had a huge impact on how quickly we’ve been able to move our herd forward
Establishing any new breed with the ARBA is not an easy task. The Lionhead seems to present even more difficult challenges with trying to get both normal coat and wool in specified areas on the same rabbit. We have seen type and color issue improve greatly since Lionheads first entered the US. The dedication of breeders all across the US is evident by the improvement in overall quality seen in the entries at Lionhead Nationals and ARBA Conventions. This is certainly not a breed for the weak of heart. We’ve seen a lot of breeders come and go in Lionheads. It truly takes a lot of dedication and a passion to see this breed progress and reach ARBA recognized status. When we look back on how far we have progressed with this wonderful breed though, we know the rewards have been well worth the adventure to get Lionheads recognized with the ARBA.
Theresa found out in December of 2009, that presentation rights for the Lionhead breed had been passed to her. We spent the next 10 months preparing to present at the 2010 ARBA Convention. It became obvious in the spring that we were not strong enough yet in our Blue variety to proceed with presenting Blue that year, so we focused our presentation attempt on our other 3 varieties (Black, Tort, & REW). At the 2010 ARBA Convention in Minneapolis, MN, Theresa was successful in her first presentation attempt in all three varieties. Although, our intent had been to come forward with our first attempt at the Blue variety at the 2011 ARBA Convention, we decided that we would better serve our presentation attempts if we limited our efforts to the 3 varieties that passed presentation in 2010. So Theresa dropped Blue from her COD and will proceed with her presentation attempts in Black, Tort, & REW in hopes of achieving breed recognition with the ARBA.
Theresa made her 1st attempt at 2nd Presentation to the ARBA Standards Committee in 2011 in Indianapolis, IN at the ARBA Convention and Show. Unfortunately, all three varieties failed presentation due to at least one animal in each variety having flank wool longer than 2" on the flank (a DQ under the LH Working Standard). The Standards Committee recommend Theresa consider changes to the standard which would more accurately reflect the Lionhead genetics and help smooth the process of breed acceptance. Theresa took these recommendations to heart and make the changes in November 2011. These changes will go into effect in February of 2012 when they are printed in the Domestic Rabbits magazine. This included the grouping of the Tortoise variety to be shown as one color group. Black, Blue, Chocolate, and Lilac Torts will now compete together in one variety, Tortoise.
Theresa made her 2nd attempt at 2nd Presentation to the ARBA Standards Committee in October 2012 in Wichita, KS at the ARBA Convention and Show. Tortoise and REW passed the Presentation, however, Black failed due to a wmall white spot on the lower hip of one of the junior bucks. This is the second consecutive fail for the Black variety, therefore, Theresa may not make further presentation attempts with this variety. She will make her 1st attempt at 3rd Presentation in Harrisburg, PA in October 2013. If she passes this presentation with either or both varieties, the Lionhead breed would become an ARBA recognized breed. If they do not pass, she would be able to make one final attempt at her 3rd presentation in Fort Worth, TX in 2014.
~Theresa Mueller & Cheryl Rafoth