November 11, 1953 – June 10, 2009
Bob Whitman loved odd and unusual things and it was this love for the unusual that inspired his interest in the Lionhead Rabbit. He was instrumental in bringing Lionheads into the U.S. from England beginning in 2001. Shortly after his second shipment arrived, he secured a Certificate of Development for the breed with the ARBA, in line behind Arden Wetzel and Gail Gibbons. He was fascinated with these animals, loved the many beautiful colors they came in and tried to get the ARBA to accept all the varieties like they did in England.
Bob worked to help form the NALRC in the early years and served as the first Vice President. In October 2002, he became President serving through 2004. He had one of the largest Lionhead herds in the United States and spent many years promoting the breed. He is a life member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and was serving as ARBA District 4 Director at the time of his death. He had several health issues in the last 3 years and decided to relinquish his C.O.D. for the Lionheads so that those following could go forward.
Bob was a man of research. He liked to think! He spent his life collecting rare books and artifacts and researching the unknown. He spent hours on the computer and on the phone learning about the Lionheads and discovered that as early as the 1960’s there were reports of Lionheads appearing in litters along the French Belgium border. These were not Dwarf Angoras, but Lionheads. This was the first mutation in rabbits since the Satin fur gene became known. He is the author of one of the most wonderful informational books on the origins of domestic rabbits entitiled, Domestic Rabbits & Their Histories.
Bob introduced the Blanc D’Hotot, now known as Hotot, to the United States in July 1978. In October 1978, he presented 11 animals before the ARBA Standards Committee and in March 1979, the breed was accepted with the official Standard being printed in the Domestic Rabbits. It took only one presentation and less than 1 year to have a new breed accepted! Criteria have certainly changed since then for the acceptance of new breeds into the Standard of Perfection.
He was very active in the ARBA library and was served on the Library Committee. He was also an active member of the Rare Breed Association. His passion and newest imports were Dwarf Checkers, Colossals, and Giant Cavies that weigh about 20 pounds. He also bred the unique Enderby Island rabbits and other rare and unusual breeds. He operated Rare Bits & Pieces, a rabbitry specializing in endangered and new breeds from other countries. He was a founding member and current officer of the Thrianta Club. He was also instrumental in founding the Lop Club of America.
Other than rabbits, he had a special devotion to horticulture and collected plants from many lands in his world travels. At the time of his death, Bob was the Executive Director of the Botanical Gardens in Beaumont, Texas, and was writing for several periodicals, including the Rabbit council of New Zealand Newsletter, Fur and Feathers, and Domestic Rabbit. His research and writings will be read by many generations to come and his expertise in the rare and unusual will always be recognized and admired.
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