Chowmane Rabbitry
Joe Horacek (CA)

My family and I live in Antioch, Ca, a growing city located about 45 miles east of San Francisco where the San Joaquin River meets the San Francisco Bay.  After 15 years of restaurant management, I went back to school to get my teaching credential and am currently an instructional coach, working with other teachers in our district to improve student performance through good teacher instruction.  As any working parent knows, there is very little personal time in the day for hobbies, but I manage to carve out enough time to care for my rabbits...but usually just barely.

My rabbitry always seems to be evolving into something new and hopefully improved.  I started with a 6 hole stacker and a tarp, but currently, I have about 50 holes (ssshh....don't tell the neighbors!), in a mostly enclosed, covered area at the side of the house.  I have electricity to control the lighting, an automatic watering system, and J-feeders.  The buns are protected from direct sun, rain, and mostly from the wind (we do get some strong Delta Breezes!).  In the winter, temps can fall below freezing, but never far enough to freeze the water tubes...just the nationals litters born in the middle of the night!          

My biggest weather concern is the summer heat.  We spend most of the summer months (May-October) well above 95 and frequently as high as 115.  I do use fans and misters on the hottest days as well as a sprinkler on the roof to keep the temperature in the rabbitry below 95.  I joke that I'm breeding for a heat-resistant strain of lionheads.  I use automatic sprayers to keep the flies at bay (but never away) and feed the family's cats in the rabbitry to keep the rats out.  Other than that, I have been blessed with no other critter issues.

I acquired my first lionhead in the spring of 2003.  My sons wanted a 'hare' to go with the Sulcata Tortoise we had and my online searches generated a 'really cool' kind of rabbit that the boys decided they had to have.  We picked up Sake, from Diane Ricketson in the parking lot of JC Penny's.  Her pedigree had names like Statler's Miss Kitty and Hellenic Stud #43.  An F3, she was a product of some very early American Lionheads.           

The family was immediately in love, and drove up to Diane's house the following month to get Koda, another F3 from English Imports.  These two lived happily outside with the tortoise until that September when one morning, I looked out and there were 6 baby lionheads hopping around.  Koda and Sake had dug a tunnel and raised their first litter underground.  Believe me, it was no easy task trying to catch those little rascals either!

Clearly, from that story alone, I had never had rabbits before.  Lionheads are the first and only breed of rabbit I have owned, bred, or shown.  As a result, it probably took me a few extra generations to learn the hard way what experienced breeders already knew about culling, genetics, and husbandry.  There's still a lot I'd like to learn.

The first few years, breeding rabbits was really more about my kids and the 'miracle of life'.  I certainly had no plan for what I was doing.  Diane was always helpful, and in 2004 we got a cute little sable point buck, DJ's Fuji Bear, a grandson to Lindner's Wooly Bear, basis for the whole 'bear' line that Diane worked on.  He had much better type and mane than my first rabbits, and sparked my interest in breeding to show.  Once I got the 'bug', it was pretty much 'on' from that point.  A few mini-rex breeders I met at local shows became mentors to me and helped me form a plan.  I did purchase a black Netherland Dwarf buck with the intent to cross in and improve type and hindquarters, but he only produced a few litters, and I never kept any of the F1s.  I have only bred Lionhead to Lionhead since that time. 

I've always maintained that Lionhead breeders should stick with colors on the current COD.  That, however, has proven to be like hitting a moving target.  I have enjoyed working with black, black tort, sable point, Siamese sable, Seal and REW because they can all work together in the same barn.  I do have dilutes jump up on occasion, but pass them on to a local youth breeder who enjoys working with them.  Lately, it has been very difficult to put my Sable Points on the back burner while I focus on Seal and Siamese Sable.  It is definitely a favorite variety. 

In the spring of 2011, I was disappointed to learn that Seal would not be eligible to be shown at NALRC nationals.  As a result, I applied for a COD that would include that color with Siamese Sable and REW.  Nita Shannon was (crazy enough) willing to join me in the adventure, and I’m very grateful to her for the help she and Kaela have given.  We’re working to combine the best of both our herds and produce the correct coloring of Siamese and Seal so that we will be ready to present as early as 2013. 

9-20-11 TM