Legendary Rabbitry
Nita Shannon (WA)

My name is Nita Shannon and I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest in the small town of Washougal, Washington ,with my husband, James, and our three daughters; Kaela, Kaleen and Anna. My husband is a bridge tender and I work at our local Credit Union as a Member Services Representative. We built our house 6 years ago on  5 acres and built a nice bunny barn a couple of years later. We have 7 ponies, 4 goats, 7 chickens, 6 cats, 2 dogs, a lizard and a few fish….oh and about 70 rabbits (and an incredible feed bill)!  We have fostered the occasional orphaned squirrel, Raccoon, chipmunk and deer.

We love the rabbit hobby! When we started this endeavor 6 years ago, I told the girls it would be only 7 rabbits and that’s all I would permit…Ha! That lasted maybe 2 months or until we had our first litter. As a family, we have thoroughly enjoyed the hobby of raising and showing Lionhead  rabbits. We have met amazing people and consider so many of our breeder friends as family.

I first became interested in the Lionhead breed by accident. We had  rescued a wayward Dutch rabbit that escaped its home somehow and talked about getting a few rabbits for the girls to raise. At that time, I was also interested in miniature horses and had acquired a few of them. I was on a yahoo group for Minis when a person posted about something and had a picture of a Lionhead  rabbit. I couldn’t believe how regal and beautiful this rabbit was. I started looking them up and soon had the bug! I needed to get some!  We have now been breeding and showing for 6 years. We also raise and show Holland Lops and Netherland Dwarfs.

Our original stock came from a few sources…I had a few brought back from California that were DJ’s lines and some from Canada from Wendy Morneu, and then I emailed Theresa Mueller of Pridelands.  We struck up a conversation about the miniature horses, and since she had a mare, we traded a breeding for, I think, it was 4 Lionheads. I loved the shaded variety right from the start, so we started out with Tort, Sable Point, REW, and a Black buck from Theresa. It wasn’t easy to find shaded rabbits back then and we were hoping to get Siamese Sable out of some of these breedings. With these first rabbits we didn’t really know what we were doing, but had some very helpful mentors with Theresa and Cheryl and also Jason and Kadie Foss. They would spend time with us at the shows to show us what a good full hindquarter felt like, and where the head mount should be. 

 I researched other breeder websites to see what the Lionheads looked like over all and picked a few breeders that I LOVED the look of their rabbits and so would watch their websites most. We lost our Black Pridelands Buck the first year because he didn’t take the move very well to our new house, and I think I was over feeding the Calf Manna. So at that time we needed to find a good buck and I liked what I saw at Bastets (Dawn Guth). My sister-in-law (Hillsong rabbitry) and I bid on a buck Dawn had donated to the Lionhead Nationals, but he went too high and we were not able to get him.  Dawn took pity on us and sold us a young buck named Bastets Ordo. He was a fluff ball, but this is where a new breeder should really listen to the experienced breeder. Dawn knew what I was looking for and new that this buck had the genetics to help me out. Line breeding Ordo to our Pridelands does worked best for us, and those lines really clicked well together. Since then we have used Netherland dwarfs to bring in Red for Red Lionheads. Next to Siamese Sable, Red is my favorite color.

I think the hardest part in the beginning was to be consistent. Since we were learning, it was hit and miss…and a lot of miss…LOL. We did learn from other breeders to focus on one thing at a time, and work on that for a year ~ then when that trait gets fixed work on another part. Using that method has worked well to keep us focused. Mane was also one of the hardest parts to work on. It seems like if you work too hard in one area, you lose something in another area. We worked so hard on mane that we lost that beautiful roll back saddle coat. We have since been working on getting the roll back  coat and it has been a success for the most part.

When asked about major changes I have seen in this breed from the earlier years, my response would be size!  We had some big honkin’ ones in the beginning. I think the biggest change has been in consistency.  Lionheads generally on the show table these days are looking very consistent and have very good type.  Competition has upped its game. LOL there are so many good breeders out there now that its almost a crap shoot as to who will win. I really love this because it can only make the breed that much better with so many getting such nice rabbits.

I think there were two rabbits that made the biggest impact on us. One was a Tort doe named Pridelands Coconut, the other was Bastets Ordo. The breeding of these two rabbits gave us Legendary Shakespear & Legendary Ashley and we bred her back to her father and got Legendary Curly and Legendary White Out. Curly and Whiteout have been the corner stone of all the rest that came later.

I was amazed and honored that Joe asked me to join him on his COD. I will be sending rabbits down to him and visa versa so we can incorporate our lines together. Our focus is that when the COV comes to us we will be ready.

I really believe this breed will be a recognized breed in 2012…I see it only going up from there. I would love to be there when they pass the third presentation. Can you imagine the party there will be that night! LOL ~ Nita

9/20/11 TM