The American is a beautiful and distinctive type of rabbit, originally raised for the purpose of meat and fur. Once known as the German Blue, the uniquely blue-gray variety was renamed the American Blue following WWI, for obvious reasons. Of course, even when he was known as the German Blue, this beautiful bunny was American-made – originally getting his start in Pasadena, California, the American Blue was developed by Lewis H. Salisbury as early as 1917. A few years later, in 1925, the American White variety would also be introduced. With their uniquely mandolin-shaped bodies and docile temperaments, they made for an ideal multi-purpose rabbit – bunnies made for charming and beautiful pets, while the adults reproduced quickly and had few genetic problems. Combined with the fact that they yielded a good amount of meat, despite having a smaller body than the large and lanky Flemish Giant, they quickly gained popularity throughout North America.
The American is the result of selectively breeding 3 different breeds of rabbits – the Flemish Giant, the Imperial and the Vienna. His unique mandolin-shaped form, low over the shoulders and then arching up over well-muscled hindquarters, is most likely gained from his Flemish Giant ancestry, another breed which still holds a degree of popularity amongst rabbit fanciers. Sadly, however, the Blue Imperial rabbit has since been lost to extinction and the Vienna Blue can no longer found in the United States. Even more disturbing is that the American breed of rabbit has also been given a “critical” rating, for extinction; More popular meat and fur breeds, such as the Californian and New Zealand varieties, have taken his top-ranking position in the industry, while smaller pet rabbits such as the Holland Lop and Netherland Dwarf have ousted the American’s standing as an all-American backyard bunny. The end result is that fewer and fewer breeders have been raising American rabbits and it is only through the dedication and hard work of a small handful of breeders, that this American heritage animal remains in existence.
American rabbits were originally intended for use as a meat and fur rabbit and his body type reflects this. As seniors, or adults, bucks should weigh no less than 9 pounds, while does should weigh 10 pounds upon maturity. They have a long mandolin-shaped frame with the topline beginning just after the low shoulders and rising up high over a well-arched hindquarter. The American’s loin should be wide and meaty, full clear down to the table when properly posed. Dewlaps are common on does with skirts favored on both sexes.
The American comes in two varieties – the American Blue (said to be the bluest-colored of all rabbits) and the American White (sometimes mistaken for the New Zealand White by inexperienced people). Blues should have blue/slate colored eyes and dark nails, while Whites have ruby eyes and white toenails. Occasionally, frosted bunnies can crop up in the bloodline, but they are considered to be a color fault and should not be used for breeding or exhibition (though they make beautiful pet rabbits).
For more information on this fascinating and historical breed, please inquire at your local cooperative extension office, visit your local library, or contact the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association (ARBA) and the American Blue & White Rabbit Club.