This animal has a very confusing name because first you think it is a fox, but then you find out it is a rabbit. And to make things more complicated, there really is a fox called a silver fox. But I'm not going to talk about foxes today. I am going to talk about rabbits.
The Silver Fox Rabbit is pretty much the same color as an arctic silver fox, and the coat has a coarse texture like a fox's coat. You might think that the Silver Fox Rabbit was invented by crossing a rabbit with a fox, but that's not how it happened, because foxes and rabbits cannot mate. And in fact, a fox is more likely to eat a rabbit than to mate with it.
So how the Silver Fox Rabbit really got started was that there was a man in Canton, Ohio, and his name was Walter B. Garland. He had a lot of experience with breeding rabbits and showing them and even with being a rabbit show judge. So he decided to make a breed of rabbit that would have beautiful fur and also lots of meat. No one knows for sure how Mr. Garland bred the first Silver Fox Rabbit, but probably he crossed a Checkered Giant with a Champagne D'Argents and maybe an American Blue. Then when he got baby bunnies that were what he wanted, he kept breeding them back to their parents until he finally had a whole line of Silver Fox Rabbits. But this whole process took about 14 years, starting in 1911.
The breed was first recognized in 1925 by the American Rabbit Breeders Association with the name American Heavyweight Silver. Then in 1929, the name got changed to American Silver Fox. At first there were two colors in the breed standard, blue and black. But in the 1970s, the blue color got dropped because nobody much was showing blue rabbits.
The Silver Fox is only the second rabbit breed to be invented in this country. The first breed was the American Blue. No other countries recognize American Silver Fox Rabbits. In Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., there is a breed called Silver Fox, but we call that kind of rabbit the Silver Marten.
Silver Fox Rabbits have very thick fur that is between 1.5 and 2 inches long. If you stroke the fur the wrong way, starting from the tail and going toward the head, the fur will stand up and it will stay standing up like that until you stroke it back down again. This is called the "no-fly-back feature," and Silver Foxes are the only rabbits that have it.
The does, which is what you call the females, can weigh up to 12 pounds, and the males up to 11. Silver Fox does have big litters, produce lots of milk, and are very good mothers. The babies are born solid black or solid blue, and then when they are about 4 weeks old, their fur starts to get silver highlights.
Silver Foxes have a lot of yummy meat on them, like 65% of their live weight, after they are dressed out. I am not telling you this just because I am a dog and I like eating rabbits, so don't yell at me! I am telling you this because Mr. Garland set out to make a rabbit breed that would be good to eat, as well as having a very pretty coat that you can make coat collars and stuff out of. He was successful in doing these things, and that is why I am telling you how much meat is on a Silver Fox Rabbit.
The temperament of these rabbits is very gentle, and they have been called the Teddy Bear of the commercial type of rabbits. It's easy to handle them, and they like attention, so they are a good choice for 4H members and other kids to raise.
Sadly, the Silver Fox is one of the rarest rabbit breeds in America. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy says it is CRITICALLY ENDANGERED because there are only about 200 registered in the U.S. and fewer than 2,000 in the whole world.
So if you are wanting to grow some rabbits of your very own, either as pets or to eat or for their pretty fur, you might want to get some Silver Fox Rabbits. Of course, when I asked Mom if we could have some, she said no, as usual. But maybe the rest of you will have better luck asking your moms!