The History of the Giant Chinchilla
The following information was obtained by talking with older members of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, most of them Judges, from back in the early 1940’s , with a couple back in the late 30’s, what I have read in a book copyrighted in 1926 and Second Edition Revised in 1929, authored by none other than Mr. Edward H. Stahl, the developer of the GIANT CHINCHILLA. The name of the book is CHINCHILLA RABBITS-Standard, Heavyweight, and Giant,-The Fur Rabbit De Lux. I also now have almost every standard from 1929 through 2015. What I don’t have I could get through Eric Stewart.
I will start by giving the weights and fur type of the three Chinchilla breeds for 1929. Standard-Does 6 to7 pounds; Bucks 5 ½ to 6 ½ pounds. The hairs to be about one inch long and very dense. Heavyweight-Ten pounds for Does; Nine pounds for Bucks. Fur on the body to be at least one inch in length, very dense and of fine texture. Giant-To be large, well built and proportioned; Does to weigh 11 pounds, Bucks 10 pounds; disqualify for one pound over or under weight in mature specimens. Under the WEIGHTS FOR REGISTRATION it states Does, 11 pounds; Bucks, 10 pounds; one pound over or under these weights disqualifies. In the FUR CONDITION section it states-Very rich in undercolor, free from moult, about one inch long. In the FUR COLOR section it states-To be uniform throughout, first ring color at the root of the hair to be slate blue. Second ring color (the middle color) light pearl gray. Third ring color a dark colored stripe hardly visible. Hair tips black and white, the more wave like shaded the fur, the more valuable it will be, waves to run well forward and down the sides of body. Belly undercolor, white or blue. This pertains to the color next to skin, the outer color to be white. There is a little footnote at the end of the Standard stating; “Fur and color receive 50 points, being a fur rabbit, these two sections are most important.
Over the years we have been led to believe that the “Million Dollar Princess” was a large rabbit weighing in at 14 ¾ pounds when she was about (I am guessing here) 10 to 11 months old. Yet Mr. Stahl’s history of the Giant Chinchilla, under the “WHAT SIZE IS WANTED” section states “For an ideal meat producing rabbit, we do not want one that is too large. It is proven fact that the rabbits that weigh from nine to eleven pounds at maturity have generally been accepted as the ideal meat producing rabbit. Therefore, it would be advisable to make the Chinchilla Giant not over eleven pounds, and to disqualify them when they reach over twelve pounds.” That is an accepted fact to this day. Check the weights of the so called Commercial Breeds in our present Standard of Perfection.
When I first started raising Giant Chinchillas, around 1968-69, and showed them for the first time a young popular Judge stated; “Why are you messing with these? The whole breed is nothing but junk. I have never seen one that came close to the Standard. And unless someone works a long time with them I probably never will see a good one. You have some good animals in the other two breeds you show, don’t bother with these.” At that time I did have some of the best Tort Dutch and was the first Tort breeder in several hundred miles area to have a Tort Dutch junior buck to go Best Opposite Sex of breed. I sold him at that show for an outrageous price. He later was Best Of Breed a couple of times. After that my Torts went to pot. I also showed Checked Giants and did some winning with some tough competition. But the die had been cast, that Judge presented me a CHALLENGE, and I am still working to raise a Giant Chinchilla that comes as close as possible to the Standard of Perfection. I have had a lot of hurdles to cross to get to where I am at now. Still a long way to go, but with each breeding I can see a great improvement. I have not yet seen a Giant Chinchilla worthy of a Best In Show, PER THE STANDARD OF PERFECTION. I capitalized, as there has been a couple that were picked as Best in Show. This goes to show that the Judges don’t really judge according to the Giant Chinchilla Standard. It is up to the Giant Chinchilla Breeders to educate the Judges. As a Licensed Judge I CAN NOT voice my opinion, unless the Judge ask for my opinion of their judging, then I can let them have it. As several Judges found out I am not afraid to unload on them. Made them a little better Giant Chinchilla Judges.
By talking with the older members of the American Rabbit Breeders Association I found, up to the early to middle 1940’s the Giant Chinchilla was a very outstanding rabbit, winning Best in Show many times or being right up there in contention. It was about that time that other members of the Chinchilla Giant Association took control and tried to make it the large rabbit of the Flemish size. Instead of breeding the rabbit to fit the Standard, they changed the Standard to fit the rabbit. Breeding Light Gray Flemish Giants into the Giant Chinchilla. A well know Flemish Breeder from New York, stated he had sold several Light Gray Flemish Bucks and Does to an officer of the Giant Chinchilla Association. There were other breeders doing the same. And that is when the Giant Chinchilla started to lose its standing in the rabbit world. By breeding the Light Grays into the Chins, the weight had to be raised for the 1944 Standard from Does being 11 pounds to 11 pounds and up; Bucks was raised to10 ½ pounds and up and it changed the fur from a FLYBACK to a ROLLBACK TYPE, but they did not change the standard. At about that time is when the length and surface color started to change. The surface color went from a wavy color to a salt and pepper color ( or an even ticking over the whole body), which is what the Light Gray Flemish requires. It was left at one inch long which was still a FLYBACK length. In the 1947 Standard the weights were raised to-Does 12 pounds and up, with Bucks 11 pounds and up. No top weight. At the same time Heavyweight Chinchillas were raising their weights also. The length of fur was left at one inch.
The 1950 Standard was changed to what it basically is today. The note “This breed is to be judged primarily for its commercial value, its meat production qualities to be given first consideration”, was added. The weights were raised; Minimum weight of Senior Does, 13 pounds, top weight of 16 pounds. Minimum weight of Senior Bucks, 12 pounds, top weight of 15 pounds. Ideal weights: Does 14 to 15 pounds; Bucks 13 to 14 pounds. Some additional DQ’s were added, such as extremely short or long body. The long body coming from the Flemish Giants. Length of fur was changed to1 1/8 inches, with the statement “Fur Structure, Quality, and condition to conform with the A.R.& C.B.A., Inc., Fur Standard. This statement says it must be a Flyback Type fur, but with the extra 1/8 of an inch, starts it into a RollBack Type fur.
At This Point I Would Like to Say (Bite My Tongue) There Very Possibly Has Not Been A Good Pure Breed Giant Chinchilla Sold Since 1944. Breeders have been breeding other breeds into the SO Called Giant Chinchillas trying to get the fur shorter and with Flyback and the wavy color back. MYSELF INCLUDED. That is why breeders are still getting whites in the litters. White undercolor next to the skin, which is a DQ, and a white toenail, every once in a while.
In the 1956 Standard the weights were left as was, but the length of the fur was changed to 1 1/8 to 1 ¼ inches. With the statement changed to read “The fur should conform with the A.R.B.A., Inc., Fur Standard. Here again the last statement calls for a Flyback Type Fur, but the length makes it a Rollback Type of fur.
In the 1966 Standard, salt and pepper appearance (even ticking) was added as a FAULT. And the following were added as DQ’s-brown or yellowish under-color; dirty brown tinge in the light ring color; yellow nape in the neck. The fault and DQ’s came from the Light Gray Flemish Giants that had some Sandy Flemish Giants bred into them. To this day Giant Chinchilla breeders are having problems with the salt and pepper appearance, surface color.
In the early 1970’s the American Rabbit Breeders Association advised all Specialty Clubs to put their Standards into a certain format, which is being used to this day in the Standard of Perfection. Then Giant Chinchilla President Al Butler appointed me to do the deed and have it ready for the 1975 edition of the Standard of Perfection. It had to be presented to the members of the Specialty Club, with their approval, before being sent on to the Standards Committee Chairperson. After many phone calls with Al and Charles Meyers, than Chair of the Standards Committee, it was presented to the membership. The only change that was made to the Standard was “Body to be medium length….” This was suggested by the Standards Committee with the suggestion “If the Association didn’t make the change, the Committee would “. When I was changing the format, with the suggestions of Mr. Meyer, we tried to get the membership to make a few changes to the Standard. But no deal.
In the late 1970’s I had a nice Giant Chinchilla Doe, at that time as far as I knew she was pure Giant Chinchilla. I showed her and won Best of Breed as a Giant Chinchilla. On a dare from a couple of Flemish Giant Breeders I also entered her as a Light Gray Flemish Giant in the same show. As it turned out the same Judge judged both breeds. When he placed her first in the class of several Light Grays, and then made her Best Light Gray, he made the statement “This is the first I have ever seen a rabbit win in two different breeds. To do that, one of the Standards is messed up.” Since that show I have made it my mission to get the Standard of the Giant Chinchilla changed so that it is the only breed fitting our Standard. I have gotten the Association to make a few changes and there is one more I hope to get made. There are several well known Giant Chinchilla Breeders who keep saying “Let’s Keep the Giant Chinchilla as Mr. Stahl made it, do not make these changes.” I hope with this article, and others published in this Guide Book, they will see that the wrong changes were made a good many years ago. And as I have said elsewhere in this article “Changes have been made to make the Standard fit the rabbit instead of making the Breeders breed the Rabbit to fit the Standard.”
Carl W. Filliater