[Flynn's Lithium - BOB 2013 ARBA Convention]
A BRIEF HISTORY
My adventure in raising show rabbits started out in the early 1990s with New Zealands, the breed that both my father and grandfather had raised. From the beginning, I showed rabbits in both 4-H and ARBA competitions. Throughout my 4-H career, in an effort to expand my knowledge base, I worked with several different breeds in small numbers, including: Dutch, Havanas, Britannia Petites, Florida Whites, Jersey Woolies, English Spots, Silver Martens and Netherland Dwarfs.
Tans were the one "side project" breed that stuck and eventually became my main breed. While I did not have a large herd during my 4-H career, from the early 90s to today, Tans have remained a constant. My first Tans in the early 90s were mostly dilutes -- along with a few chocolates. It was not until the early 2000s that I purchased my first breeding pair of black Tans and in 2002 I produced my first black litter consisting of a single black doe. "Stella" was the first homegrown Tan I showed and she won Best in Show at the 2002 Indiana State Fair out of 1,200 rabbits under a true dream team of judges: Caleb Thomas, Mike Avesing and Glen Carr. I was immediately hooked.
As my 4-H career progressed, I was lucky to win multiple Best in Show wins with my New Zealands and Tans. After finishing my 4-H career, I reduced my New Zealands herd significantly and in 2008, the last of my New Zealands were sold and I officially turned my focus entirely to Tans. I maintained my herd throughout undergrad and law school, but showed sporadically.
During my second year of law school, I took my ARBA Judge's exam at the 2011 ARBA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I passed on my first attempt and in early 2012 I became ARBA Judge #920. That year was a really a turning point for my herd as I jumped back into showing and became much more active at the national level.
Currently my herd is almost exclusively blacks. I maintain a small number of chocolates. I am known to infrequently maintain a few dilutes. As of right now, I do not show very often locally but I always attend the National Tan Show in the spring and the ARBA Convention in the fall.
The surface color of a black tan should a uniform jet black carried deep toward the skin. Blacks are the most popular variety. The contrast between the sleek black coat and the tan factor really make this variety a standout and favorite amongst breeders.
Blacks are my specialty. I have spent a lot of years and energy working on my black herd. I am nationally competitive with my blacks. I have numerous class wins at Conventions and Nationals and consistently place at least in the top five in the large black classes. Over the years I have won many Best Four Class, Reserve in Show and Best in Show awards with my blacks.
Black National Wins:
2012 National Tan Show - BEST OF BREED, Best Display and Best Fur - Flynn's Songbird (junior doe)
2012 National Tan Show - 1st Place Black Jr. Buck - Flynn's Pieces of You
2013 National Tan Show - BEST BLACK and BEST OPPOSITE OF BREED - Flynn's Oh Love (senior buck)
2013 ARBA Convention - 1st Place Black Senior Doe and Best Senior - Flynn's Death Valley
2013 ARBA Convention - Best Fur - Flynn's Pretender (junior buck)
2014 National Tan Show - BEST OPPOSITE OF BREED - Flynn's Aurora (junior doe)
2014 National Tan Show - 1st Place Black Sr. Buck - Flynn's Pretender
2014 ARBA Convention - Best Fur - Flynn's Black Widow
2015 National Tan Show - 1st Place Black Sr. Doe - Flynn's Astoria
2015 ARBA Convention - Best Display and 1st Place Black Jr. Buck - Flynn's Budapest
2016 National Tan Show - 1st Place Black Sr. Buck - Flynn's Shameless
2016 ARBA Convention - BEST OF BREED - Flynn's Supersonic
2017 National Tan Show - 1st Place Black Senior Doe with Flynn's Kaleidoscope
2017 ARBA Convention - BEST BLACK and BEST OPPOSITE OF BREED and Best Display - Flynn's Aura (junior doe)
2017 ARBA Convention - BOSV Black - Flynn's Afire Love (junior buck)
2017 ARBA Convention - 1st Place Black Senior Doe - Flynn's Ibiza
2019 ARBA Convention - BOSV Black and 1st Place Black Junior Buck - Flynn's Slow Burn
*Numerous other class wins and top five class placings over the years
The blue surface color is described very simply as being "an even dark blue." Blues are more challenging than blacks and chocolates, but probably slightly less challenging than lilacs. In the past many blues had light, uneven blue color with frostiness. The quality of blues has recently been increasing quite steadily as several nationally competitive breeders have taken on this variety in hopes of improving it.
I have shown Blues very infrequently at the National level, but I have been competitive when doing so having won BOV/BOSV Blue at the ARBA National Convention and National Tan Show.
Blue National Wins:
2011 National Tan Show - BOSV with Flynn's MmmBop (junior doe)
2012 National Tan Show - BOSV with Flynn's This Love (junior doe)
2012 ARBA National Convention - BOV with Flynn's January Wedding (junior doe)
2016 National Tan Show - BOV with Flynn's Dissident (junior buck)
2016 ARBA National Convention - BOSV with Flynn's Avalanche (junior buck)
2019 ARBA Convention - Best Junior and 1st Place Junior Doe - Flynn's Miss Americana
The surface color of a chocolate Tan is described as a "uniform, deep, rich, dark, chocolate brown carried well down toward the skin with a dove-grey under color." Chocolates are currently the second most popular variety in the United States. Chocolates tend to have type and color nearly on par with blacks.
While I do produce chocolates out of my blacks, I do keep a small number of chocolates in production as well. By keeping my chocolate herd very small I am forced to cull hard, which has increased the quality of my herd.
I have won several Best in Shows with chocolates. I have only shown chocolates a few times at the national level. I won Best Chocolate in 2005 at the National Tan Show and Best of Breed at the 2013 ARBA National Convention.
Chocolate National Wins:
2005 National Tan Show - Best Chocolate
2013 ARBA Convention - BEST OF BREED - Flynn's Lithium (junior doe)
The surface color of a lilac Tan should be an even dove gray with a pink cast on tip of the hair shaft. While lilacs are beautiful, they are currently the least common variety in the United States. There are lilacs out there with fantastic type, color and markings. However, because the variety numbers are so small it is often difficult to find quality stock.
Additionally, by virtue of being diluted, lilacs also have lighter Tan factor than the blacks and chocolates. All Tans are held to the same standard for Tan factor, which results in an extra hurdle for the blues and lilacs to overcome.
I do not specialize in lilacs and in fact to date have only had a handful of lilacs appear in litters. I am happy to produce recommendations for other breeders. Lilacs need more dedicated, skilled breeders working on them.
THE TAN PERSONALITY
Tans are intelligent and friendly rabbits. They are a full arch breed and are evaluated by being allowed to move freely on the judging table. "Running breed" is a popular term, but I do not prefer it as I think this term confuses some breeders and judges alike. Tans are not evaluated on how well they move or do not move on the table. Rather, Tans are to be minimally handled and allowed to move naturally in order to evaluate their markings and type. An animal that moves well may be easier to evaluate, but what is important is that the animal is structured properly. There are no points allocated to movement. In fact, some of the most gifted Tan judges I know are excellent at paying equal attention to how a Tan is moving in the judging coops, or the holding coops behind the table, as they are to when the animal is moving up and down the table freely.
How Tans are evaluated is relevant to their personality as they are bred to be active on the show table. As a result, they are a very high strung and energetic breed. Even experienced handlers can and will get scratched. Tans love attention, but they are not cuddly and do not like to sit still or be held. Tans that are properly socialized and handled regularly should not be aggressive. As with any breed, does can become cage territorial once they hit breeding age. Overtly aggressive rabbits should be removed from the herd.
Often I am asked if Tans are appropriate for youth breeders. Unfortunately, that is not a question I can answer. I raised Tans successfully as a kid as many others have. I was also confident in my ability to handle my animals and experienced with rabbits. If you are unsure about the breed, begin to do whatever you can to interact with Tans before jumping in. Go to shows. Watch Tan judging. Talk to breeders. If you are a parent doing research, my biggest suggestion is to allow your child to guide the process. As a former youth breeder, I believe both my interest in the hobby and my success as a youth breeder was due to the fact that while supportive, the adults in my life expected me to do the bulk of the work -- from physical labor to researching and learning about the breeds I was interested in to contacting breeders and selecting my own stock.