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Nethies and Peanuts, Cross Breeding (long essay)


Warren Scout
Hey folks,
There are a few threads relating to this, so I thought I'd put in what I know on the subject.

Netherland Dwarfs and Peanuts.

Peanuts can result from breeding Netherland Dwarfs and in many cases Miniature Lops too. These days many Lionheads seen in the pet trade also may be capable of producing peanuts.

A peanut is generally the size and shape of a whole peanut. The youngster is always poorly formed and will die of dehydration and starvation after a few days due to a malformed soft pallet meaning it cannot suckle successfully. The record survival of a peanut was around 3 weeks, and that was with intensive nursing. The genetics behind the production of peanuts is very simple and they are easily avoidable by mating "good" Nethies with "big" Nethies.

The Genetics:

Your average rabbit will, within the locus for size/shape, have the genes dwdw. There is a mutation of this gene which is dominant and causes the Nethie shape, and that is Dw.

A Netherland Dwarf that you see on the show bench will have one of these mutated genes, and will be Dwdw. When you mate two of these rabbits together there are three possible outcomes:
dwdw - Norma or false dwarf (25%)
Dwdw - "True" dwarf (50%)
DwDw - Peanut (25%)

False dwarf kits from Nethie parents will often pass as true Nethies when being sold to the general public as decades of selecting for the cobbiest rabbits has resulted in a more rounded shape, hence the name false dwarf. Breeders often call these "big ones" or "big ugly ones".

Many breeders of Netherlands in these times will no longer carry out these matings. Instead they take a "big" doe from Nethie parents (she will carry the genes for good show Nethies) and a show buck and mate them together. This type of mating will give 50% normal and 50% true dwarf, a peanut free litter.

Cross Breeding

In most cases, cross breeding does not present an obvious problem.

Having said that, there is one cross mating that there is a particular problem with and this is the crossing of Lop breeds with normal breeds. Lop rabbits have a different shape of skull to normal rabbits, and that adorable "one ear up, one ear down" look in cross breeds is caused by a distortion of the skull which be a major cause of malocclusion. This is not something new, either - Darwin studied the subject and has drawn a diagram of an affected skull which you can see clearly shows the distortion:

The article can be found here:
If you are a biologist, genetisist or just interested then it is worth a read.

There are other similar cases where a cross is not a good idea at all. For instance, I once had a Swiss Fox doe who although long coated was very easy to look after. Brushing once a fortnight was fine most of the year and every other day during the spring moult. She escaped one day when my Satin buck (also easy to look after) was running around and it just happened that he carried the gene for long hair. I had not known this before the incident, but the appearence of a long haired baby shows this was the case. The resulting kit grew to be an amazing, beautiful animal who requires brushing at least every day and is still knotted, requiring clipping every summer to remove the accumulation of tangles. Both parents has easy coats - but just look at the offspring, an impossible coat.

Inherited diseases are also more avoidable in a breeding "program" which they are not in cross breeding. Rabbits with, say, malocclusion (a problem we are all familiar with) are capable of producing a kit with apparently normal teeth. If you then get this rabbit from a pet shop, how are you to know that its parents are diseased and that this rabbit will produce babies with this problem? You are not - so that whilst you may think you are breeding two perfectly healthy rabbits together you get malocclusion in the litter.

Inbreeding itself presents few problems in rabbit populations - take wild rabbits as an example. I cannot remember the figures, but a warren of rabbits may not see fresh blood for many years so that all breeding is in breeding and this does not cause problems. The problem is, in fact, recessively inherant disease which is "brought to the surface" through this inbreeding. After a point, those lines with disease will be obvious as will those without and the health of the population can be improved. This occurs in the wild too - those lines carrying deseases begin to die out as the disease begins to show.

In essence, the crossing of breeds may not be problematic if you know the line of both parents well and you are very familiar with the potential problems presented by each breed so that you can establish whether or not the mating is "safe". I would never recommend crossing Netherlands, any Lop breed or unusual coated breeds with any other breed.


I hope that was reasonably understandable. If you have any questions, just ask! I can go into a lot more detail on many of these topics.
People seemed to have heard different things about all of this so I thought I'd out in what I can. I wrote a lot on these topics for a couple of assigments when I was at uni in Manchester so I have a good idea of the facts on these topics :) not everything is fully understood yet though so there is only so much fact available :?
thanx for that :D but also mini rex can produce peanuts as when reducing the size they bred nethies into the rex
my friend had one in a mini rex litter and was just like an normal baby bunny except for it size but i think hers lived to 6 weeks but only the size of a 3 weeks old

Mini Rex in this country shouldn't have the dwarfing gene. They do in the States though. A Mini Rex with the dwarf gene in this country would get disqualified according to the breed standard. Some people do funny things though.

Sounds more like your friends rabbit had something else - peanuts don't look like normal rabbits - they are really deformed.
This is really interesting, especially the bit about Darwin studying skull differences. I didn't know about that. No wonder there are so many rabbits with teeth problems out there :?
Yes, I was amazed when I read it. I liked that article a lot and I have referenced it in many bits of work I have done. It just goes to show that these things are not a modern problem!
that was quite a good read! i found the bit about inbreeding interesting how inbreeding iself doesnt cause problems its only thru the passing on of bad genes , well i wudnt try n say it again but it was far to complicated!

i wudnt know wht todo if i had a peanut rabbit..i wudnt want it to live at all, let alone 3 weeks! itd b so cruel to watch it suffer!
Yes, I was somewhat baffled by someone nursing the poor thing. I would have thought it a better diea to have something a little more... humane... done with it. But there you go.
Agree - maybe it wasn't a breeder and they didn't know what a peanut was, or that it wouldn't survive. I mean, I'd never heard of a peanut til I read these posts today (very interesting thanks!) and it's not that I don't know about bunsters - it's that I don't know anything about breeding/babies.
this all comes down to scrupless breeders breeding and breeding to get what they want out of colour and shape, not caring about the consequences...these only come about when animals are over bred! but i guess its like all domesticated animal..cats and dog hav the same problems
Sorry to disagree but ive found that any breed of rabbit has the potential to have peanuts. They just need to be both carring the peanut gene. Ive bin breeding rabbits for ten years now and have come across this many times. Even cross breed rabbits bred to cross breeds can produce peanuts. Ive known one peanut to survive untill 12 wks. This was with an owner that refused point blank to give in.As i said in an ealier post i would and have done had them pts as soon as they were born. If you have a rabbit that carries the gene its not advisable to use again. But if put to a partner that dosent carry the gene you will get normal babys. This is a very old and well known problem in rabbit breeding, and steps are taken to stop further babys being born. I do not think it can be pinned to any particular breed as i said ive known many breeds that have come across this. It is however a good example of why you should know your rabbits background before embarking on breeding. The saying breeding like rabbits is a falacy initself. Anyone who has breed rabbits for a period of time will twll you there are so many problems you will come across that its untrue and has put a good few out of the fancy for good. It may look and sound easy but believe me its not. val
taylor v 109 said:
Sorry to disagree but ive found that any breed of rabbit has the potential to have peanuts.

Are they the same sort of thing, not just a runt caused by some other sort of growth problem? I have to say I have never come across this in any breed other than the Nethie but I may have been lucky over the years. I came across something superficially similar in a cross breed I was given - it was very small and clearly had problems and died at around 12 weeks. It was, in fact, a problem with the rabbits ability to take up calcium so it had skeletal and neurological problems.

Were they the same as Nethie peanuts, then? Unable to suckle, large head, tiny ears and feet, very see through skin? Because the Nethie gene definitely causes peanuts, although I am not ruling out something similar caused through other reasons.

How common are these runts? Because breeding dwarf x dwarf you are pretty much guaranteed one per litter.
sxfe_121 said:
this all comes down to scrupless breeders breeding and breeding to get what they want out of colour and shape, not caring about the consequences...these only come about when animals are over bred!

Depends what you mean by over bred really. You can have someone breeding the same line, as pets, for generations for completely different reasons to those breeding for the show table. In my experience these people are the less educated and that is where I believe the problem arises - people not understanding the potential problems they may be causing.

For several years I bred Blue Netherland Dwarfs for show. I never had any health problems with them, and just because I chose to let two similar looking rabbits have kits because I liked the colour and shape this isn't to say that other things did not come into consideration.

Selective breeding is overall of no consequence as it all balances. There are those cases where it is clearly a disadvantage to the animals produced (hairless, and similar types of animals) but there are also those cases where exceptionally healthy animals have been produced. There is a balance to be found in the development of a genetic line, I feel, as free-for-all mating achieves nothing and can be catastrophic.
BlackCat said:
Mini Rex in this country shouldn't have the dwarfing gene. They do in the States though. A Mini Rex with the dwarf gene in this country would get disqualified according to the breed standard. Some people do funny things though.

Sounds more like your friends rabbit had something else - peanuts don't look like normal rabbits - they are really deformed.

the mini were imported from the states into our country so theycarry the dwarf gene but some still use nethies thses days as the mini rex is still a fairly new breed.
Few of the ones I have seen on the show bench have been clearly dwarfed and the ones I used to have (Torts) certainly weren't. Are yours? Do you know how many other breeders might get peanuts?

As the standard states that Nethie features should be a DQ I thought that would keep the dwarf gene out. After all, it isn't necessary - just look at Polish rabbits!

Having said that, in the past few years I have seen an increasing number of MRs at shows which I would have DQd for the reason above, people seem to be letting that slip a bit.
My definition of a peanut is a baby born that is at least half if not more smaller than the rest. They tend to have small swellings on the top of the head whitch may be fluid, they are unable to suckle properly they look as if they lack the concentration to feed properly. They loose interrest very quickly. If you have a very patient doe they can carry on till about three wks as a rule they die quicker. Ive found they will accour in a lot of breeds and if two rabbits are breed that both carry the gene then you will get peanuts. Most will only have one but some more. If you change one of the rabbits you can avoid the peanuts but you will still get babys that may be carrying the gene. val
Weird. I must have been really lucky in avoiding that - over the years I have dabbled in Rex, Swiss Fox, Satin, Lionheads, Polish.
the most i had was a runt of the litter, which turned out to be the tamest of the lot, handled him from the start..