Description: The entire length of the spine is marked with a herring-bone pattern. The saddle, as this line is called, should run from the base of the ears, along the full length of the rabbit and onto the top side of the tail. Faults here include blotchy marking, thin and undefined herring-bone, broken saddle, and a mixture of white hairs contained within the saddle color.
The English, like the Dutch, is very popular. It is also one of the oldest fancy breeds, In 1849 a description was published of a rabbit that would seem to be an early English. The description was contained in A complete directory for the proper treatment, breeding, feeding and management of all kinds of domestic poultry, pigeons, rabbits, etc. The most interesting feature of this description referred to the “butterfly smut and chain spots,” although the breed was not actually termed the English at the time. As its name, implies the English is purely an English breed. For some time the English was kept by the majority of British fanciers because of its novelty. After a boom from 1855 to 1860, nothing was heard of the breed until about 1880.
At that time only the black color was known; a few years later tortoiseshells appeared followed by blues, grays and chocolates. Today all these colors are seen at almost every big show.
The English is basically a white rabbit with black markings. The black ears are held erect, about four inches in length. Any white hairs or patches are a fault. The eyes are encircled with black, giving the rabbit a spectacled look. A common fault in the eye circle is that it is too heavy and ragged in appearance. To complete the head markings, there is a butterfly smut covering the whole nose. This should be solid black in color and shaped to resemble the outline of a butterfly. Any white markings here are a fault. Just below the eye, on either side of the face, there should be a small black spot. Unfortunately this spot often runs into the eye circle or is so lightly marked as to be almost unnoticeable.
An English spot rabbit. The eye circles must not touch any other spot on the cheek.
The most elusive characteristic of the English rabbit is the chain of spots running along each side of the flanks. The chain begins in small spots at either side of the neck and runs in a curve down to the sides of the belly where the spots gradually increase in size and continue over the haunches. The greatest number of faults occur in the spots forming the chain; too heavy is as bad as too light, too many is as bad as too few, often the chain is completely broken. Although each limb should also carry a distinct spot, those on the front limbs are more highly prized. The sweep of the chain gives the English a very graceful look. But if the type is bad, the pleasing qualities of the markings are lost. The belly of the English rabbit has teat spots. These should consist of six clear and distinct spots.
The rabbit should almost lie on the table, just keeping the belly clear of the surface, the back arched and the loins well rounded.
The English is one of the more difficult breeds to rear to perfection. In an average litter there are about 50 percent marked young, 25 percent self blacks and 25 percent charlies. The charlie English is really an incompletely marked rabbit. Instead of a full butterfly smut, there is only a small moustache, the ears are colored but the rest of the markings are either completely missing or so light as to be indiscernible.
The genetics of the English rabbit is fascinating as it is heterozygous. Thus it cannot breed true to type. When breeding the English, if the well-marked rabbit is mated to a charlie the chances of producing well-marked youngsters increases. In some cases 100 percent success has been achieved. If charlies are mated together, only charlies are produced. Two self English will only produce selfs if mated together.
The attractive pattern of the English rabbit’s coat has been used for fur craft. Usually the product is only a novelty, but the quality of the fur is excellent. Because of its size, the English can also be used for meat production. The meat has a low offal content and the young English grows very fast and makes a presentable carcass for frying purposes. In the United States this breed is known as the English Spot.