I love rabbits, all breeds, all mixes really. But I had never thought much about Beveren rabbits. I had never seen one in person, and the photos online are, for the most part, unflattering. They flew under my radar completely for 15 years - until the last 6 months when I was making my "ARBA Rabbit Breeds" artwork. I shared a sketch in a facebook group, and was left a comment on the Beveren.
"Beveren ears are supposed to be carried in a V shape!"
I was hoping to get through this without offending someone. In 10 years of working with farmers, animal breeders and pet owners, I know how important those little details are, and I try to be consciously proactive when creating artwork like this. I fixed it. I learned something about Beveren, but didn't think that much of it.
A few months later, I was searching for a meat rabbit breed for our "mini homestead". I posted again in the group, searching for a breed that would meet the following criteria.
- A rabbit that grows fast with a good feed-to-meat ratio
- Ideally a "heritage" or Livestock Conservancy listed rabbit breed that could use another breeder
- Ideally a multi-purpose breed where rabbit pelts are useable
- Generally healthy, good mothers and good personalities as a breed
- Good foragers, scrap eaters and able to be pastured
- Fun colors are a plus
Same lady posts again. "Sent a PM for Beveren". Seriously dedicated advocate for her breed. She believed that Beveren would meet all my needs, and offered to get me started with a pair or trio at no cost, as the breed was desperately in need of people who would use them as meat rabbits.* [If you're wondering "in what world does eating animals of rare breeds help them become less endangered" stay tuned - I have a post brewing 😂].
So that all sounded great, but she was across the country, and the idea of Beveren seemed a world away. But the seed had been planted and I started to do more research. I began to really adore these big beautiful white, blue and black rabbits with such a place in history.
Fast forward to now - living communally with 5 people, plus an occasional toddler (#america2017) and we're trying to grow and raise as much as our food as possible. Dwarf rabbit tacos are perfect for two, but it becomes more of a garnish when you're feeding a party.
So, we take the toddler to a rabbit show to pick up a Harlequin rabbit, another rare (but not quite as rare) breed to cross to Jersey Woolies to make mid-sized meat rabbits. Just something to get started.
Nothing can ever be mid-sized anymore without this playing in my head.
We found Mardi of Trickster Hares (conveniently, she also raises Beveren) and pay for the Harlequin. She's cute, a little flighty but I'm happy. The toddler immediately has a visceral reaction to this rabbit, something along the lines of pure hatred. He doesn't like that bunny! He hates that bunny! Does NOT want that bunny!
Ooookay. Fine. To be fair, he's a kid so he hates a lot of things, and he was melting over Dwarf Hotots, so clearly we have some difference in taste and that's okay.
I was ready to hold my ground, but the Beveren. Reading about them was one thing, but seeing them in person was another. I figured it wasn't the right time, already having 2 breeds and limited space, but I just had to see. They were perfect. I had never felt such fur on a rabbit. They melted in your arms. Their personalities, even at the busy show, were curious and loving.
So, here's how you fall in love with Beveren.I'll spare you the 3 - 4 hours of us going back and forth on the Beveren, and what it would mean for our tiny rabbitry and homestead - you already know what happened. We brought home a breeding pair, and over the course of the next 3 days, I knew my decision was a good one. Head over heels. Can't stop staring at them. Can't stop petting their sweet magical heads. Everybody here is in love with them.
1. Those bright blue wise rabbit eyes that seem almost human.
2. The extra long, dense rolling fur that you won't want to stop petting (it also comes in black and light lavender blue)
3. Those fabulous v-shaped ears that quickly become familiar, since their curious little faces are always into something
4. The giant wild hare feet that propel them into adventureland - ridiculous twisty hops, up on the couch like a dog, let them roam and they will entertain you forever.
5. This view, since they're always falling out of their cages to say hello
6. This other view - the aftermath of their huge appetites for greens and fresh food (in this case, the offender was sweet potatoes)
7. The elegant, feminine does
8. The bold, roman-nosed bucks (also, adorably chubby cheeks)
9. How they follow you everywhere and nudge your ankles
10. The classic mandolin-shaped profiles that are a piece of living history. This "style" of rabbit was in vogue in the late 1800s through early 1900s when the breed was at its most popular.
The silhouette is both beautiful and functional - rabbits carry most of their meat in the hindquarters, and their long shape provides a good-sized pelt, two aspects that make Beveren an excellent "dual-purpose" breed (in contrast to the compact "commercial" style rabbits of today where fur is generally a by-product).
It's amazing to me that these genetics have been passed on for so many years, despite the trends both in rabbit shows and within our culture as we moved away from raising our own food - a threat to the existence of all animals carefully bred to thrive on small farms, rather than industrialized ones.
I am grateful these special rabbits have survived as we circle back again towards being more self-sufficient society, as we return to understanding of the true cost and value of the food we eat every day - be it a plant or an animal. These precious genetics were important to our survival in the past, and they are becoming important again now.
Cheers to the the rise of the stylish, the curious, the ever-hungry and almighty Beveren.
PS The toddler loves them, and they have been, by far, the most kid-friendly rabbits I've ever known.
*A big thank you to Jamie at JCL Rabbitry for shouting "Beveren" from the rooftops and getting them in front of people - it takes effort to reach out to people in that way, knowing that it may not lead to immediate change. But for every effort, they are that much less forgotten, and it makes a difference.
And another big thank you to Mardi at Trickster Hares for the same effort - and for kindly listening to our hours of questions about each and every one of your heritage breeds. And most importantly, for the years of hard work and love behind these beautiful magical bunnies.