THE ASTREX RABBIT
See a super short clip of our Astrex Babies (with balding sibling) here:
The Curly Coat:
11 days old
11 days old, comparing the two black kits from the litter
16 days old
The Curly Coat:
Astrex rabbits have curly, wavy fur. In the USA, they are not yet recognized by ARBA as it is considered a coat type, and is not yet specific to a breed.
However, the British Rabbit Council's Standard Book still has an active standard for the Astrex Rabbit as a breed.
The British Harlequin rabbit club added the curly Astrex coat type as a third fur variety in 1946.
Astrex rabbits are much like Bashkir Curly (or American Curly) Horses. Some lose their curl for awhile, some in a season, some lose it entirely -- and yet others keep their curly coats for a lifetime.
Raising Astrex can be as challenging as it is rewarding. It isn't for everybody. But when are the best things in life ever easy?
Proud Mama and kits
The 'Astrex rabbit' is any breed or variety of rabbit that displays curly or wavy textured fur - similar to that of a Teddy Guinea Pig (cavy), a poodle dog, or a Rex rat, or an Astrex mouse.
Above: Sebastian x Magic Cookie Bar's kits
Babies are growing! Love that curl coming in
FAQ about Astrex:
Q: Aren't Astrex just rex rabbits with curl that sheds out at adulthood?
A: It's true that many curly coated kits shed their curls and look like regular rabbits. It's also true that curly coats happen often with rex. However, a look around the Internet shows everything from Polish to Flemish Giants with curly coats; so curls aren't contained to Rex & Mini Rex.
COMPARING CURLY COATS TO MINI REX COATS
Some comparison photos to share.
NOTE: the curly adult is not what we would consider an ideal Astrex, but it is one of our curliest adult does at this time. If you look into other lines that have been established for many more years and many more generations of curly x curly breedings, the results are more impressive. However, this is also a good example of how long a project this can be. Selectively breeding for curly coats cannot be done overnight, or in a summer. It could be decades before you achieve curl, wave, and ripple on a consistent basis in the adults' coats.
Compare a closeup: the broken black (the white and black colored rabbit) is a Mini Rex with a good mini rex coat. The adult blue colored rabbit is a mediocre curly animal, but you can still see that her fur is not the velvety smooth of a mini rex.
(Inverted image to help show the definition of the coats)
Look at the waves in the kit's coat! You can also see better the fur on the blue doe; big curls at her nape under her ears, and her entire coat has tiny little curls all over.
Q: I have an Astrex litter/baby rabbit going bald. What do I do?
A: If they are healthy, then things are probably fine. It isn't uncommon for some kits to molt part or even all of their fur. They generally grow it back even curlier than before. However, some kits can also inherit the furless (also known as hairless) gene. Time will tell which gene your kit is expressing.
Fur loss in this Astrex kit is not a cause for concern.
Q: Are Astrex as soft as Mini Rex?
A: Remember that the term "Astrex" refers to the COAT TYPE - not necessarily a 'breed'. So the curly, lamb-like coat can be found in ANY breed (we've recently seen some nice lops with Astrex fur) so whatever breed the rabbit is - that's the traits they'll have. They just happen to have curly fur.
In regards to Rex & Mini Rex, curly coated lines from these breeds generally have luxuriously soft curls.
Q: How big do Astrex get?
A: That depends entirely upon the breed (or breeds if a mixed animal) makeup - remember that "Astrex" refers to a fur type, not a breed in itself in the USA.
(The UK does recognize them).
Q: Can an Astrex rabbit be shown?
A: Youth 4H classes almost always have "Pet" or "Specialty" classes that allow for animals not yet recognized OR for 4H breed projects, to be shown and compete for winnings.
Breed projects are SO MUCH fun to see - the 4H'er decides they want to create a breed, or go for a specific 'type' and they work that year or several years to produce what they've outlined for themselves.
But as for the ARBA - the Astrex is not recognized, although as a sidenote, Harlequin rabbits originally imported with an Astrex option for their coat (again, like Teddy Guinea pigs or rex rats here) - but the ARBA decided to drop that fur type and stick to the color versions of the rabbit breed instead.
Q: How do Astrex handle hot and cold temperatures?
A: As mentioned, Astrex is just a coat type not a breed - so they handle the heat and the cold as well as any rabbit, and as well as the breed of rabbits they belong to.
Q: At what age do they start showing curly fur?
A: As soon as their fur starts coming in, just as their eyes start to open.
Some thoughts about Astrex Rabbits
I am often asked if Astrex are an ‘easy breed’ to raise.
Is it easy to raise and produce good, lasting curl/wave/ripple you can count on?
The answer at this time is no. At one time, this was not the case. But today, there are a few big problems with Astrex:
1: Stock is spread out, of differing quality, and can be difficult to find.
2: Like Rex cats, there are different types of curl.
3: When stock is found, there is often no local unrelated pool to breed the animals to.
4: It seems that few know what Astrex are or they are known by another name entirely.
These problems CAN however, be remedied, in theory at least. Case in point: A few years ago, I read about a study done at the Texas A & M University, where they took a hairless buck rabbit and bred him to a herd of does. A month later, they had more than 100 of his progeny. They took those kits and paired half-brother to half-sister matings, and 1 out 4 kits out of these breedings was hairless. (http://users.tamuk.edu/kfsdl00/rabb.html)
Thanks to this study, there is a good base of stock for hairless rabbits now, and this was completed in a short amount of time.
In regards to Astrex rabbits, there are curly furred, wavy furred, and ripple furred rabbits, which is similar to Rex cats in that there could easily be different types classified within the coat type. And to add to the difficulty; while some kits shed out their fur and grow it back with more curl, ripple, or wave than ever as they age, some lose it entirely and appear like your average rabbit.
However, these kits can throw some of the nicest Astrex offspring you’ll ever see.
Because the Astrex are not yet consistent in these areas, it would be ideal to replicate what the University did for the Hairless breed. Take a good curly buck, a good ripple buck, or a good wavy buck and breed him to a number of does. Then take those offspring and mate them together with their half-siblings, or the daughters back to their sire. You’ll end up with a similar curl type in the offspring, and in theory, could work on perfecting it and having it one day accepted into ARBA. In theory.
Now in my experience and from other accounts that have been shared with me, two completely normal looking parents, even from pedigreed show stock can throw a curly litter, to the owner’s surprise. Just like new color mutations can pop up out of blue, just like the hairless mutation popped up in a buck kit that ended up being loaned to the University; these things occur naturally.
A curly animal will almost always throw curlies in the litter, even when bred to an animal that has no recorded Astrex in the pedigree. The kits may or may not keep the curl into adulthood. What most of us don’t have the resources to do is raise an entire litter until they get their adult curly coats, keep the best of them to linebreed and cross to and unless you happen to have a neighbor with an unrelated set of animals, at some point you’re going to become frustrated with your limitations.
My recommendation is to team up. Start an Astrex club, and to do that, you have to let people know what Astrex coated rabbits even are. Some have heard of them; some haven’t, and others have been culling them out of their show litters for years because it isn’t (or in the case of the Harlequin breed, is no longer) an ARBA breed standard accepted coat type .
Once you find others interested in the coat type, have a good buck available for stud and have your club members keep the best of his daughters and sons to set up breedings with.
Unless you can obtain other good curly stock, you will at some point end up introducing & outcrossing rabbits that aren’t curly just to keep the line from being inbred in the extreme. Rex and Harlequin types show up with curly stock fairly frequently, and it’s not a bad gamble to use that stock. But there have also been Polish, New Zealand, Lops, and even curly angoras.
To further muddy things up, Astrex coats are not always known by the term ‘Astrex’. Many Astrex keepers stumble upon a breeder keeping ‘curly bunnies’ – just someone who raises cute pets for their kids. This is fine, but this is exactly why it is so hard to find Astrex coated rabbits when you are looking for one.
Some points of interest: In the UK, the British Rabbit Council has a “Rough” coated Rex -- a rex rabbit with curly fur (http://www.thebunnybarn.co.uk/2.html) and it seems there is some debate that the proper breed name is “Rough Rex Opossum”. *To lend credence to the latter being a seperate breed, see this page:http://wildlife1.wildlifeinformation.org/S/0MLagomorph/Leporidae/Oryctolagus/Oryctolagus_cuniculus/Img_O_cuniculus_dom/BRC71-80p08_Rex_Rough_Coated_Opossum.htm
And yet another lists the following:
If you can imagine it, the Opossum Rex rabbit looks just like a wooly lamb, only with long ears. They have coats of rexed angora. The rexing of the angora hair shaft results in very wavy wool that is around 1 1/2 inches long. The head is not wooled, and is darker in color as is usual for angoras. The BRC recognizes the Opossum Rex, where they should weigh 6-8 pounds (2.72-3.63 kg). The breed is not recognized in the USA, and is extremely rare in Europe and the UK.
This source states the Opossum rex was created in 1925, and the Astrex in 1931:http://www.examiner.com/rabbits-in-national/the-rex-rabbit-breed
And if anyone can translate this one for me I’d be most appreciative:
Okay, now that you’re thoroughly blizted by the linkage, let me pull you back in by stating; there sure be some curly bunnies out there!
As my friend says and I believe; Astrex are not as rare as we think; summer 2011 a friend snagged a curly harlie colored lionhead kit for $5 at a flea market. $5!!! I’ve received a few messages from breeders telling me they cull out the curly kits and even the parents that throw the curly kits – one firmly told me they don’t even let them out of the barn as a pet sale – they don’t want them in circulation. Each to their own, as they say.
Makes one wonder just how many are being produced and perhaps just not utilized for breeding.
Be that all as it may, it seems to be that if you know what they are and you’re looking for them, Murphy's Law says you’ll have a heck of a time getting ahold of them. But for those of you who are still interested in preserving and building up this coat type; don’t despair! I’ve heard of astrex found at yard sales, at flea markets, and in ARBA rabbit meetings where a breeder finds the kits too cute to cull but doesn’t want them because they aren’t showable.
Just keep your eyes peeled, and network like crazy. I do believe that with enough of us out there trying, we’ll get the Astrex where we want them to be.