WON THIS FAMILY’S AFFECTION!
From Rabbits Magazine, April, 1979
Reprinted from the CRBA Official Guide Book, 1987
“In the spring of 1962, my mother-in-law gave each of our two children a young Chinchilla doe. About all I knew about rabbits then was that they had long ears and four feet and ate hay,” began Ellis Houseman’s article in the Wisconsin Rabbit Breeders’ Association newsletter. In the article, Houseman related the evolution of the Cinnamon rabbit.
A New Zealand White buck was the next addition to the Houseman rabbitry (located in Missoula, Montana). Soon there was a litter of Chinchilla-New Zealand crossbred bunnies. Houseman knew the crossbred rabbits should be butchered, but his daughter Belle convinced him to let her keep one buck as a pet.
Belle and her brother Fred became interested in raising meat rabbits. Houseman said he had no objection as long as the rabbits paid their way. The kids became active in 4-H and used the rabbits as their project. “They consistently made more money on their rabbits that most kids were making on beef and swine projects,” Houseman wrote. Occasionally, people with unwanted rabbits would contact the Housemans, and so they soon acquired a Checkered Giant—Californian crossbred doe.
First Cinnamons Appear — This doe and the Chinchilla-New Zealand buck were mated. Every litter they produced had at least one cinnamon- or rust-colored rabbit. By this time, Houseman was firm in his resolve not to let the children keep any more crossbred rabbits—he insisted they were to be used for meat. “Our goal is to get rid of the crossbred rabbits and get into purebred show animals,” he told them.
One day the crossbred mating produced a cinnamon-colored doe and buck in the same litter. Young Fred dearly wanted to keep the two rabbits. Ten-year-old boys are known to have a way with fathers. As Ellis explained, a very happy young boy ran to the rabbit pens to tell his two cinnamon-colored friends that they weren’t going to be killed and would be his “forever and ever.” The poor rabbits probably never did figure out what the tear-stained face and sparkling eyes were all about!
The first litter those two cinnamons produced was 70 per cent cinnamon-colored. By this time, Dad had become interested in the “Cinnamons,” too. He began paying attention to them. “I had realized that there was a different sheen to the hair of a Cinnamon/Checkered-Californian doe but couldn’t decide what it was. Then I saw a Satin at a show and knew what the fur sheen was from. Somewhere, the doe had some Siamese Satin in her, too,” he said.
Houseman showed some of his Cinnamons to ARBA Judge Cyril Lowett. Lowett told him he thought the rabbit had possibilities and that it was unlike any other American breed.
Convention Comments Good — That’s all the Housemans needed. They took their Cinnamons to the ARBA Convention in Calgary for their first official showing. The Cinnamons received good comments from the Standard Committee.
Things became more complicated in 1970. Less than a month before the convention, the Cinnamons came down with a virus. Some of the best rabbits were lost. The rest had to be gotten back into condition for the convention in three weeks’ time.
On top of that, the family was not able to attend the convention that year, so the rabbits had to undergo the stress of being shipped by air freight. The Cinnamons were shown at that convention but not at their best.
Houseman said he learned from that experience. He now divides his show rabbits into two groups and keeps them in separate locations.
In 1971, a dog broke into the rabbitry and killed three Cinnamon does scheduled to go to that year’s convention in Albuquerque. Still, comments from that year’s convention were favorable, but the Cinnamons were not yet accepted into the Standard. Houseman attributed this to the poor showing they had the year before.
The drive back to the Housemans’ home in Missoula, Montana, after the Albuquerque show was catastrophic. Slick roads and a severe blizzard slowed them down. In the midst of the storm, they lost a wheel on the trailer. They were forced to put the rabbits in the truck and leave the trailer behind.
For awhile, Houseman said they thought the whole Cinnamon project was jinxed. But they didn’t give up! In 1972, at the ARBA Convention in Tacoma, Washington, the Cinnamons became a recognized breed.