Description: The original color of the silver was silver gray. While controversy surrounds its origin, the silver was probably brought to the Western world by the early Portuguese sailors from Siam or India. A conflicting report indicates that silver grays appeared in litters of wild rabbits in Lincolnshire, England. These rabbits were known by a variety of names including Lincolnshire spriggs, millers, or Lincolnshire silver grays.
The first silver grays were used extensively for their meat and fur and a thriving industry sprang up in England in the early 1840’s.
The silver gray is different from other breeds of rabbit in both texture and color of coat. The coat is black with a blue-black undercolor, evenly interspersed with silver-white guard hairs. The silvering results from the loss of pigmentation in the secondary guard hairs. The silvering provides a beautiful, sparkling appearance that makes a very attractive rabbit.
Following the silver gray, the silver fawn made its appearance in England. The silver fawn was originally a foreign breed belonging to the same family as the argente creme. It was known in France for some time before English fanciers became aware of it. The first silver fawns came from a litter of silver gray. After much experimentation, the color was perfected and became very popular as a fancy rabbit.
The third color of the silver is silver brown, produced by crossing the silver gray with the Belgian hare. This was reportedly accomplished by a fancier from Kettering in Northampton, England. The significance of the discovery was immediately recognized and the silver brown was nursed until it reached a satisfactory depth of color and even silvering. In England and the United States, the most popular silver is silver gray, followed by silver fawn and silver brown. A silver blue has become extinct from lack of interest by breeders.
The silver is a cobby rabbit, well-proportioned and very firm in flesh. The head is short, the ears short and well set on. The under color is very important if the top color is to be level and even. In fawn, the undercolor should be deep, bright orange; in browns a deep, rich chestnut color with a blue-black base.
The silvering should be bright and even over the whole body including the legs, feet, ears and chest. The majority of silvers fail in color in these areas. The amount of silvering determines whether the rabbit is dark, medium or light in color. The medium color is generally accepted as the breeder’s main objective. Sharpness of silvering is also very important. The hairs should resemble new silver rather than white and should be a complete contrast to the ground color of the rabbit. The silvering should neither appear as patches nor should it be so sparse as to be unnoticeable. Young silvers do not have silvered coats until they reach the age of two to three months. The silvering is first noticed on the feet, head and ears and gradually works its way over the entire body by the time the young silver is five months of age.
The quality and texture of the coat are very important; it should be short and fully flyback. It is sometimes said that if you listen very carefully you can hear the coat of a good silver as its springs back into position when stroked against the lie of the fur. Although this description may seem exaggerated, it gives some idea of the requirement.