The History of the Himalayan Rabbit: Everything We Know

(Condensed from articles about the Himalayan Rabbit's History, written and compiled by Carl "Eli" Shepherd)

The History of the Himalayan rabbit is very vague. There are many thoughts and theories of Himalayans. Actually there is no sound solid proof of where the Himalayan rabbit actually came from. There is little tangible evidence to indicate that it even came from the Himalayan Mountain area as many claim. Records indicate that this rabbit is known by over 20 names, which cause one writer to comment that "It is the most Christian rabbit having so many names."  This rabbit is called, in various parts of the world, the Russian, the Chinese, the Egyptian, the Black Nose, and on and on. It is known as one of the oldest established breeds with a wider distribution throughout the world than any other rabbit. Himalayans, for the most part, will breed true to type and color.

It is believed at some remote time in its history, that its ancestors were Silver rabbits in part. As in some litters of today, at birth, soon seem to be white slightly tinged all over with silver gray, and some are almost a solid gray. The Silver-gray or the Solid gray gradually leaves the baby rabbit and its coat becomes snow white, with its extremities, (nose, ears, feet & tail) gradually darkening until they reach a rich, velvety Black, Blue, Chocolate or Lilac.

History of the Himalayans in the United States

(also condensed from articles by Carl "Eli" Shepherd)

Judge Harry Rice of Ohio, who  has judged rabbits for over 50 years. Rice is also quite a talker.

He told me that around the turn of the century, or real early 1900's, that Himalayans were shipped into the united States from England, along with what he called the "Belgian Hare Boom." He said most breeders of other breeds also had some Himalayans. As at that time, Himalayan fur was the best of all rabbit furs. Back then, they were known as the Ermine fur of rabbits. This was before Rex and Satin fur came along. Many raised them for their valuable fur, as well as to show. Even judge Harry Rice had a few Himalayans at one time in the early 1900's.

History of the Blue Variety.

(Condensed from an Article about Blue Himalayans by Carl "Eli" Shepherd)

Let the records on Himalayans reveal that Black Himalayans are the only naturally occurring variety.

Other Varieties (colors) have been created by crossbreeding other breeds of rabbits to create the desired variety or color. The 2nd Variety of Himalayans were Blues. There are no accurate records on who or how the first Blue Himalayans were developed. Breeders in England worked for many years to create Blue Himalayans with many problems to attempt to correct to achieve the true Himalayan type on Blues. Their progress on Blues is very vague.

What we do know is Blue Himalayans were accepted at Tampa, Florida, on October 30th, 1962 by AHRA members. Only four AHRA members were present at this meeting. A motion by R. Hanson, that the Blue Himalayan be accepted  by AHRA. Motion was seconded by Francis Riffle. And from that day on we have had Blue Himalayans as our second variety.

Interest in Blue Himalayans was not very strong for many years. A few dedicated breeders kept Blues alive. Blues were very scarce and very seldom seen in many parts of the United States.

Was reported that Don Lovejoy imported a pair of Blue Seniors and a Blue Junior Doe from England in 1963.  No one seems to have any information on these imported blue Himalayans. A 1976 Himmie News stated that Diane Ford of California was to try for a Blue Himmie by crossing a Blue Havana doe. No records on how this venture turned out. Over the years there were several breeders who opposed the Blue variety very strongly.  Especially one long time, well known breeder from Maryland. Lack of interest in Blues and a few breeders opposed to the Blue variety. A proposal was put to the AHRA membership to eliminate Blues as  a variety of Himalayans in the early 1980's. This vote was very close. Blues survived only by a few votes. The Blue variety survived mainly due to the efforts of Ron Smelt of California. Due to Ron Smelt's efforts to save the Blue Variety..

...Two additional varieties of Himalayans have been introduced by Ron Smelt of California. Which are Chocolate and Lilac marked Himalayans.

History of the Chocolate & Lilac Himalayans

By: Ron Smelt  (A.H.R.A. Hall of Fame member)

I started with showing and breeding Himalayans in 1976. At that time only Black Himalayans were obtainable in my area. Some of the active show people were David Holland, Dorothy Bayliss and Leonard Weir and Diane Ford, who was in the process of getting out of the breed.

I liked the Himalayan a lot and I inherited the breed from Diane Ford. It was the perfect sized rabbit for me with the space I was able to give it. I liked the unique type and what I call an sophisticated look to the breed.

I realized right away that  England showed the Himalayan in four varieties. Black, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac. Here in the US only in Black and Blue. I thought would it not be pleasant to have all four colors showing against each other in the US. I felt that with the four colors it would create interest and as a result competition. During this time I also was told by the late Don Lovejoy, that the Himalayan was a dying breed. I did not want to except this and to my mind felt that my goal was to try and create interest in this breed and so the mission was set for me to do my part and find a way. I realized that this quest to have the Chocolate and Lilac Himalayans become excepted would be a long one. I felt that I needed support of others who were interested in the idea of having four colors in the standard. Several people I talked to felt that the only good Himalayan was a black Himalayan. A few persons supported me in my quest. Some only liked the Chocolates and did not care for the idea of Lilac Himalayans. The first few years were difficult ones.

In the late 70's  I corresponded with a Himalayan breeder Mr. Fred Nellis who lived in England. He told me how they got the Chocolate gene introduced into the Himalayans was with the use of the English Spot. English Spots from time to time produced Solid colored animals. An English Spot breeder by the name of Linda Bell of California called me up one day and said she had a chocolate doe for me. This was bred to a small black 3 1/2 lb. buck from Dorothy and George Bayliss. This cross produced all solid black offspring. They were bred together and the first Chocolate marked appeared. These then were bred to other black Himalayans and then mated to each other and the rabbits were beginning to look like Himalayans. Some of these early chocolates were rather large and lacked the refined look. Through line breeding a smaller, finer boned chocolate Himalayan developed. (In 1992 Chocolates Passed first ARBA Showing, Columbus, OH)

The Chocolate Himalayan was then bred to the Blue Himalayan and from in-breeding the first Lilac Himalayan appeared. These lilacs were dark lilacs, you can tell the difference when you put them next to a blue. When presenting them to the Standards Committee, they did not like the color, it was too dark and too close to the blue. So what to do????? I had reached a brick wall. I had locked in the dark Lilac color into my himmies.

At the same time Judy Ball, a Mini Rex breeder, was also trying to get the Lilac Mini Rex accepted by the ARBA Standards Committee. The Standards Committee liked her color Mini Rex Lilacs. An idea went into my head to introduce this color liked by the Standards Committee into the Lilac Himalayans. I knew that I would be introducing a Non-Himalayan gene as well as Mini Rex fur into the Himalayans, and in line breeding and in-breeding this Rex gene would materialize some where down the road.  I made a difficult decision I was afraid that my present dark Lilac Himalayans would not pass the Standards Committee since I was told the lighten them, and so I did. The first cross was my purchased Mini Rex Lilac Buck (from Judy Ball) bred to a Lilac Himalayan Doe. All the babies were Lilac, and to my surprise two of them were Himalayan marked, the rest solid. I lucked out again with the two Himalayan-marked Lilacs were buck and doe. They both turned out to be rather coarse and so lacked refinement. They produced me lighter Himalayans, the color I was looking for. The Lilacs became the 4th Himalayan color to be recognized.

With selective breeding and culling refinement in the Lilac Himalayan returned, with an added bonus of better fur quality. Now the problem of the Non-Himmie gene and the rex gene will be floating around in some of these himmies, but I feel we can cull this out since there were only a few of these Lilacs passed on to other breeders.

These past fifteen years of trying to have Chocolate Himalayans and Lilac Himalayans accepted into the ARBA Standards Committee have been fun with some heart-ache and lots of challenges and I am so glad to have been able to do it.