The first birth of an Astrex rabbit in England was one born in 1931 from a Lilac rex doe with WHITE points, a color mutation in and of herself. This lilac white ~ pointed rex doe was out of a castor rex doe and a blue rex buck. When the lilac, white ~pointed, rex doe was bred to a blue rex buck (which history material leads us to believe was not her sire) this breed pairing produced the first known Astrex sport mutation according to Marcellus Meek. Mr. Meek, who was an author, rabbit breeder, and ardent Astrex admirer, imported Astrex rabbits to American, from England, around 1945/1946. In one of his rabbit books he states: "this writer was able to import during 1946 many of the most valuable Astrex to be had in that country---thus building a suitable foundation for further and greater development of this very valuable breed in America."
It is my personal belief, based on 4 years of intense research on Astrex rabbits, that there WAS NEVER a great number of these wonderful StoryBook FairyTale Curly Bunnies !! I do not believe they were ever firmly established in America, nor England, nor anywhere else in the world for that matter. Now, over sixty years later, and four years ago, I, unknowingly, picked up the remnants reins of Marcellus Meek's dream without ever knowing of Mr. Meek until around January of this year (2003). I researched Astrex before Ripples and have intensely researched since Ripples' birth.
Several English breeders did breed Astrex back in the 1930's and 1940's. My research indicates they were breed in Scotland at one time, and also in France before the turn of the 19th century... if this is truth, then this predates English breeding. It may be accurate, because France, produced the "Rex" rabbit breed through sport mutations in 1919, although much improvement was made through the years on Rex. Perhaps the Astrex mutation had appeared there and been developed before it appeared in England, perhaps Scotland had the Astrex sport mutations. We are not 100 percent certain either way.
Meek describes the Astrex fur as "water waved" ... with innumerable curls/waves... I have Ripples, my harlequin Astrex mini buck. He was born on Thankgiving Day 2001. I described him as having fur resembling "ripples in water" ... two years before of hearing of Marcellus Meek's near exact description of Astrex. This proves I've been "right on the ball" all along with my research, theories, and development and understanding of the breed. :-)
The Astrex Rabbit Variety is listed with BRC (British Rabbit Council) today as a rex variety but is not breed or shown. I was told the last known showing of any rabbit that resembled an Astrex was in the 1970's (if this information is accurate). Astrex Rabbits are all but extinct to the rabbit world. Mutation samples are extremely rare, but even today, sometimes still appear in litters, of rex and normal furred rabbits.
The "TRUE ASTREX" ~~ meaning a rabbit with rex length fur which is CURLY and WAVY ~~ not just wavy ~~ is RARE and Unique indeed. A true ASTREX rabbit will carry the double recessive gene for wave, which will produce CURLY and WAVY rex fur over the head, face, chest, back sides, belly, and hips. The extent of the curl / wave placement over the rabbit's head / body depends upon the modifiers also involved. Our goal is to develop and stabilize the TRUE ASTREX of yesteryear...Astrex Rabbits that, with 100 percent certainty, carry and reproduce the wa wa (double gene for wave, which produces the CURL and wave) 100 percent of the time, and is expressed in the "water waved" and "water rippled" appearance throughout the rabbit's coat.
Astrex of yesteryear, produced over 60 years ago, where rex furred CURLY rabbits. The curl looked very similar to the short clipped curl produced when a very silky poodle (dog) is sheared/clipped and the dog's fur is rexrabbit length, just beginning to grow back out.The poodle fur then curls, swirls, rosettes, waves, and parts in all directions trying to make a complete curl but is too short to produce a ringlet. This greatly approximates the TRUE ASTREX rabbit's fur of yesteryear. The olden Astrex rabbits were not just wavy and / or kinky furred rabbits, but CURLY, WAVY and/ or having possibly some kinky fur mixed in. (BY Kinky fur I mean individual hairs that are straight, rex length and then "kink" at the tips.)
Astrex (Astrakhan-Rex) phenomenon in Rex rabbits in the 1930s/1940s was decribed as "Astrex" or "sport", a distinct fur character having uniformly curled/waved short Rex fur and described as "the rare Astrex variety" having thick, short silky fur, but an uneven and "water-waved" feeling to the touch "at maturity having innumerable curves and waves similar to broadtail or Astrakhan lamb pelts. This characteristic curling / waving makes the fur appear to be of two shades and adds greatly to its beauty." (part quote from one of Marcellus Meek's books)
Dr. J.N. Pickard, beginning in 1932, made a considerable study of the Astrex and reported his findings in the Journal of Genetics April, 1941. He describes this mutation as a simple auto somal monogenic recessive (to Rex) and in a later work belief that the Astrex factor is closely associated with Angora, but can only appear when combined with the fine-coated (French) gene. It may be present in other rabbits, but is "masked" by the different type of coat.
Astrex rabbits were at one time, bred in England in white, blue, lilac, lynx, sable, Havana, and blackcolors.
BRC (British Rabbit Council Standards of the 1940's) Color. Any color of Rex rabbit adopted by the British Rex Rabbit Society. Fur. Short, firm texture, free from guard hairs, the fur to be curled over the entire surface of the body, giving a water-wave or "broadtail" effect. Ears, feet and tail only to be covered with plain fur. Type. Approximating the type of the normal Rex variety in weight and shape, ears to be carried erect, limbs straight. Note: The British Rex Society weight standard calls for 5 to 7 pounds in adults.
I have found that Astrex may also exhibit curly/wave on the tail and feet and legs to some degree.
We are striving to reproduce at least 2 size categories... with the probability and focus being on producing, breeding 3 size groups, although in the AARB Standard (American Astrex Rabbit Breed Standard) I have written allowances for 5 size categories and also many color varieties currently accepted in Rex and Mini Rex standards. I have also made allowances for some color varieties not currently accepted in either. The general appearance of Astrex body type is to be similar to mini rex and standard rex....the key word being similar, not exact. All of this information is included in detail with AARBC packets, which includes complete American Astrex Rabbit Breed Standards.
What you have just read took 4 years of extensive searching innumerable research to gather and compile !!
:-) Smile, Rett
by: Rett (Ms. Loretta Ann Bowman)
August 23, 2003
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