Working with and understanding the Vienna gene -
Many have asked me to explain how Blue eye white (BEWS) program works. It’s an exciting and rewarding project! BEWS are not an easy, fast project and not for everyone. You’ll need time, patience and extra cages for this project. However, it is a rewarding one if you have the patience to see it through. It is so exciting as a breeder when you get a nest-box full of little kits and seeing little white bunnies with beautiful blue eyes!
The gene responsible for creating the blue-eyed white is called the Vienna gene and is expressed in genetic code as vv. This gene is believed to be neither dominant nor recessive, as it lies hidden in certain cases.
When you breed a BEW to a BEW, statistically speaking, you'll get 100% BEW. The Vienna gene works the same in all breeds of rabbits.
When you breed any color beside BEW to BEW, you will get what are known as Vienna Marked (VM) or Vienna Carriers (VC). A VM or VC is expressed in genetic code as Vv. A Vienna Marked and a Vienna Carrier are genetically the same. They both carry only one Vienna gene. The distinction is that a VM is a rabbit that you can look at and clearly see he carries the gene because he will have white “marks” on in places there should not be white. For example – a white paw, white toenails, white nose or a white blaze on its face/forehead. VM’s also can have blue, or partially blue eyes. Also known as marbling or marbled eyes. A VC will have no outward marks. A VC looks just like any other rabbit not carrying the Vienna gene. Therefore, a VC can be shown. A VM cannot be shown. BEWS can also be shown as long as they are recognized in your rabbit breed.
Below is a chart and 5 ways of what you can statistically expect when breeding for BEWs.
1. BEW X BEW = 100% BEW
2. BEW X "Normal" = 100% Vienna carriers, 0% BEW
3. Vienna Carrier X Vienna Carrier = 25% BEW, 50% Vienna carriers, 25% "Normal"
4. Vienna Carrier X BEW = 50% BEW, 50% Vienna carriers
5. Vienna Carriers X "Normal" = 25% Vienna Carriers, 75% "Normal", 0% BEW
As you can see from the chart above, the best way to get BEWS is BEW x BEW breeding. However, depending on your breed choice, that may be very difficult to find or expensive to obtain a breeding pair. You will also want to breed in some other colors INTO your BEW program to maintain good type in your lines. BEWS are hard to maintain good type with and you must work with “normal” rabbits (rabbits NOT carrying the Vienna gene) and or VC/VM to maintain good type. If you consistently only breed BEW to BEW you are going to end up with some undesirable type in your program that will not be competitive on the show tables.
BEW X NORMAL is the way many breeders get their start. Usually by obtaining a BEW buck and pairing with your best normal doe. The offspring will result in 100% VM or VC. You then take those offspring and breed them back to the BEW parent (for a 50% chance of BEWS) or if you bred 2 does, you could breed the offspring to each other (for a 25% chance of BEWS).
If you choose to breed VC/VM to each other, this crossing will result in some "normal" offspring, "Normal" refers to a non-Vienna carrying rabbit. There is no way to know which ones could be VC's that didn't get a white marking, and which ones are just plain normal without the Vienna gene. Any offspring from a cross like this should always remain in a BEW program or be sold as pets only. Breeding one of these animals back into other colors is a huge no-no. They will cause major problems for years in the lines with white spots and white nails. Once the Vienna gene is in, it can stay in lines for years! BEW is like a one-way street almost anything can come in, but nothing can go out. Should you sell a VC/VM, or possible VC to someone it is YOUR responsibility as a breeder to educate and inform the buyer that the animal has, or could possibly have the Vienna gene. It is also your responsibility as an ethical breeder to explain what this means to the person buying it. I CANNOT emphasize this enough! I’ve seen 4-H kids bringing a VM bunny to their local fair, only to be told, they cannot show it and the bunny has to go home. That’s heartbreaking for a kid! And it gives the Vienna gene a bad rap.
**CANT STRESS THIS NEXT SECTION ENOUGH**
🛑You can breed in almost any color INTO your BEW program (Avoid using shaded colors and chocolate as you tend to get a red cast to the eye, which results in a lilac colored eyes. Cool to see, but not what you want in your program for future generations). If you get any of these you should not use them in your BEW program. You should also discontinue using the parent animal that is causing this. The best colors to breed in are black, steel or Chestnut Agouti (as long as it’s not chocolate based). Other colors and brokens are fine too, as long as you know what’s behind them. Some breeders have said that brokens can be hard to distinguish from VMs. I haven’t found this to be an issue with Mini lops but in other breeds it could be an issue. 🛑
Many wonder why BEWS and VC/VM’s are so expensive? Here’s why – Not a lot of breeders work with BEWS, especially in mini lops. Speaking for our BEW program, we paid a transporter to transport our BEW buck from another state, several hundred miles away so we could start our program. After quarantining him for a month, we bred him to our 2 best does. Waited the 31 days for them to be born. Then waited an additional 7-8 months for the offspring to mature to be bred back to the BEW buck. Finally, 9 months after we got our BEW buck we got our first BEWS - Exciting! Currently we are waiting for our BEW babies to grow up, so we can breed them back to BEWS again! 4 generations later and probably at least 12-18 months from the start of our project, we will finally have a BEW x BEW breeding. We are still waiting for our 3rd generation to mature for the BEW x BEW breeding. By buying Vienna carriers from us, you are skipping that 9 months of waiting and as soon as your animal(s) are mature, you can begin breeding and get BEWS much quicker. If it’s a VC x VC breeding, you will be able to get to BEWS faster, but the downside is, It’s only a 25% chance of BEWS. And the rest of the litter that’s not BEW, you’ll need to either test breed the offspring to see if they carry the Vienna gene or breed only the ones that are VM and BEWS. Our prices for our BEW program animals are based on this and their type. Most of our Vienna offspring has great type and do well on the show tables. Its once you begin to get BEWS, you can lose some of that type, so it’s something you consistently have to keep working at.
I know this was a long article and I hope it helped you to decide whether getting into a BEW program is for you! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! If you are a BEW breeder and would like to share my article – Please share it directly from this post. Or give article credit to Mi Mini Farm and a link back to this article is appreciated. Thank you!