Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 20
The constant decreasing supply of fur bearing animals from our forests and streams has caused the world to face for some years a serious shortage of furs. The widespread demand for them for use on articles of apparel, even on summer garments, has made the demand for fur even greater than it was a few years ago, when the normal supply seemed about adequate for the winter garments.
The increasing prices paid and the apparent disregard of certain interests for the survival of our native fur bearing animals caused thousands of people to go into the business of producing furs for market. In Canada there are hundreds of silver fox farms and more are springing up all the time.
The pelt of the native rabbit is practically worthless from a commercial standpoint. It can be used in glue making and the hair is used in making felt hats, but as an article of fur it is worthless.
The fact that the domesticated rabbit has a thick, tough pelt when properly matured and cured has caused many furriers to turn to it as a source of supply in replenishing the loss occasioned by the smaller catches of wild fur each season.
While the price paid for rabbit pelts is not, at the present writing, sufficient to justify the raising of rabbits for the pelts alone, it is certainly worth considering. Last winter the demand increased greatly for rabbit skins, one house asking for one million more than it had received the year before and offering $1 each for prime skins.
In shipping pelts to these furriers, whose advertisements are to be found in practically every magazine during the fall and winter months, it is not necessary to cure the pelts. The skin is taken off the rabbit cased, as mentioned elsewhere in this book, and turned flesh side out and placed over a board or skin stretcher which can be produced of furriers. It is stretched tight and hung up in a shady, cool place to dry. As soon as dried thoroughly, it is put in bundles and shipped to the furrier.
It is not necessary to dispose of your pelts in this way. It is possible to tan the skins in your own home and use them as you see fit. One lady of my acquaintance tanned her own rabbit skins and made herself a set of lovely furs from the pelts of the American Spotted Giant rabbit. It was very hard to tell from that of ermine and made her a very nice set of furs, something that was not only good to look at and as neat as one could buy, but that also excited some envy among her friends who did not dream that she was wearing rabbit furs.
She made the set by tearing up an old set of furs in order to find out how they were made. She used the pieces of the old furs for a pattern in making the new one. In practically every rabbit show you attend now-a-days you will see an exhibition of furs made from the pelts of the domesticated rabbit. The American Blue rabbit makes a wonderful set of furs, and muffs that cannot be equalled.
The Black Giant and the White Giant also make excellent furs. The pelts of the Belgian hare and the Steel Gray Flemish make fine collar and cuff ornaments for dresses and suits.
The expense of tanning is very slight. There are a dozen ready made preparations on the market which for about fifty cents will tan as many as a dozen skins with very little work. It is not necessary to give a recipe for tanning, as anyone who keeps rabbits can secure these preparations from the dealer from whom they buy rabbit supplies, or by reading the advertisements in rabbit or pet stock journals. They are much superior to the home made preparations because they take away the drudgery in tanning.
The possibilities of the use of pelts in the home cannot be over estimated. If you could see the fur hat that a California woman made from the pelt of an American Blue rabbit I am sure that you would be more than surprised. Such articles as this sell in the exclusive fur shops for a fancy figure, concealed under such a high-sounding name as French Blue Fox.
The pelts of the New Zealand Red rabbit make the finest "red fox" furs you ever saw, and about ninety per cent of the Red Fox furs you see walking down the street are made from the lowly New Zealand Red.
The fact that it is possible to can rabbit meat for future use, makes it possible to take a large number of pelts at the proper season without wasting the carcass of the rabbits. The rabbit pelt is prime from November to March and should not be taken off when the hair is rough or when the animal is moulting, as it will be worthless for fur purposes.
The point is that all pelts should be saved and either tanned or sold. They add a nice percentage to the income.