Champagne d'Argent. This beautifully silvered rabbit breed provides the foundation genetics for related breeds, such as the Argente Bleu, Argente Brun, Argente Crème, and Argente St. Hubert.
While not the oldest breed ever, the Champagne d’Argent is recognizable in history clear back to 1631. Undoubtedly the breed predates this reference by untold years.
In 1631, Gervaise Marrkham advised rabbit breeders to use the largest "conies," or rabbits, they could find for breeding stock, and then offered, in the King’s English, a description of the fur color and qualities in a silvered rabbit:
For the richnesse of the skin, that is accounted
the richest which hath the equallest mixture of blacke and white haire
together, yet the blacke rather shadowing the white; the furre should be
thicke, deepe, smooth, and shining...
Yep, perfect description of the Champagne d'Argent.
France’s Encyclopaedia of Science, dated 1765, describes a silvered rabbit such as the Champagne d’Argent and the Argente Brun, but under the name of a Riche Rabbit, possibly because, again in the ancient words of Marrkham, "When another skin is worth two or three pence, they are worth two shillings."
Champagnes first arrived in the USA in 1912 under the name
of Champagne or French Silver. The Champagne d’Argent Rabbit Federation formed
In the UK, the breed is known as Argente
Champagne d’Argent rabbits are born pitch black. It is not until their first junior coat, around 7-8 weeks old, that the silvering effect begins to show itself.
As the new coat begins to come in, the "secondary"
guard hairs are white-tipped. The "primary" guard hairs and the
undercoat, however, are still fully pigmented. The effect this gives is that of
"old silver." The darkness of the still-pigmented guard hairs and the
undercoat, where they show through, "tarnishes" the overall
silveriness of the rabbit. This is very striking and attractive, and is the
reason why over the ages, the pelt of the rabbit we know today as the Champagne
d'Argent commanded huge premiums over the value of a standard rabbit pelt.
With each successive molt, more of the pigment is lost, extending even to the primary guard hairs and the undercoat, although we’ve never seen a Champagne d'Argent that looks completely white.
The degree of silvering is heritable. The Silver rabbit, and
the Silver Fox rabbit are both silvered breeds, examples of minor silvering.
The French like their Argente Champagnes fifty-fifty, or moderately silvered, while breeders in Belgium prefer heavily silvered champagne d'argent rabbits. In fact, they could not compete fairly in European shows due to the fact that their Argente Champagnes didn't correctly match the official French standard.
But no problem. They renamed their rabbits Belgian Silvers, and wrote a new standard for the "new" breed.
Go to this Champagne d'Argent Facebook page for some
additional great pictures of Champagne d'Argents.
The Argente Champagne of the UK weighs approximately 3.62 kg (8 pounds). Its coat is at least an inch long, glossy and dense. The density causes the coat to not lay flat, meaning you can see through the silvering to the shadowy dark underfur. In the words of the BRC Standard of Excellence, the coat color gives the effect of "old silver."
The Champagne d’Argent in the USA is a substantially larger animal, tipping the scales at up to 12 pounds. It exemplifies a commercial, meat rabbit type, being full in the shoulders and deep in the hindquarters.
Other Argente Breeds:
Argente Bleu, Argente Brun, Argente Noir, Argente St. Hubert
The Argente Bleu, Argente Brun, Argente Noir and Argente St. Hubert have nearly identical Standards of Excellence in the UK. Each of these four breeds should weigh about 2.72 kg (6 pounds). Coat length is listed at being between 1.9 - 2.54 cm (3/4 - 1 inch). They differ mainly in color:
The Argente Crème is the UK’s small version of the Crème d’Argent in the USA. The rabbits are very similar as to silvering and color, however the main difference between the continents is size. Argente Crèmes should weigh a petite 2.26 kg (5 pounds), while the Crème d’Argent in the USA weighs in at up to 11 pounds (5 kg). In the United States, they have commercial meat rabbit bodies with the delicious creamed orange color - "creamy white with an orange cast carried throughout" (ARBA Standard of Perfection).
Find the UK Breed Standard of excellence at the BRC.
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I love the breed. I have also cross bred mine to NZ and got a doe that looks like a silver fox. the coat of the mix breed doe is not the same texture as …
Champagne babies are pretty funny while they are turning from black to silver and often look like they're wearing a mask. Babies are born all black and …
Argente Brun Not rated yet
I have the COD for the Argente Brun through the ARBA. My Bruns passed their first showing at the ARBA National Convention last week, the 22 of October. …
Tiffany's Story of Champagne de Argent Not rated yet
When I first saw the Champagne de Argent breed I was fascinated with it. After 4 years my dad finally looked all over and found me some. I named the buck …