Selling Rabbits You Bought

by Laurie Stroupe

You buy a rabbit, get a few litters from it, and are ready to sell. What are your obligations, if any? How do you price a rabbit purchased from someone else? Does anyone else have rights to your rabbit? There are perhaps a few things to consider.

I believe it is a nice gesture to offer a rabbit back to its original breeder when you are ready to sell. I don’t think it is an obligation, however, unless you agreed to when you purchased the rabbit.

baby english lop rabbit

Cute young English Lop bunny. Photo by TC Farms

[You may wonder why a breeder would want a rabbit back that he or she sold. Possibly, the breeder thought they would get a better one down the road, then the sire or dam died. Maybe the rabbit out of the litter they kept developed an eye spot or was found to have a split penis. Maybe the doe they had hoped would continue the line never produced live babies. Perhaps a breeding plan was developed after the rabbit was sold where the bunny could now play a pivotal part. Or, perhaps the bunny sold developed much better than expected.]

I should note that such agreements should be in writing (or by email). After months or even more than a year or two, it may be difficult to recall verbal agreements. I have sold rabbits with verbal agreements and found the the rabbit was sold to yet another person. I have also apparently forgotten an agreement myself. Luckily the person I bought the rabbit from realized that I had just forgotten and had not done it on purpose.

While it is best to put the agreement in writing to increase your chances of getting the rabbit back one day, it is no guarantee. Rabbits die, people move, folks forget, people keep rabbits for life, and relationships deteriorate. Are you going to take someone to court to get a rabbit back? I don’t think so. If it is imperative that you get the rabbit back, just don’t sell it.

Some people seem to believe that even though they sell a rabbit, they retain certain rights to the rabbit. Beyond the rabbit’s pedigreed name, ear number, and being listed as the original breeder on registration documents, I do not believe that sellers retain rights to their rabbits. Again, exceptions are made for written agreements. But without a written agreement, breeders should not feel that they have the right to approve who you sell a rabbit to, give you grief for breeding the rabbit outside your herd, or anything else you want to do with the rabbit.

After all, you bought the rabbit and didn’t rent it.

I believe that problems arise when breeders have different philosophies about rabbits in general. For example, if a breeder operates under the idea that it is a good practice to keep good rabbits out of their competitions’ hands, they may feel it a violation to sell a good rabbit to someone in their neighborhood, especially their own breeding. Other breeders feel that allowing access to good stock improves the breed overall, increases interest in Hollands in the region and keeps competition alive and healthy. You can see where buyers and sellers from different schools of thought might experience some friction without a written agreement. To each, their point of view may be “obvious” to everyone. But, of course, it isn’t.

Now you’ve decided who to offer the rabbit to. How do you price it? If the rabbit is essentially the same value as when you bought it, the answer may be simple. Just sell it back at the same price (or lower, if the animal has aged or deteriorated significantly). But what if the rabbit now has some legs on it? What if the doe produced a string of grand champions? What if the rabbit is simply more valuable than what you paid for it?

If the original breeder gave you a break because you were new or because you are a youth or 4-Her, you may want to sell it back at the reduced price. Return courtesy for courtesy. But if it was sold to you at the market value, I believe you have the right to resell it, even to its original breeder, at the new market value.

Here’s my reasoning. You purchase many rabbits to establish or improve your line. Many do not work out: some die before producing a replacement, some never have live kits, some fail to develop to the potential that seemed obvious earlier on, and so on.

I’ll bet the original breeders are not willing to buy all of those rabbits back at what you paid for them. No, you take your losses and move on.

Rabbit wants out of the play pen

Bunny wants out of the garden! Photo by Forrest Gait

So when you find a diamond in the rough, when you luck out with a junior that turns out to be terrific, when you find that doe that produces so much better than herself, then don’t you have the right to take the gain on that rabbit? You took your losses, didn’t you? Should original breeders just be able to sell all of their rabbits are market value, and then just buy back the good ones at the original price? That seems like all of the advantages go to the original breeder.

Have you ever sold a rabbit cheaply to a 4-Her or youth, only to have that person sell it at a higher price to someone else. Did it make you mad? I’ve thought about that a bit. I suppose if that person is just selling out of bunnies, I would feel like they were making a profit off of my generosity. But more than likely, that youth or 4-Her is taking the benefit that you granted them, cashing it in, and buying another rabbit with the money (or otherwise folding it into their hobby). You wanted to help them, didn’t you?

If I want to help out a youth or 4-Her, I need to give the help away freely, and not look to see what they do with it. Otherwise, I may just make myself unhappy. It’s just like giving a birthday or Christmas gift. Don’t go to the person’s house to see if they are displaying, wearing, or using your gift. Just give it away, and don’t worry about it any longer.

Buying and selling rabbits can be a tricky part of our hobby. I think that the simplest approaches – buy carefully, be courteous and thoughtful, and really let go when you sell – are the best.

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