by Mike Avesing (Iowa) and Roger Hasenpflug (Oregon)
original publication Sept./Oct. 1988 Satin News
There are several characteristics which come together to provide an excellent or ideal coat of Satin fur. They are density, texture, rate of return, uniformity, sheen and finish or condition of the coat. In this article we will put forth our thoughts on these characteristics.
Density can be deceptive a coat that is not finished or is showing signs of molt will often seem more dense than will the same coat in prime condition. This is partially due to an exposed undercoat, or double coat effect produced by the new incoming fur and the old existing fur which has not completely molted out. The rate of return of the fur when it is stroked from the rear of the rabbit toward the shoulder is slower and sometimes non-existent when coats are in molt. The combination of a double coat and poor return will often make the coat feel and look very dense. However, both breeders and judges ought to be cautious in making comments or decisions based on the false density of an unfinished coat. The same coat in prime condition is likely to look and feel less dense.
Too much density can be as unattractive and useless as too little density. Some breeders and judges go overboard with it. More density than is necessary may be counterproductive in that it is harder to prime and it also seems to lessen the sheen factor of the coat. A prime coat with adequate density will cover the skin. In other words, when the fur is blown into or stroked from the hindquarter toward the shoulder, you can only see the base of the fur and not the skin.
Additional density is generally not necessary to meet the Standard's requirement for a coat that will feel "very dense and thick to the touch". This is not to suggest that if all other fur characteristics are equal additional density is not desirable and should not win out on the culling or judging table. It is to suggest that additional density is not more important than the other fur characteristics particularly texture, finish and sheen; and that once a judge or breeder determines that the adequate density is present on the rabbit, they should turn their attention to the other important Satin fur characteristics.
There are several different words that can be used to describe proper Satin fur texture. Fine, soft, silky, oily, slick, smooth, sleek, and satiny are all words that have been used to describe how Satin fur feels (it's texture). Texture is the most difficult Satin fur characteristic to describe or learn to recognize. That may be because it is unique or because there are many variations that fall within the range of accepteable Satin textures.
Evaluating texture is complicated by the state of prime of the coat. Young immature coats may feel harsh Fur in very poor condition may feel too soft and lack resilience altogether. Coats that are beginning to break may assume a harsher texture. As with density, the best evaluation of Satin texture can only be made when the coat is completely prime.
Perhaps the best way to learn proper texture is to get a lot of hands on practice, preferably with an accomplished Satin breeder as a tutor. Hands on practice, coupled with some candid discussion, can go a long way towards solving the mysteries of Satin texture.
Length of coat does not seem to be a problem for most breeders and judges. However, one area of concern regarding length is that most of the Satins being faulted for shart coats are actually well within the 7/8 to 1 1/2 inch range that is specified in the Standard. Another is that the coats which approach the 1 1/4 inch length limit often lack the undercoat and texture that is necessary for quality Satin fur. These same longer coats typically feel dense and frequently get credit for density which they do not possess when they are evaluated by feel only.
The rate of return when the fur is stroked from back to front, and which is called "fly-back" in other breeds, has been a controversial subject with Satins for some time. The Standard calls for a coat that will return to its normal postiion and lie smoothly over the body when stroked from back to front. The many different interpretations of what this means all tend to focus on speed of return which in turn is affected by density, texture, length and finish. Since a fly-back coat is a fault in the Satin Standard, the ideal, prime coat should have a rate of return that is just slightly slower than the ideal, prime, normal furred fly-back coat. A Satin coat with adequate density, texture and length would approach or approxiamte fly back when in prime condition.
Since all Satin pelts have some degree of sheen, judges and breeders tend to ignore or devalue this factor when evaluating Satin fur. In most Satins, the quality of the sheen factor is progressively affected by the level of primeness. In other words, the closer the Satin is to being prime, the more sheen the animal will have. Sheen can also be affected by the type, amount and direction of the light that the coat is being evaluted by. Typically a prime Satin coat in good light will display varying degrees of sheen. Both breeders and judges should be sensitive to the lighting conditions in evaluating sheen.
Breeders often criticise judges for the "finish is everything" approach to judging. However, we think an argument can be made for the effect of finish on all the fur characteristics of the rabbit. Density, texture, length, rate of return, sheen, and balance are all affected by the finish or condition of the coat. Color, while not a factor in evaluating Satins in a fur class, is also a characteristic associated with fur that is affected by condition. Excellent finish enhances the other characteristics while lack of finish detracts from them, thus adding or subtracting points in many areas of consideration.
A common mistake in evaluating any pelt is to mistake finish for quality and Satins are not immune to this folly. Finished fur is finished fur. It can be thick or thin, harsh or soft, and long or short. Just because a coat is finished does not make it a quality coat of Satin fur. An excellent Satin coat should have sufficient density to cover the skin, slick texture, intense sheen, average length, per the Standard's defintion, and complete finish or prime. These characteristics should be uniform throughout the pelt, not just over the center of the back.
You can see quality, prime Satin coat from either side of the judging table. Adequate density will stand the coat up slightly at an angle so that it does not lay flat on the back. The guard hair will extend just a bit over the under-coat and appear even over the coat. The prime condition will enhance the unique sheen. A finished coat of quality Satin fur is a beautiful sight