OTISFIELD — Henry Hamilton surrounds himself every day with blue-eye beauties: New Zealand white rabbits.
He calls them "Sinatras" after singer Frank Sinatra, whose nickname was "Ol' Blue Eyes."
Hamilton is looking for at least two partners to work with him on a two- to three-year project to produce the unique, blue-eyed New Zealand breed.
“I raised over 9,000 rabbits for my grad school research. Never did I have a white rabbit with anything but red eyes,” Hamilton said. “I accidentally got a blue-eyed buck when crossing New Zealands with Giant Flemish.”
Hamilton said his graduate thesis in animal science was based on data collected from some 9,000 rabbits he produced during 2½ years of research.
He later became an international humanitarian and relief worker, traveling the world and living in Third World villages.
“When I retired to my farm in Otisfield a few years back, I started raising rabbits, applying what I learned in grad school,” he said. “I wanted a meaty, fast-growing rabbit, so I chose the large but slow-growing Flemish Giant as my herd stud and the fast-growing, but smaller New Zealand White."
Hamilton said the male was gray with blue eyes and the New Zealands were white with red eyes.
“The first generation bunnies were of various colors but I kept only the white red-eyed ones for the next generation. When I bred this generation I was astonished to discover that one of the two white offspring had blue eyes,” he said. "This indicated that there was a 50/50 chance that his red-eyed sister also had a gene for blue eyes. I bred them and voila, all offspring were white and half had blue eyes.”
Hamilton said his rabbit colony is now comprised of white, blue-eyed rabbits.
Although establishing this unique trait wasn't difficult, Hamilton said it requires a lot of rabbits, cages and time. That's where the partners come in, he said.
“Anyone joining the project would be carefully selected for seriousness and proper facilities. I would supply the initial breeder, with the understanding that the animal would be repaid from the first generation of blue eyes in the new line,” he explained.
Hamilton said he is excited about the project and the possibility of producing more "Sinatras."