Tans originated in a wild colony of rabbits in England in the late 1880s. The original color of the Tan rabbit was black. Shortly after black Tans were discovered, breeders began to develop and domesticate the breed. Shortly thereafter, blues were developed by repordedly breeding a sooty fawn doe to a black Tan buck. There was a division with some breeders prefering a rabbit that was longer limbed and more refined in bone while others advocated a more cobby style rabbit.
In 1891, the first Tan club was formed in England. That club was a predecessor to the modern day national club in England, which is now known as the National Tan Rabbit Club.
Until World War I, black and blues dominated the breed. Then around the 1920s the chocolate Tan was developed. While their exact origins are unknown, it is suspected that chocolate Havanas were introduced to create the chocolate variety of Tan. It was not long until lilacs followed. The Tan of this time period was typed very differently than the Tan we know today. Tans were more cobby in type, similiar to a Dutch.
ARBA records show that a Tan breed specialty club existed in the United States as early as 1936. This club failed in the late 1950s and another club was formed in 1960. Since that time, the American Tan Rabbit Specialty Club has grown in number and has continued to promote and encourage the development of the Tan rabbit. [Photo credit: Maddie Pratt]
In the 1990s, a shift began to occur in the United States that resulted in medium-fine boned, sleek Tans becoming more favored over the cobby style of rabbit. The ARBA Standard of Perfection for the Tan has underwent several revisions between that time and present. In 1994 the breed was catapulted into the national spotlight when Aaron Barfield won Best in Show in Youth at the ARBA National Convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a black senior doe. To date this remains Tan to have won Best in Show in youth at the ARBA National Convention. In 2012 Noah Boyce became close when he won Best of Group with a black senior buck.
Around the late 1990s and early 2000s, Joe Kim imported several Tans
into the United
States from the UK with the hope of improving upon the tan factor. Joe
proved to not only be intrumental in improving the tan factor of the
breed, but the body as well. While many other breeders joined him in his quest, Joe was instrumental in thrusting the Tan into the national spotlight. He won numerous all breed Best in Shows at a time when it was still rare for a Tan to win top honors. The ultimate honor came in 2003 when Joe won Best in Show at the ARBA National Convention in Wichita, Kansas. This was the first time and only time a Tan has won the top honors.
Since that time, Tans have continued to improve and competition has become stiff even at the local level. As the breed has improved, the club has also grown. In the earlys 2010s we have seen growth at a rate never seen before as more and more breeders decide to take on this marvelous breed. The 2013 National Tan Show in Louisville, Kentucky was the largest national show on record. Local shows have also seen an unprecedented influx of numbers.
[Pictured: BIS/BOB (left) and BOS (right) at the 2003 ARBA National Convention. Bred and shown by Joe Kim]