How do you create a Nationally known line, with consistent typed rabbits that win at the show table and are easily recognizable as "oh that's a ____ rabbitry rabbit...." ? Skill? Experience? Money? Time?
I did what many do when they aren't sure how to get the type that want in their rabbitry. Buy too many rabbits, and not the right quality. Actually, a good percentage of people end up selling their first set of "starter stock" because they find it's not what they want (or they bought cheapy bad quality stuff to start with). When you're new you're not sure exactly what you want your herd to look like, nor do you have the experience to know what to do with the rabbits you have.
Think of your very favorite rabbitry. I'm sure the rabbits they have all look a certain way, right? Some consistent type? Maybe a very characteristic bold head and thick chunky bone? These rabbits probably do some big winning at National and Convention shows don't they? Many of these breeders use a breeding system geared towards "setting" the type in their line. Their line keeps consistent characteristics that are expected generation after generation. So how do you start your line off right?
Start with a trio. A trio usually consists of 1 buck and 2 does. Many breeders use a trio with a line-breeding system. For example, breed both does to the buck, breed those babies back to the original buck and doe, etc.etc. You can actually do three generations worth of breedings starting with just the original trio of rabbits. Your end result? Rabbits that are going to be VERY similiar looking in type. The 4th generation will include an introduced animal to outcross into the line. Check out a linebreeding chart and informaton sheet Pam Nock put together. Great information for further research.
Buy the best you can afford. Always follow this rule. Buy the best quality rabbits that are within your budget. If you have to, save as much money as you can before purchasing your initial stock.
Search for your ideal "type". For example, holland lops have many different types, and hundreds of different breeders. Some have lines with heads or bodies that look a certain way. Sometimes the different styles are all within the breed standard, just geared towards a look to that breeder's preferences. Look for the type that you admire because that is what you're going to be working with generation after generation. You better make sure you can look at it every day!
Be willing to ship, if you're serious. I was the person always looking "outside the box". I did start with a couple local rabbits when I initially got into fuzzy lops to learn about the breed and maintaining them, but being the research fiend that I am.... I discovered some amazing fuzzies that were not local to me. They had the type I desired. I have had several shipments over the years. They require some extra work and negotiations, but the results can be fantastic. In some cases, the type is far superior to what you can find in your area and you can sweep the show tables! Or, there are some pockets of areas across the country that are very inbred (all the local breeders basically using the same animals/pedigrees over and over), and they would do well with some new blood. Obviously if you only plan on having a few rabbits, breeding a short time, or not being too serious in the hobby, shipping is probably not right for you. And it's definitely not worth it unless you can ship in 4+ rabbits as a one-way shipment runs usually around $250 (though sometimes Frontier has a $100 deal under 50lb.).
There are many ways to start a new herd off positively. If you're serious and willing to go the extra mile, all the efforts will be worth some tremendous rewards!