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How to Show Your Rabbit

By: Betty Chu

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If it is a Saturday or Sunday, rabbit shows are under way somewhere in the United States. People are familiar with dog and cat shows, but many are surprised to hear about rabbit shows, even though more rabbits are shown than dogs and cats.

What Rabbits Can I Show?

The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) encourages the showing of purebred and pedigreed rabbits, but rabbits do not have to be purebred or pedigreed to be shown. A casual show exhibitor can have as much fun in a rabbit show as a serious competitor.

What Goes on?

Rabbit owners talk, exchange bunny stories and care tips, make friends, buy and sell bunnies, compete and improve breeds.

How Many Rabbits Participate?

Most local shows have several hundred to several thousand rabbits. National conventions usually have more than 10,000, even close to 20,000 rabbits.

How Can I Prepare My Rabbit?

Rabbits to be shown are required to have a permanent tattoo in the left ear to distinguish one rabbit from another. The letters, numbers or symbols are to be selected by the owner. Some breeds are very similar in shape and type. White New Zealands, for example, are all shorthair white rabbits with ruby eyes. Owners sometimes have a problem in telling them apart, and judges would have an impossible task without ear tattoos.

How Can I Find a Show?

If you join ARBA, you will receive an official magazine "Domestic Rabbits" every other month. There are several pages listing show dates and contact persons around the country. One section is for "open show," shows that are open to people of all ages. Another is for "youth show," shows specifically for youth under 19 years old. You can also find show information by visiting the ARBA Web site.

How Do I Take My Rabbit to a Show?

Rabbits are taken to the shows in their show carriers – small wire cages with pans. Carriers are available in pet stores, feed stores and through mail-order companies. The pan should have a material to absorb wastes. If you show shorthair breeds, shavings, hay, kitty litter and newspaper are all acceptable. If you show longhair (wool) breeds, only flat newspaper is recommended. Other material will stick to the rabbits' wool and make a mess for the owner to clean. If you are going to a show that lasts more than one day, make sure that all lining materials are changed daily.

Owners find a spot in the show room and put down their show carriers containing their rabbits. When the breeds and classes are called, the owners take their rabbits to the judges' tables with individual holding coops.

How Are Rabbits Judged?

The bible for judging is the "Standard of Perfection," which is published by ARBA and revised every 5 years to reflect the changes in the breeds. The newest edition for years 2001-2005 became available at the end of October 2000. The Standard of Perfection lists 45 accepted breeds. Each breed has a different point distribution on different parts of the rabbit:

  • Condition
  • Color and marking
  • Fur or wool, which includes the texture, length and density
  • General type, which includes body, head, ears, eyes, feet, legs and tail

    The total points add up to 100. The judges use a point allocation on each part of the rabbit. It is important for a rabbit to have a smooth and meaty body because that is viewed as the foundation of the animal. Some breeds ask for the overall body to be short, some breeds want the body to be medium length and some long. The judges have to be familiar with each breed to know how to place the rabbits.

    Unlike dog shows, rabbit owners are not known to the rabbit judges. It is considered a violation of show rules if an owner identifies ownership of the rabbit. The purpose is to ensure fair and unbiased judging.

    Who Are the Judges?

    Only ARBA licensed judges can officiate in an ARBA sanctioned show. Each potential judge has to pass a written test and then apprentice under licensed judges for several shows to be eligible to apply for a license.

    What Are the Prizes?

    There are very few monetary rewards. Most prizes are trophies and ribbons. If the first place rabbit is chosen from at least five rabbits exhibited by three owners, this rabbit wins a "leg." If a rabbit wins three legs in at least three shows judged by at least two different judges, and the rabbit is registered, this rabbit qualifies to apply for a grand champion status from ARBA.

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