Showing rabbits: a rewarding activity for youth

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By Misty Wilmoth

Because of the small size and limited needs of rabbits, owning and showing them is perfect for youth living in cities or suburbs who want to experience the rewards of raising livestock but on a manageable scale.
Rabbits are a relatively low cost animal, ranging from $10 to $20 for basic breeds of pet quality to $50 to $60 for quality show or breeding specimens. After the initial purchase of the animal, new owners will have minimal costs: an appropriate cage that provides shelter from inclement weather, bedding, food containers, toys to minimize boredom and resulting bad behavior and adequate food.
There are many breeds of rabbit, with significant variations among them, and choosing one depends upon the intended use of the animal. Rabbits are most commonly used as pets, or for meat or laboratory use. Flemish Giants weigh in at a hefty average of 15 pounds, but the Netherland Dwarf is a modest 1 to 2 pounds. The Holland Lop, a popular breed, sits in the middle, at 4 to 5 pounds. A common belief is that the mini breeds are more aggressive, so ask experts for advice when making a decision. Buying from a reputable and knowledgeable breeder in your area is the best option. The breeder will ensure that your animal has not been exposed to any diseases and can help you select the most appropriate animal for your needs. Also, a local breeder usually can charge a lower price than a pet store.
Showing in 4-H is open to all types of youth rabbit owners, from owners who have a single pet to small breeding operators. In showmanship classes, the judge asks questions, which tests a youth’s knowledge of his specific animal and rabbits in general. To score well, rabbits need regular handling so they are accustomed to the particular demands of the show ring. Higher scores go to rabbits that best exemplify their breed standards, which cover specifics ranging from body type and ear conformation to appropriate muscling and weight. Overall health is also a factor.
Youth competition is tied to the county fair season, which runs from July to September, with the Kentucky State Fair falling in August. By traveling the show circuit, youth broaden their horizons, learn responsibility and strengthen personal connections, where they make new acquaintances and reconnect with friends who share the same livestock-related hobby.
For more information, visit http://www.tksrba.com/ or http://www.arba.net/Breeds.htm or contact the LaRue County Cooperative Extension Service at 358-3401.