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How To Enjoy A Rabbit Show

Updated on May 25, 2008

Judging Rabbits

You Don't Have To Own Rabbits To Go To A Show

Rabbits shows are going on all around you, whether you realize it or not. You don't have to wait for fair season to visit a rabbit show. Just visit the American Rabbit Breeders Association website and browse through the rabbit show date information. You can email the show secretary for directions and starting times.

Most rabbit shows are open to the public without charge. As long as you are respectful of the rabbits and the activities that need to take place, you are most welcome to visit a show.

First of all, plan to arrive after the show has started. Exhibitors and the sponsoring club have many things to take care of and will not be available to help you understand what's going on nearly as well as they will after the show gets started. Not every breed is being judged at any given time, so there are always exhibitors available to talk with you once the initial setting up, checking-in, and grooming has been taken care of.

Find someone who is not particularly busy and just mention that you have never been to a show before. Most of the time, you will find someone who is more than willing to explain exactly what is going on.

Each judge will be assigned a breed to judge, generally followed by a different breed, and so on until each breed of rabbit is judged. Although there are well over forty different sanctioned breeds of rabbits, you may see just a couple of dozen breeds at any one show. However, that's enough to show the impressive variety in rabbits.

Before I started showing, I simply had no idea that rabbits came in so many colors, shapes, and sizes. You may see rabbits from just over 1 lb. such as a junior Netherland Dwarf all of the way to nearly 16 lbs. or so in a senior Flemish Giant.

You can see spots, stripes, and even a question mark on the fur of rabbits.

Each breed is judged according to its particular standard. Some breeds are supposed to be short and stocky while others are supposed to be long and racy. Some are judged heavily on their markings while color is only marginally important on other breeds. Some rabbits have trouble making their minimum weight. Other breeds have trouble staying within their maximums.

For every rabbit, the judge will check for disqualifications - eyes, nose, teeth, ears, nails, abdomen, genitalia, tail, breast bone, spine, and markings, when appropriate.

Some rabbits are run up and down the tables so they can show off their athletic bodies. Others strike a beautiful pose to emphasize their top lines.

Each rabbit breed is shown according to its own varieties and groups. Within each of these subdivisions, you will see senior bucks judged first, followed by senior does, intermediate bucks (for larger breeds only), intermediate does, junior bucks (under 6 months), and junior does.

The judge places the rabbits in order, and then picks the Best from among the first place winners. If the winner of the group or variety is a male, then the judge picks the best female for Best Opposite. If the Best of Group or Variety is a Female, then the judge will pick the best Male for Best of Group or Variety.

From the Best of Groups (or Varieties), the judge will pick the Best of Breed. The Best Opposite Sex of Breed will be chosen from the remaining winners from the opposite sex, of course.

At the end of the show, the Best of Breed winners compete against each other for Best in Show and Best Reserve in Show (does not have to be the opposite sex, in this case). You can almost hear a pin drop as the judge gets ready to announce the Best In Show winner.

In some regions, the judge compares the small breeds Best of Breeds against each other and picks a Best 4 Class rabbit. Then repeats the same for the large breeds that have intermediate classes and picks a Best 6 Class. Then those two rabbits compete for Best in Show.

Generally there are two or more shows during a single day plus youth shows are conducted separately from open shows (open being open to any age exhibitor).

During the show day, you can walk around to see the rabbits that are either in carrying cages or in coops. Do not allow your children (or yourself) to put fingers in a cage. Most rabbits won't bite (though some will - either in attempt to protect themselves or to sample what you have offered), but I know of a situation where the rabbit simply startled a child, who jerked his finger and broke it in the wire of the cage.

Please do not bring animals to a rabbit show except for service animals. Even if you are absolutely sure that your dog won't bother rabbits, the rabbits may not be in on that secret.

Also, it is very important that children are not allowed to run near rabbit cages. That can start a panic and rabbits can be injured for even kliled.

At a large show a couple of years ago, someone walked down a row of cooped rabbits with a large hat on that caused a severe panic. Several animals were injured.

Rabbit breeders are typically very down-to-earth, friendly people. Their shows are not as formal as dog or horse shows. Most are very eager to talk about their rabbits and share their passion. Just ask, "What breed do you raise?" and you may find out all kinds of interesting facts - and even get to pet a rabbit or have your own mini showing of their rabbits.

A rabbit show is a great place to purchase a pet rabbit. Breeders who exhibit their rabbits work to produce the best examples of their breed that is possible. They spend many hundreds or even thousands of dollars in each on their bunnies. You won't find anyone who thinks you can make a profit off of selling pet rabbits here!

Also, you can ask for a second opinion on the rabbit before you buy it. There is generally a rabbit registrar on duty. Registrars are trained and tested in evaluating rabbits for disqualifications, including health-related disqualifications. Most would be glad to evalute the rabbit for you before you purchase. Just ask the seller or show secretary who is serving as registrar.

If you think you might be interested in showing rabbits, definitely visit a show. Be prepared to get hooked. If you need more information about raising show rabbits, please visit my rabbitry website, The Nature Trail Rabbitry. If you have a pet rabbit, please visit my pet rabbit website, Precious Pet Rabbits.

I am a licensed rabbit registrar studying to become a rabbit judge. I enjoy rabbit shows for quite a different reason now than I enjoyed them in the beginning. But I clearly remember the wonder of my very first show. I felt like Dorothy walking into the land of Oz. Everything was fascinating. And it still is.

Rabbit Show


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      Miranda 6 years ago

      Your description of your first show brought back good memories of my first ARBA show.

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      jeanne 7 years ago

      Thank you for this article. My 9 yr old daughter & I will be going to our first rabbit show tomorrow. We are so excited and this article was the perfect thing to read.