The Ins and Outs of Showing Rabbits from someone who
Author: Sarah Giers
So, you have either decided to raise rabbits or are considering
it? That's wonderful! Rabbits are special creatures that will
steal your heart in an instant, and nothing is more satisfying
than seeing your hard work as a breeder who is trying to improve
the breed pay off when a home bred bunny wins a prize at a show.
However, getting to that step requires some effort.
DECIDING WHAT BREED
Before you get started, you obviously have to decide what breed
of rabbit you wish to raise or show. Each breed of rabbit is a
wonderful breed, and each has its good and bad points. Before
choosing a breed, make a list of what you can realistically have
and what you need. If you don't have much space, it might be
best to get a smaller breed. If you want to use your rabbits for
dual purpose showing and meat or fur, get a commercial breed
such as New Zealand, Satin, Rex, or Californian. Ask yourself
the following questions:
1. How much space do I have to keep rabbits? 2. Do I just want
to show, or do I want to use rabbits for meat and/or fur as
well? 3. How will I get rid of my culls (the rabbits that you
can't keep)? Will I sell them, give them away, use them for
meat/fur? 4. How much of a challenge do I want? [Some breeds,
such as marked breeds, are far more challenging than others]. 5.
Do I want a lot of competition or do I want a rarer breed? 6. Do
I want a laid back breed or a more energetic breed? 7. Do I want
a breed that produces a small amount of babies per litter or a
large amount? 8. Do I have time to spend on a lot of grooming or
extra care? 9. What do I like? 10. Anything else you can think
One you've answered those questions, start researching breeds.
Go to a local show [show dates and locations can be found by
going to www.arba.net], and ask breeders about their breed.
Watch the judging of breeds that you are interested in. Make
sure to ask a lot of questions from the breeders.
Once you've picked a breed, get the equipment you will need for
it. Get the right size cage, food dish, and water dish or
bottle. If it is a wooled (long-haired) breed, you will need a
brush. You will need nail clippers as well. Talk to breeders of
your breed and ask what, if any, special equipment or care your
Once you've decided which breed to raise, the fun really starts.
Now you get to find a bunny or two! Go to breeders of your
chosen breed and ask them to show you what to look for in a good
show rabbit of that breed. Purchase the American Rabbit Breeders
Association (here on out referred to as the "ARBA") Standard of
Perfection which can be found at most shows, then study your
breed's standard. Also look at general faults and
disqualifications from competition. I can't emphasis enough how
important knowledge of your chosen breed is.
Once you have a good understanding of your chosen breed, look
for a reputable breeder. Said breeder will be glad to answer all
your questions, will not have a problem with you getting a judge
or registrar (or even another breeder of the same breed) to
evaluate the rabbit you wish to purchase, and will have healthy
pedigreed rabbits. Make sure to get the best rabbits that you
can afford. If you just want one or two rabbits to show, and
don't wish to breed, it is a good idea to purchase a rabbit that
is 4 to 7 months old, with a win or two to its name. If you wish
to breed, purchasing a compatible pair or trio is usually the
best way to go. I usually recommend getting a show quality buck
(4 to 7 months) and proven producing breeding doe (7 months to 1
year) if you're getting a pair. For a trio, I recommend
purchasing a show quality buck (4 to 7 months), a show quality
doe (4 to 7 months), and a proven producing breeding quality doe
(7 months to 1 year). That way you will have at least one rabbit
to show until you have produced your own show bunnies.
Depending on the breed you have chosen, the price for show and
breeding quality rabbits can be anywhere from $10 to $200.
Usually a decent quality show rabbit that is good enough to win
a few classes and maybe even a variety (color) win will cost
between $20 and $50.
If you can, get some of the food that the rabbit is used to from
the breeder. That way you can transition it to the new food.
Make sure that you get the pedigree for each rabbit when you
purchase the rabbit. Many people have purchased a rabbit with
the promise that the pedigree will be sent and never got the
pedigree. Note: Rabbits do not have to be pedigreed to be shown,
but they do have to be pedigreed to be registered or to become a
grand champion. Rabbits do not have to be registered to be shown
or to produce show quality offspring.
PREPARING FOR THE SHOW
When you get home, put the rabbit in its cage with some food and
water, then leave it alone for the first day. The second day you
can handle it some, the third more, and gradually work up to
more and more time handling it until your rabbit is used to you
and trusts you.
Rabbits need fresh, clean water all the time. The cage and
dishes should be cleaned frequently. The amount of food given to
your rabbits will depend on its breed, age, and size. Be sure to
ask the original breeder about feeding.
Grooming is usually pretty easy. The nails should be kept
trimmed, and occasional brushing may be required for short
haired breeds (except Rex and Mini Rex, which can be groomed
with a horse slick pumice block). Wooled breeds will need more
frequent brushing. Loose hair on a short-haired rabbit (Rex and
Mini Rex included) can be removed by dampening your hands with
water until they are just sticky then running them through the
coat to pick up loose hair and kill static. Loose hair can also
be removed using a horse slick pumice block.
Many breeders use feed supplements to help improve the condition
of the rabbit's flesh and coat. Some examples are Showbloom,
Doc's Rabbit Enhancer, Calf Manna, and black oil sunflower
seeds. With Showbloom and Doc's Rabbit Enhancer, follow the
feeding instructions carefully. With calf manna and sunflower
seeds, you may have to experiment a bit to see how much is
right. I usually start with a small handful. Too much of a
supplement can cause the opposite effect of what you want,
making the rabbit fat, flabby, or put it into a moult (shedding
the coat out). If you supplement, be sure to cut back slightly
the amount of feed you provide. Also, when your rabbit gets into
prime condition, cut back the supplements and the feed a little
as the rabbit burns less energy while in prime.
ENTERING A SHOW
Your rabbits are in good condition, and you are ready to enter
your first show. Contact the show secretary to get a catalog.
When you get it, be sure to read the rule carefully, and make
sure to watch the deadline for entries. Fill out the entry form
completely. Ear number is the number and/or letter combination
that is tattooed in your rabbit's left ear. If there is no
tattoo, you will need to get it tattooed. Some breeders will
tattoo for you, and most registrars at shows will tattoo for a
small fee. Breed is the type of rabbit, such as Netherland Dwarf
or Rex. Variety is the color of your rabbit. Be sure to check
your Standard of Perfection for variety classes as some breeds
(such as all lops, all angora, and Jersey Woolies) are shown by
color groups rather than by individual color.
A buck is a male, a doe is a female.
Class is your rabbit's age. Most breeds are shown as either a
senior (6 months or over) or a junior (under 6 months). The
large breeds are shown as a senior (8 months or over),
intermediate (6 to 8 months), or a junior (under 6 months). Be
sure to check your Standard of Perfection to see what classes
are offered in your breed. Fur is where you can enter your
rabbit in either the breed or commercial normal (if your breed
has normal "Flyback" fur) fur class. Your rabbit has to be
entered in a regular class to compete in fur, where it will be
judged solely on the quality and condition of its fur.
Most shows are pre-entry, meaning you have to send in your entry
before the show. A few are day of the show entry, where you
arrive early and enter at the show. If it is a pre-entry, be
sure to send the entry off before the deadline is past or your
entry will probably be rejected.
Get to the show a little early to allow yourself time to set up,
check in, and see what table your breed is being judged at.
After setting up and checking tables, groom your rabbits. Then
you can wander around the show room to talk to breeders, look at
the other rabbits, etc. Be careful to check your breed's table
often to see when your rabbit is up to be shown. Most of the
time someone will announce what class is being called up, but it
cannot always be heard. Classes will not be re-judged if you miss
them, so get your rabbits up to the table on time!
When your rabbit's class is called, take your rabbit to the
table. You will see several small cages called holding coops. In
front of these will be comment cards with the rabbits'
information. Find the card that has your rabbit's ear tattoo
number on it and place your rabbit in the corresponding holding
coop. Then, to make it easier for other exhibitors, flip the
Don't talk while the judge is giving comments on any rabbit
because even if it isn't your rabbit, the rabbit's owner may
want to hear the comments. Pay close attention to the judge's
comments as they will help you learn. When the table held puts
the comment card on top of your rabbit's holding coop, that
means it is done being shown. Take it back to your set up. If it
won Best of Variety (BOV), Best Opposite of Variety (BOSV), Best
of Group (BOG), or Best Opposite of Group (BOSG) it will need to
come back later to compete for Best of Breed (BOB) and Best
Opposite of Breed (BOSB). Be sure to watch for when they call up
the winners to compete for BOB and BOSB as you don't want to
miss your chance at winning!
If your rabbit wins Best of Breed, it will later compete for
Best in Show (BIS) and Reserve in Show (RIS). The table for Best
In Show judging will be announced after a winner in each breed
is chosen. If you are competing for BIS and RIS, take your
rabbit to the BIS table when it is time. Place it in any of the
holding coops at that table, then move out of the judging area.
Then wait for the judge (s) to judge the rabbits and announce the
If you win anything, be sure to find the awards table to see if
you get any awards. Bring your comment card with you, and show
it to the awards secretary.
Finally, the show is over. Clean up all your mess, pack up your
equipment, and load up your rabbit (s). You've survived your
first show, and before you know it you will have a bad case of
rabbit show fever!
It is highly recommended that you join the American Rabbit
Breeders Association (ARBA). This will provide you with
invaluable information, as well as allow you to register and
grand champion your rabbits. Go to the ARBA website at
http://www.arba.net for a membership form, or you can pick them
up at most shows